Fairphone 5 just embarrassed the hell out of the smartphone industry — here’s why

Fairphone 5 in front of plants
(Image credit: Fairphone)

When it comes to sustainability, the smartphone industry isn’t really going above and beyond. Fairphone has always been at the forefront, and the launch of the new Fairphone 5 suggests the company is still trying to push the boundaries of just how “fair” a smartphone can be.

Sure, Fairphone may not make the most hi-specced phones on the market, and the Fairphone 5 is absolutely no exception. But if you’ve ever complained about how phone companies treat their customers, especially those that don’t upgrade to a new flagship every year or two, some of what Fairphone has to offer may sound very appealing.

If you want proper software support on your phone you’re better off going to Apple. The company tends to support its older devices for several years, long after they stop selling the devices. iOS 17, for example, is available for iPhones dating back to the 2018 iPhone XS — while older devices still get semi-regular security updates. Though the frequency of those updates depends on their age, and the severity of the problem they intend to fix.

Fairphone 5 front display

(Image credit: Fairphone)

Fairphone has taken that idea to its furthest extremes. The phone itself will come running Android 13, and is scheduled for five further full Android system updates after that — taking users to Android 18. Currently only Samsung Galaxy S and Google Pixel phones offer anything close to that, with both companies pledging to include four Android system updates to each new handset.

But it doesn’t stop there. Fairphone has also confirmed it will offer software support until at least 2031, but is hoping to be able to extend that to 2033. That means, no matter how things turn out, you’re guaranteed to get at least eight years of software support on your phone. Possibly even 10 years, if Fairphone gets its way.

fairphone 5dissassembled with all its parts

(Image credit: Fairphone)

The thing you have to wonder about is whether you’ll still have your phone by then. It’s rare that someone would keep using a smartphone for eight years, let alone a decade. But in this case it means you can afford to keep your phone for a much longer spell. Or, if you’re one to sell old handsets, or pass them onto friends and relatives, it means whomever inherits your device won’t have to worry about lost support.

The Fairphone 5 is, like its predecessors, is easy to repair as well. Should something go wrong with any one of the components, be it a poorly performing battery or a smashed screen, you’re not going to have to choose between a pricey trip to a repair shop or the urge to replace your damaged model with a brand new phone. You also have a 5-year warranty, which is all but unheard of outside of appliances, should anything go wrong in that time.

It’s almost as though Fairphone doesn’t want you to go out and buy another one of its phones. In fact, that wouldn’t be a huge surprise, considering the company’s push to use more recycled and sustainably-sourced materials in its devices. There’s nothing more sustainable than not tossing away your old phone simply because there’s a shiny new model.

Fairphone 5 isn’t about the specs anyway

fairphone 5 at ifa 2023

(Image credit: Future)

Of course anyone that buys a Fairphone probably isn’t so concerned with having the latest and best specs. Despite some major upgrades compared to the Fairphone 4, the Fairphone 5 is still quite some distance behind your average premium smartphone.

The phone comes with a 6.46-inch OLED display, made from Corning Gorilla Glass 5. That’s far from the strongest display glass around, but at least it’s a step up from the Google Pixel 7a’s Gorilla Glass 3. Similarly, the 90Hz refresh rate isn’t top of the range, but it does beat the 60Hz displays on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus.

Fairphone 5 cameras being used by woman

(Image credit: Fairphone)

The rear cameras are 50MP wide and ultra wide sensors, with a respective ƒ/1.88 and ƒ/2.2 apertures. The selfie camera is a hole-punch design and also offers 50MP resolution. There’s no telephoto lens here, but there is a time of flight sensor perfectly situated for a third rear camera, which makes me wonder whether Fairphone will introduce an optical zooming camera lens in a future model.

Storage is limited to 256GB, but you do have a microSD card slot for expansion up to 2TB. There’s also 8GB of RAM, 30W wired charging (offering 50% in 30 minutes), a 4,200 mAh battery, Wi-Fi 6E, 5G and a side-mounted fingerprint scanner.

Fairphone has also included a Qualcomm QCM6490 chipset, rather than some kind of Snapdragon. Apparently this because it’s an industrial grade chipset, built for internet of things devices, and is designed to ensure better longevity and solid performance without excessive power draw.

We don’t have any details about the Fairphone 5’s U.S. availability right now, but the phone is already available to pre-order in Europe for €699 (roughly $757). The Fairphone 4 did make it to the U.S. after a time, though, so here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.