Fairphone 4 Quick Review
Here's my quick and dirty review of the Fairphone 4.
I like to think of myself as a fairly environmentally conscious person. I’ve got plenty of unsustainable skeletons in the closet, but all things considered, I suspect I’m more mindful of the environmental impact of my actions than the average middle aged white male1.
Because of this, I rarely purchase anything before what I have is fucked up beyond all repair, and when I do I try my luck at the second hand market before I purchase a brand new item.
This time, however, I’ve made a notable exception from my usual modus operandi: I’ve gone and purchased a spanking, brand new, mint condition smartphone.
Yes, why, indeed.
I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S8 since 2017, and it’s been fulfilling its duties well. Lately, however, it has begun to show signs of giving up. The battery capacity isn’t what it used to be, Samsung has stopped releasing firmware security updates, the camera malfunctions every now and then, and the phone has to be restarted every couple of days to prevent it from getting too sluggish.
It’s a good chance that most of the good old S8’s issues could be solved by a factory reset. But I’ve got a bad feeling it will go dark any day now, and living without a smart phone is impractical, to say the least.
So, to be prepared for the S8’s inevitable demise, I’ve purchased a Fairphone 4.
You’ve probably never heard of Fairphone. It’s a brand aimed at people who don’t care as much about technological bells as whistles as they do about the environment, sustainability and ethics. Fairphone designs and produces smartphones with the goal of having a lower environmental footprint and better social impact than is common in the industry. In particular, the company aims to minimize the use of conflict minerals in its devices, maintain fair labor conditions for its workforce and suppliers, and allow users to maintain their own devices.
Their most recent model, the Fairphone 4, was made available for purchase in 2021. It comes with a 5 year warranty, uses Fairtrade materials, is electronic waste neutral, has an easily replaceable battery, and an unbeatable iFixit repairability score of 10 out of 10.
All this comes at a price, though, in terms of money, form factor, hardware and features. I promised you a quick review, and this post is already getting long, so let’s just cut to the bullet lists, starting with the cons.
- The Fairphone 4 is heavy (225 g) compared to the S8 (155 g)
- It’s bigger (162 x 75.5 x 10.5 mm) than the S8 (148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm), and a wee bit too big for my tiny hands
- It comes with Android. It might sound weird to point this out as a con, but that means that Google is everywhere. It’s worth pointing out that the Fairphone 4 supports alternative operating systems, like /e/OS. But I need the camera to behave properly, and most of the good stuff happens in software these days so I need the camera app to work. There are ways to make this happen on /e/OS, but I’m that much into tinkering as I once was.
- And while we’re on the subject of the camera, which is the most important feature of any smartphone for me: The autofocus it not top notch, and the quality of the images are only marginally better than what the 5 year old S8 manages
- It’s pricey compared to similar smartphones (the basic model is €579 directly from the Fairphone website).
- The Fairphone 4 is a smartphone with everything you need, and it works as announced
- It’s fair both trade and labour
- It’s long lasting with a 5 year warranty
- It’s sustainable
- It doesn’t need a bumper, the back is made of plastic and not that glass idiocy
- You can repair it with affordable spare parts yourself
- The build quality is excellent
Don’t Buy a New Phone
So now you’re perhaps at least a little tempted to try to do something about your bad conscious and unsustainable, materialistic and capitalistic past and buy a Fairphone?
The most sustainable phone is the one that’s already in your hand. It’s there, it’s been manufactured, its carbon footprint is set, and the child labour and worker exploitation has already happened. But when your current smartphone draws its last breath, I think you should seriously consider a Fairphone. Or even better, dig up one of your old smartphones and start using that again instead. Or buy a smartphone from the second hand market.
Now go and give someone you love a long, warm hug 💚
Update 2022-03-02: After having used my Fairphone 4 for a couple more weeks now, I’ve decided to increase the review score from 83 to 91. Why? Because the phone has grown on me.
Considering that white middle aged men are probably the ones who give the absolutely least fucks about the environment, this isn’t a great achievement. But at this point I’m clinging to everything. ↩︎
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