Review by Sunetra Chakravati,1/30/2016 12:06:09 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Fully modular | robust design | spare parts cheap | 4G | conflict-free materials | ethically manufactured | recycled by manufacturer | Dual-SIM | expandable memory
Random call drops | Fickle touchscreen | very basic design | average specs for price
Despite its noble and lofty intentions, Fairphone 2 is no beauty contest winner. It can seem squat and dumpy in the hand if you have been used to the sleek and smooth beauty of the iPhone 6 or even Samsung's Galaxy S6. Out of the box, the plastic backplate with rubberised edges is very tricky to suit the phone up in. I have to say that the phone looks better without the backplate than with it, Fairphone should have gone a step further to create a transparent back for the phone so all the modules and internals were still visible after you cloak them.
#fairphone #unboxingA video posted by mobile choice (@mobilechoicemag) on Jan 28, 2016 at 5:53am PST
A video posted by mobile choice (@mobilechoicemag) on Jan 28, 2016 at 5:53am PST
Just a shade larger than the iPhone 6s, it feels quite robust and something that will withstand a night on the tiles with ease. Despite its stocky appearance, somewhat unsurprisingly, the Fairphone 2 does not weigh a lot more than the iPhone, the plastic body helps keep the number down. As I said earlier, Fairphone beat Google and its much talked about Project Ara to make the world's first modular phone.
The idea is that users should be able to swap out broken or outdated modules to replace them with ones they can buy off the Fairphone website. Owners can replace the speakers, the camera, battery and the screen using just a screwdriver.
Given that these are the main components that go out of fashion quickly/ break, Fairphone are onto a winner with this. Slide off the plastic/rubber backplate and then push the two blue buttons to unlock and remove the screen. Just three screws to remove and voila! you have a deconstructed phone!
Fairphone want their users to be able to use the phone for five years, it is difficult to say if this is indeed possible because, irrespective of their make, most phones keel over after about 3.5 years of use. Individual modules currently cost between £20 (speaker) to £85 (screen replacement) and can be swapped over by the consumer themselves.
Despite its steep price which is down to creating and sustaining an ethical supply chain, Fairphone's second stab at bringing to market a device that wows crowds is a mixed one. Whereas it does bring in a new element that has not been seen before in smartphones via its modular nature, a slight mis-step is that the phone is very mid range by spec. A Snapdragon 801 processor powers it through and it runs Android 5.1 which is one generation old.
The 2.25GHz processor is a quad-core one and the screen 5-inch Full HD, nothing from the spec sheet particularly umps out for being better than ordinary.
Furthermore, the camera is just 8-MP, here's hoping the company build a higher spec module and the front facing one is just a 2-MP snapper, so again very very basic. As far as features and modes go, there are just a couple on the phone which might not appeal to many.
During my usual battery test, where I stream content over 4G with 100 percent brightness, in 15 minutes, the phone lost 7 percent power which is really good. But again the smaller screen size and the very standard LCD screen might have more to do with using less juice than the smarts within it. However, because the battery is one of the removable modules, you are able to swap them around if you are without a power outlet for long.
The redeeming features on here are the expandable memory and the dual-SIM support that the phone allows for. However, during my use, I experienced very frequent call drops which I havent experienced with other phones and instances where the screen would not 'switch off' when I was on a call, leading to quite a bit of embarassment and ringing out to several people.
The volume button is also quite stiff, probably because of the stiff rubber cover on the actual buttons, but they need a few quite hard pokes to register.
Disappointingly the phone doesnt run Android 6 (Marshmallow) and so cannot utilise the many awesome features that come with it like the security pings you get when downloading apps. Fairphone 2 does have a built-in feature called 'privacy impact' to say how much and what information each app needs but this wouldnt have been necessary with Android 6.
While there aren't too many apps that the phone comes bundled with, the launch screen is different so you get to see a list of your most used apps together in one place. Also, rather bafflingly, it has a 'peace of mind' feature which tells you how long you haven't unlocked your phone for on the locked screen. I am not sure why not using a phone is directly proportional to peace of mind, but this rather quirky feature can be turned off easily.
This is one of those brain vs heart questions that you need to ask yourself. The phone is very green and supply chain sensitive, so much so, that you can use it for five years whereas the average lifespan for a phone in the UK is 2 years.
You are able to replace the battery and the screen so spend less on its upkeep and your phone churn and hence the burden on the landfill is lesser. Those assembling the phones have been paid a fair wage, and given fair terms and conditions of employment- almost unheard of in China and the phone itself has been made using conflict free tin and tungsten from the Democratic Republic of Congo where workers get a more than raw deal by mining companies and profits go towards arming militia.
As owner of the phone you will sleep easier at night with the knowledge that you have done your tuppence worth to make the world a better place.
However, the phone is a firmly mid-range device with a processor and components that are common in the lower to mid-range segment. My worry is that the warm fuzzy feeling of being an eco-warrior might evaporate when you have to wait for games and apps to load or when you spend extra on a replaceable battery module and then have to keep swapping them over.
Also, the phone isn't cheap (£402) and the Phone Co-op contracts that you get it on are dearer still, starting at £25.
The 2-year contract gives you 4GB data, unlimited minutes and texts and will set you back by £43, the same contract costs £22 with Vodafone.
Irrespective of whether you get the phone because you are want to make a change or want to be able to assemble your own phone or because you want to better the world, you will not be short of tales about it.
Price: £402/ €529
Operating System: Android™ 5.1 (Lollipop)
Dimensions: 143 X 73 X 11mm
Weight: 148 g (phone) + 20 g (external case)
Resolution: 1080 × 1920; 446ppi
Display: 5-inch, Full HD LCD display
Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon ™ 801 quad-core platform
Camera: 8-MP primary camera with OIS and f2.2; 2-MP selfie camera
Memory: 32 GB internal storage
Expandable storage via MicroSD slot
Battery: 2420 mAh removable lithium-ion battery
Misc: Dual-SIM; Gorilla® Glass 3; connectivity 4G LTE/3G/2G
Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n/ac)