Where do your priorities lie? That’s the basic question that I think the Fairphone 5 poses – if you’re concerned about your tech’s impact on the world, then there’s no better mainstream option in the smartphone market as far as responsible sourcing and fair wages go.
If you’re more interested in having the best possible specs for your budget, though, it’s straightforwardly not the best option out there. So, again – what’s your priority?
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The fifth Fairphone is the best yet – that’s clear. Its credentials are also more impressive than ever, and its aims are utterly laudable. If you want a sustainable and fairly-made phone, this is the best choice out there. Its price means that you’re putting your money where your mouth is by default, too, since competitors undercut it heavily.
- Superb repairability
- Nice simple design
- Solid performance for now
- Supply chain accountability is second to none
- Five-year warranty, eight-year software support
- Unlikely to feel snappy in a couple of years
- Pretty expensive compared to competitors
- 162 x 75.5 x 10.5mm
- Available in blue, black and transparent
The Fairphone 5 doesn’t stand out too much from the crowd, but it’s the most up-to-date looking phone Fairphone has made so far, thanks to a triple camera bump and hole-punch selfie camera.
The new OLED display has fairly thin bezels and is nice and big, and perhaps my only criticism comes at the top of it – the speaker grille at the top of the screen is recessed in a way that catches quite a lot of dust over time.
On the right-hand side of the phone, there are volume buttons and a flush power button that doubles as its fingerprint reader, with no inputs on the left side.
The Fairphone 5 comes in a nice blue or black, but the third transparent version I tested is the most interesting option and serves to immediately highlight the phone’s whole ethos.
That plastic back can easily pop off to reveal a removable battery and an assembly with prominent silver screws that can easily be removed for repairs. With parts sold through its own store for fair prices (£50 for a replacement ultrawide camera, for instance), it makes for a phone that can be repaired without the need for a shop or expert, something that should be way more common than it is.
It holds up to testing, too – I removed all the main parts and reassembled it pretty easily, without bricking or breaking the phone at all, and with no data loss. It’s wild how subversive that feels compared to the sealed lockboxes that most modern smartphones represent.
The only real downside to this design ethos is that it bars the phone from true waterproofing – it’s got IP55 resistance (a small improvement on the Fairphone 4’s IP54) which protects it from jets and splashes, but immersion is still a no-no.
That does mean you have to be more careful with it than you might be used to by modern standards, although I’m not sure that anyone is truly swimming around with their phone out anyway.
Repairability isn’t the end of it, though – Fairphone has also rigorously examined every part of its supply chain, from assembly factories to mineral mines, to ensure that it’s employing fairly paid and treated workers the whole way.
It uses recycled material where possible and operates a recycling scheme for your old phone when you buy a new one – all of these credentials can be found in more detail on the Fairphone website, and really do come together into the sort of package that feels vital.
There’s no getting around the fact, even before turning to performance, that this sustainable mindset and rigour is what you buy the Fairphone 5 for – it’s a moral decision, and a choice to prioritise fairness over raw value. It’d be nice to see bigger companies like Apple and Google take note of the degree of transparency on show here, but I’m not holding my breath.
Display and performance
- 90Hz 1224×2700 OLED
- Qualcomm QCM6490 chipset
The display is where perhaps the biggest single upgrade from the Fairphone 4 has arrived – this is the first Fairphone with an OLED display, and the leap is welcome.
As you’d expect this gives nice vibrancy and depth, with true blacks and a lot more overall pop. It’s bright enough for outdoor use on sunny days, too.
A 90Hz refresh rate also means you can get a much smoother ride, although this is turned off by default and therefore potentially something that some users might not even realise they have access to.
Turning it on brings that telltale smoothness, though, and I didn’t notice a major hit to battery life compared to 60Hz. The resolution being used, meanwhile, is plenty sharp enough and great for video watching or photo browsing.
The chipset powering things is one from Qualcomm and is perhaps not the beefiest option by a long shot. In the here and now, it’s perfectly capable and responsive, but multitasking isn’t the smoothest.
Swapping between apps and opening new ones did sometimes leave a little to be desired in terms of load speeds, and that leaves me a little worried about longevity.
Part of Fairphone’s sustainability approach means that it’s promised to maintain software updates on the Fairphone 5 until at least 2031, with 2033 as a stretch goal. That’s (once again) completely praiseworthy, but I’d worry that five years down the line (and the phone has an exemplary five-year warranty, too) this chipset will feel pretty antique.
Still, a replaceable battery means that you won’t have to worry about battery wastage being unrecoverable, so for those who aren’t fussed about raw speed, there’s a lot to like here.
- 50MP main sensor, 50MP ultrawide and 50MP hole-punch selfie
The new camera system on the Fairphone 5 is also a welcome improvement compared to past efforts, although much like the chipset I still have some reservations.
The main sensor does creditable work and is capable of nice colour accuracy and detail under decent lighting conditions.
Swapping to the ultrawide gives a useful option, although photos don’t come out with nearly the same vibrancy or detail, meaning you’ll have to pick your poison a little.
As you can see above, zoom performance is relatively solid, though, and anti-shake software is decent enough to give you non-blurry images.
Shooting at night also brings some interesting results – there is a night mode in use here (one that’s quite challenging to disable, in fact), and it makes for relatively striking scenes, even on ultrawide.
Even then, there’s still no competition with something like a Google Pixel in terms of detail – and zooming in much produces fairly immediate graininess.
That comparison isn’t harsh, either, given the comparative price points on offer, so you will have to accept that your photos and video won’t stand out quite as much as on other Android options.
Battery life and software
- Android 13
- 4200mAh removable battery
I’ve mentioned that removable battery a few times – it’s 4,200mAh in capacity, which is roughly what you’d hope for for a phone with this size of display.
It holds up to use, too, with easy all-day life that generally got me partway through another day before needing a top-up.
This varied a bit with how I used the phone, of course, and extensive Google Maps use or YouTube did hit things, but I’ve no complaints overall.
The fact that it could be replaced in a couple of years for just £40 or so (from the replacement parts store that Fairphone runs) is a coup compared to the pain of a decaying battery locked inside your iPhone or Pixel.
That said replacement would be fitted in a matter of seconds at home without any help is even more of a reminder that things can be better.
The phone runs Android 13 pretty close to stock, meanwhile – some EE apps came pre-installed but beyond that, there was basically no bloatware at all, which is always nice.
This also makes it really easy to copy over data and it should be guaranteed support for years to come as Android gets fancier and fancier, with Android 14 around the corner.
The Fairphone 5 is a really hard one to judge. If I was being totally dispassionate, on the hardware front it’s overpriced for what you’re getting compared to the competition, with slightly more middling cameras and a merely okay camera.
That it’s had its price hiked even further over the Fairphone 4 makes this even more the case, which is a shame.
That’s so far from the whole story, though – Fairphone is presenting a different consumer offering, one that leaves you with a way, way cleaner conscience and still offers most of what you expect from a good phone nowadays.
The work it’s done to ensure that its supply chain is cleaner and fairer is laudable, and if you’re searching for a way to get some modern tech without contributing to depressing norms, then this is a great choice, and one that truly puts your money where your mouth is.
Iphone Store – 2023-12-13 07:43:52 / www.pocket-lint.com