Fairphone goes 5G for "waste-neutral" smartphone
Fairphone has announced the next chapter in its mission towards a more sustainable and, well, fair alternative to today's big brand smartphones. The Fairphone 4 comes with 5G connectivity, two 48-MP rear cameras, and a 5-year warranty.
The first Fairphone landed in 2013, and as its name suggests was built on an ethos of sustainability and fairness. The next generation followed in 2015, but then there was a production gap of four years before another ethical smartphone was released by the company. Now the Dutch company is embracing 5G technology for its latest attempt to "establish a market for ethical and fair electronics."
"The starting point in development was to produce a premium sustainable smartphone that is future-proof, easily repairable, designed to last and therefore more circular and fair," said Eva Gouwens, CEO of Fairphone. "We want Fairphone 4 to be a device that people enjoy keeping for longer and that sets them apart from the crowd. Our customers are people who make independent choices to create positive change, and they choose Fairphone to accelerate that change."
The Fairphone 4 is being made using materials obtained from sustainable and fairer sources, including recycled, tin, rare-earth minerals and plastic, Fairtrade-certified gold, aluminum from vendors approved by the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative, and responsibly sourced tungsten. It's also reported to be the first consumer handset to sport a rear cover made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled polycarbonate.
Fairphone says that the 4th gen phone is the first "electronic waste neutral handset" – which means that for every Fairphone 4 that's purchased, the company will responsibly recycle one spent smartphone (or equivalent in small waste electronics). Or the Dutch social enterprise will "take back and refurbish at least one other phone to prevent production of a new one," with handsets sourced from the firm's European take-back programs or from countries where formal recycling infrastructure is lacking.
The phone has been stamped TCO Certified for sustainability, one of the available flavors has managed to achieve an 85/100 Eco Rating in Europe, another has managed to score high in the French Repairability Index, and a number of the Fairphone 4's components are modular for ease of repair or replacement.
Does all of this mean buyers will need to take a serious hit on specs? Not necessarily. The Fairphone 4 looks capable of competing well among the current crop of mid-range devices.
The device features a 6.3-inch HD+ display topped by Corning Gorilla Glass 5, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor supported by either 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage or 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, and as well as dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.1, there's 5G connectivity.
A dual camera array to the rear is made up of a 48-megapixel main camera with optical image stabilization that helps with run-and-gun 4K video capture, and a 48-MP ultrawide/macro. Around front is a generous 25-MP selfiecam.
The handset comes with a 3,905-mAh battery that users can access to swap out if needed, there's USB-C but no 3.5-mm headphone jack, login security is helped along by a fingerprint scanner, and durability shapes up as IP54 water and dust resistance, and the phone has been drop tested to MIL810G standards.
It runs Android 11 out of the box, and Fairphone is guaranteeing software support until the close of 2025 – which will take in Android 12 and 13 – but says it intends to extend that to cover Android 14 and 15 too even though support from the chipset manufacturer will have ended by then. And the company is also breaking molds by offering a five-year warranty at no extra cost.
The Fairphone 4 is up for pre-order now for €579 or €649 (~US$670/$750), depending on model selected, ahead of availability from October 25.
Fairphone has also revealed that it's launching a pair of true wireless earphones with active noise cancellation for €99.95 ($115), which are made using 30-percent recycled plastics. Pre-orders are open now, with shipping due to start on November 1.