Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/19/2014 3:54:12 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Challenges the user and industry’s conceptions
Expensively priced compared to competitors
Lacks iconic features.
By Jack Courtez
The state of factories and mines used in the manufacture of tech devices would be unacceptable and horrifying to all those accustomed to basic labour rights, yet this poor practice is so unanimous it is accepted by many as a part of the industry.
Regardless of performance, the Fairphone has already embarrassed major manufacturers by proving that it is possible to build an ethical supply chain – a feat which others are unwilling and/or unable to achieve. The effect this has on overall design, utility and performance is visible from the unboxing onwards.
For its size, the Fairphone is easily one of the heaviest smartphones due to a solid plate metal removable back, giant battery and a research and development budget which is a fraction of its competitors. However, this isn’t detrimental to the model’s handling which seems sturdy and shock resistant. Aesthetically, it’s an almost Franken-phone like clashing array of component materials, styles and finishes which doesn’t live up to the price tag.
The 4.3 inch qHD screen’ 256 pixels per inch leaves it behind nearly all its similarly priced competitors and feels a little small amongst the growing trend for 5 inch plus displays. While this leaves it a little low on the resolution side, it handles colours well and balances energy efficiency and brightness adeptly.
The eco-friendly model runs Android 4.2 with a few changes, notably the “Enjoy some piece” mode which sits prominently on the unlocked screen and is essentially a timer based airplane mode. Another is iFixit, a step-by-step guide allowing users to carry out any repairs needed – thus reducing its environmental impact.
The lack of unique apps pre-loaded is a little disappointing, given it’s the perfect opportunity for a small crowd-funded manufacturer like fairphone to really stand-out.
It’s hardware spec fairs better with 16GB internal memory and a further 64GB expandable. It’s 1GB RAM and quad-core chip does all the day-to-day tasks capably but will shudder a little under hi-res video capture and intensive mobile games.
It’s a run-of-the-mill 8MP rear, 1.3MP front camera combo running standard Android settings menus and a couple unique modes such as smile detection, multi-angle images and a beautification mode which essentially airbrushes and lightens. The inclusion of a feature designed to remove natural appearance in favour of a glossy magazine look in an ethical smartphone seems a little out of place but will be popular with many.
I really wanted to root for this phone, I wanted its rebellious streak to transcend manufacturing and be visible through the phone itself. Unfortunately this isn’t the case, making it a very expensive mid-range device. This said, the ingenuity and ambition in creating a device in a completely different manner to any other manufacturer is a positive sign as to Fairphone’s potential. If they can further instil these qualities in the software and aesthetic design, Fairphone could become not just the ethical choice, but the logical one as well.