Modular Phone – Fairphone, Is it Actually Worth it?

6 min

Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Looks
Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Looks

Modular Phone company Fairphone has launched 7 years ago with an aim to reduce the global footprint. You can swap parts such as the camera, battery, top and bottom modules, and screen. This is the fourth edition of their smartphone, the newest being Fairphone 3+.

Modular Phone Fairphone 3
Modular Phone Fairphone 3
Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Plus
Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Plus

Here are the most important specs of Fairphone 3+

  • Operating System: Android 10
  • 64-bit Octa-Core processo
  • 1.8GHz processor.
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB internal storage (up to 400GB with microSD)
  • 3.040 mAH Li-ion battery
  • 48MP rear and 16MP front camera
  • 4G
  • Dual sim
  • Fingerprint scanner

Is this good? It costs €400(~$480) – €450(~$540) and in this price range, the specs are quite good. It is not only available to order the phone to European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The company itself is based in Amsterdam. They do have plans however to start selling outside of Europe.

With that in mind, there are quite many issues that this modular phone has. Based on the Fairphone community under the “Does the Fairphone 3+ have many Bugs?” section here is some feedback about the phone and its bugs:

  • The fingerprint sensor seems to lose the function. The phone needs to be restarted for it to work again.
  • There are some issues with volume controls. The buttons do not control the media volume, only the ringtone. So you will have to manually increase the volume in each app.
  • To connect to other devices using Bluetooth you need to make sure you are running the right GHz based on who you are connecting to.
  • Some apps such as Spiegel and Tagesschau (both are news apps.)

Are You Saving The Earth or is it Just a Marketing Trick?

This sentence by them is quite challenging to agree with: “If you are worried about how you may be affected by the odd failings of the phone and support then don’t buy it. If you are more concerned with how you affect the trading with the miners and factory workers then buy it.” Says an active user in the forum.

So in 2021, I should use a phone that has quite many issues to fix (in 7 years’ time) just because it is made from 40% recycled plastics. This modular phone company has created 4 new versions of the phone. Shouldn’t they be just selling parts so that you can switch to the new versions when possible? One of their main marketing taglines is: you change a phone every 2-3 years which creates a great carbon footprint. Well, they launched a new phone after every 1.8-2 years, how about that? Not to mention the warranty is only 2 years.

Let’s talk about the parts that are inside the phone. Checking the website you cannot really find how are the cameras, batteries, and modules are made. Mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years says FastCompany. So what really is that 40% recyclable plastic they are using?

We can see that parts of the phone differentiate between Fairphone 2 and Fairphone 3. So if you have the older version you cannot just switch parts inside of it. Here is how the part looks like between those two versions:

Modular Phone FairPhone 2 parts for comparison:

Modular Phone Fairphone 2 Bottom Module
Modular Phone Fairphone 2 Bottom Module
Modular Phone Fairphone 2 Camera Module
Modular Phone Fairphone 2 Camera Module
Modular Phone Fairphone 2 Bottom Module
Modular Phone Fairphone 2 Bottom Module

Modular Phone FairPhone 3 parts for comparison:

Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Top Module
Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Top Module
Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Camera
Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Camera
Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Bottom Module
Modular Phone Fairphone 3 Bottom Module

The point I am making is that to get a better version of the phone you still need to buy the new one – old ones will not fit the next version modules. It is cool that you can swap the broken parts or upgrade megapixels on your camera, but I was not able to find any motherboards on the FairPhone shop.

With all that said, overall this modular phone is very affordable and the specs are great for such a price. You can easily swap broken parts instead of buying a new phone, especially replacing a battery is a great way to make your smartphone last longer. Check them out here: Fairphone Website.

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