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The Fairphone 5 is a little more repairable and much more modern

The Fairphone 5 is the latest sustainably produced and repairable handset from Dutch smartphone company Fairphone. Like its previous devices, the Fairphone 5 is made with ethically sourced materials by workers who are given a living wage bonus and is designed to be easy to repair with a lengthy software support period. But this year’s model is specced-out much more like a modern midrange smartphone, with an OLED display, fast 30W charging, and dual 50-megapixel cameras at the rear.

Fairphone is taking preorders for the Fairphone 5 starting today, and the smartphone ships on September 14th in Europe. Prices start at €699 in the eurozone or £619 in the UK. That translates to roughly $758, though Fairphone has no plans for a US release for the Fairphone 5 at this time. (The Fairphone 4 did eventually release stateside earlier this year, though it did so through a partnership with Murena.)

You get an OLED screen this time around, a first for Fairphone.
Image: Fairphone

In terms of specs, the Fairphone 5 is the first Fairphone to ship with an OLED display. It’s 6.46 inches in size with a refresh rate of 90Hz and a resolution of 1224 x 2770. Around back, you’ll find a pair of 50-megapixel cameras — one main and one ultrawide — and the selfie camera contained within a hole-punch cutout is also 50 megapixels in resolution. If that sounds normal or even a little pedestrian, then that’s kind of the point — Fairphone has never been a company on the bleeding edge of smartphone specs.

Instead, Fairphone aims to compete on sustainability. One aspect of this is how easy the Fairphone 5 is to repair, with the aim of keeping it usable for longer and, hence, out of landfill. Fairphone has upped the number of repair modules in this phone to 10 because it now allows you to replace the rear cameras individually or replace the module containing the SIM and SD Card slots. Of course, the battery is still user-replaceable but is also bigger this time around at 4,200mAh, supports faster 30W charging, and is rated to survive 1,000 charging cycles.

The other important aspect of a smartphone’s longevity is software support. Fairphone is promising to update the Fairphone 5 with at least five major Android updates beyond the Android 12 it ships with as well as eight years of security patches. That should keep the phone usable from a software perspective until 2031, though Fairphone’s press release says it’s aiming for 2033 as a stretch goal. For reference, the company released its last software update for the 2015 Fairphone 2 earlier this year, bringing to an end seven years of software support, handily beating Android competitors like Samsung and Google (which both currently offer up to five years of security updates). The Fairphone 5 also ships with a five-year warranty.

The length of software support being promised for the Fairphone 5 is at least partially due to Fairphone’s use of an enterprise-focused chipset from Qualcomm, the QCM6490, which is roughly equivalent in specs to the midrange Snapdragon 778G. It’s joined by 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, expandable with up to 2TB via microSD.

The excellent transparent Fairphone 5 next to the objectively less good blue model.
Image: Fairphone

A commonly cited concern with repairable handsets is that they’re not able to offer the same kind of waterproofing as other modern phones, whose glue-assisted construction is great for IP ratings at the expense of repairability. The good news is that the Fairphone 5 has an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance, which is a slight improvement over the IP54 rating of the Fairphone 4. The bad news is that, despite this improvement, the phone still isn’t protected against full submersion. Effectively, you’re getting protection against more powerful jets of water, which is better but still not perfect.

Like the Fairphone 4, there’s once again no headphone jack here, and the handset is available in three colors; black, blue, and (the correct option) transparent. 

The transparent back shows off the user-replaceable battery inside.
Image: Fairphone

Finally, as well as being designed to survive for as long as possible, Fairphone has attempted to produce the Fairphone 5 in an ethical way. It lists over a dozen materials that it’s attempted to sustainably source and says that 70 percent of these materials are either recycled or ethically mined. So there’s recycled aluminum, tin, nickel, zinc, copper, magnesium, indium, and plastics, and Fairphone has worked with the Alliance for Responsible Mining, the Fair Cobalt Alliance, and the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance in an attempt to improve the mining of other materials like tungsten and lithium. A living wage bonus is paid to the 2,000 people who assemble the phone and components like its battery, PCB, and vibration motor.

For as long as I’ve been reviewing Fairphones, my takeaway has been that they’re good entry-level phones priced like more expensive midrange phones. But as smartphones have started changing less and less with each passing year, there are fewer and fewer benefits to being on the bleeding edge of technology. With its more modern looks and specs, that could make the Fairphone 5 a much more appealing prospect. Stay tuned for our full review, coming soon.

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