Fairphone, the manufacturer focused on making easy to repair smartphones made out of ethically sourced materials, just took the wraps off its fourth-generation handset. The Fairphone 4 uses a modular design that’s similar to the company’s previous phones, only now with more powerful internals, a five-year warranty, and a promise of two major Android updates and software support until the end of 2025. Prices start at €579 / £499 for the phone, which will ship on October 25th.
I’ve been using the Fairphone 4 for a couple of days as my primary phone, and while I’m not ready to give a final verdict just yet, it feels like a big step forward compared to the dated designs and low-power components found in the company’s previous phones. Stay tuned for my full review.
Fairphone’s ambition is to produce a more ethical alternative to modern smartphones. That means making a device that’s ethically sourced using sustainable materials before providing the software support and warranty to make it useable for as long as possible. Although Fairphone is only guaranteeing software support until the end of 2025, it has ambitions to extend this as far as 2027. In an ideal world, Fairphone would also like to eventually release 2024’s Android 15 as an update to the phone.
Normally, the specs of Fairphone’s devices are secondary to its ethical considerations, but unlike its previous phones, the Fairphone 4 is competitive with other mid-range Android handsets. The 5G handset is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 750G processor, and that’s paired with either 6 or 8GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD. It’s powered by a 3,905mAh removable battery, and the display is a 6.3-inch 1080p LCD panel.
There are two rear cameras — a 48-megapixel main camera and a 48-megapixel ultrawide — and a single 25-megapixel selfie camera. The main rear camera is equipped with optical image stabilization and can record at up to 4K / 30fps.
A notable downside compared to previous Fairphones is that the Fairphone 4 no longer includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, a choice that feels at odds with the company’s otherwise customer-first approach. Fairphone tells me it made this decision in order to be able to offer an official IP rating for dust and water resistance, which was missing from the company’s previous phones. It’s only IP54, which means it’s protected from light splashes rather than full submersion, but that’s impressive in light of its removable rear cover and modular design.
Regarding its modularity, Fairphone is selling eight repair modules for the phone, which include replacement displays, batteries, back covers, USB-C ports, loudspeakers, earpieces, rear cameras, and selfie cameras. All of these are easily removable using a standard Philips head screwdriver, which means customers should be able to carry out a lot of repairs themselves. But, if you need to turn to a professional, Fairphone says its spare parts are readily available for local repair shops to buy and use themselves.
Fairphone’s previous two phones are the only devices to have received perfect repairability scores from iFixit, and the company tells me it believes the Fairphone 4 is even more repairable.
The hope is for these spare parts to be available until at least 2027. Fairphone has a good track record with previous devices, telling me it still has parts in stock for the six-year-old Fairphone 2, two years after the last handset was sold. But product manager Miquel Ballester concedes that the company has run out of certain parts for that model.
So too does Fairphone have a solid record on the software side of providing major Android updates for its phones… eventually. Earlier this year, the company officially released its Android 9 update for the Fairphone 2, a device that originally launched with Android 5. It may have come almost three years after Android 9’s original release, but it means that the phone continues to run an officially supported version of Google’s operating system. It bodes well for Fairphone’s support aspirations for the Fairphone 4, although it will have to contend with the fact that Qualcomm only officially supports its chipsets for three major OS updates and four years of security updates, Ars Technica reports.
In terms of materials, the Fairphone 4 is made using Fairtrade-certified gold; responsibly sourced aluminum and tungsten; and recycled tin, rare earth minerals, and plastic (including its rear panel, which is 100 percent recycled polycarbonate). The company has various initiatives to improve the working conditions of miners and factory workers involved in the supply chains for its devices. Fairphone also claims that the Fairphone 4 is the “first electronic waste neutral handset” because it’ll recycle one phone or an equal amount of e-waste for each device sold.
The Fairphone 4 is available to preorder today in Europe and should ship starting October 25th. The model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage costs €579 / £499, while the step-up model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage retails for €649 / ￡569. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of a US release: Fairphone says it’s interested but that it’s focusing on Europe for the time being.