Fairphone 4: A ‘Sustainable, Repairable, and Ethical’ Android Phone
Jerry Hildenbrand, writing for Android Central:
The phone comes with a full five-year warranty that covers
anything that you didn’t cause. For those things that you did
cause, let’s say you dropped it and broke the display, you can
likely easily fix it yourself using inexpensive spare parts that
Fairphone sells itself.
The same way Fairphone is attempting to shake up the phone
industry, it’s also trying to change the way we think about having
our phones repaired. What keeps your Samsung phone from being easy
to fix is how it is built and the materials used to make it.
Things like glued-in displays or sealed cases aren’t an issue with
the Fairphone 4. You can pull out most internal assemblies and
then replace them with new components using only a small Philips
Another side effect of this is having a battery that can be
swapped at any time by removing the 100% recycled plastic
backplate. This used to be normal for Android phones, but I can’t
think of a single mainstream device with a user-swappable battery
in 2021. Of course, you can still charge the battery quickly using
a USB C P.D. charger, but knowing that you can carry a spare “just
in case” is great.
Sounds great, right? But, among other caveats (e.g. a somewhat crummy camera given the €579/~$650 price):
One last issue is that the Fairphone 4 is “only” IP54
rated. This means the Fairphone 4 is “protected against dust
ingress sufficient to prevent the product from operating normally,
but it’s not dust-tight. The product is fully protected against
solid objects and splashing of water from any angle”.
You can use the Fairphone 4 in the rain, but you can’t take it
into the pool. Once you realize that the back of the phone pops
right off and the fact that gaskets and other waterproofing
measures would add to the cost considerably, you understand why.
iPhones have been dust and waterproof since the iPhone 7 in 2016. (The iPhone 7 was rated IP68 — the 6 means dust-tight (the highest IP rating for particles), and the 8 means waterproof for full immersion (Apple says up to 6 meters depth for 30 minutes). Samsung’s S21 is rated IP68 (but only to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes), and Google’s Pixel 6 phones are rated IP68 as well, albeit with a disclaimer that reads, in part, “Water resistance isn’t a permanent condition, and diminishes or is lost over time due to normal wear and tear, device repair, disassembly or damage”).
Is it possible that Fairphone — or someone else manufacturing a phone with Fairphone’s ease-of-repairability ideals — will eventually achieve IP68 levels of ingress protection? Of course. It’s also certainly the case that some people, like Hildenbrand, value repairability and battery-swapping more than they value dust and water resistance.