While most phone manufacturers now pay varying degrees of lip service to sustainability and their environmental efforts, Fairphone has long gone above and beyond.
If you're not familiar with the company and its eponymous device, it aims to use conflict-free and recycled minerals in its products, but it does so while putting repairability at the heart of everything, with a fully-stocked spare parts store and tutorial videos to guide you through surgery.
But consumers outside of Europe haven’t been able to take this moral high ground — until now. Fairphone has announced that it is partnering with Murena to bring the Fairphone 4 to the United States.
The handset will set you back either $599 (6GB RAM, 128GB storage) or $679 (8GB RAM, 256GB storage).
From a pure value point of view is unarguably a lot: with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor and 1080p IPS screen, it won’t trouble our list of the best cheap phones.
Essentially, you’re subsidizing better environmental and social practices if you buy one, which isn’t necessarily a bad trade-off. Having reviewed the Fairphone 3 back in 2020, I can confirm that the process of taking apart the device is remarkably easy using nothing but a bundled screwdriver and some steady hands — even for a klutz like me.
Android with a twist
But Murena’s involvement means you won’t be getting exactly the same handset you’ve been able to buy in Europe since 2021. The company is known for its efforts in de-Googling Android phones with its /e/OS operating system, and that’s what’s installed on this version of Fairphone 4.
What that means in practice is that you’re getting Android without Google. There’s no Gmail, Chrome, YouTube or anything else with Google branding involved.
There’s no Google Play Store either, though you can get almost any Android app (including Google’s) via the App Lounge, which connects to the Play Store anonymously (unless you want a paid one, of course). In-app purchases aren’t supported.
Rather neatly, however, /e/OS quickly examines each app and gives them a privacy score based on the number of trackers and the required permissions.
This will no doubt all sound great to some, and worryingly non-user-friendly to others, but if you’re in the United States it’s the only way to buy a Fairphone other than paying for an expensive import for now. If you’re interested, you can buy one here.