Fairphone, the sustainable smartphone maker that seeks to make easily repairable devices out of responsible materials, has announced its newest mobile phone. The Fairphone 3 Plus is an updated version of the Fairphone 3 from last year with improved cameras and speakers. What is more interesting, however, is that if you already bought last year's phone and don't want to upgrade to a brand new handset, Fairphone's modular nature allows you to purchase the new camera module yourself and install it into your existing phone.
The Fairphone 3 Plus costs 469 euros when it is released on September 14, and the purchase of the updated cameras as a modular upgrade costs 94.90 euros (approx. 111 US dollars). (Fairphone is offering an introductory price of € 70 through September.) While buying the upgraded cameras alone is cheaper, it's not about saving money. Instead, it aims to prevent people from replacing a perfectly working phone just because a new model is available, creating unnecessary waste and draining the earth's natural resources.
Fairphone wants you to be able to keep a phone for up to seven years
Anyone who decides to upgrade to the new camera modules will receive higher-resolution sensors with more camera functionality. The rear camera now has a 48 megapixel sensor instead of a 12 megapixel sensor, while the selfie camera has gone from 8 megapixels to 16 megapixels. The new lenses also offer faster autofocus, image stabilization and better object tracking.
According to Fairphone, the average person replaces their phone every 2.7 years. Ideally, however, you want users to be able to hold onto their devices for five to seven years. The ability to update individual parts of a phone rather than the entire device every time is an attempt to encourage users to stick with their phones longer. According to Fairphone, less than 5 percent of the materials in a phone can be recovered and reused. Even if you send a phone in for recycling, many of its materials will still end up in a landfill.
This is not the first time Fairphone has offered updated camera hardware for its phones. In 2017, improved hardware for rear and selfie cameras was also released for the 2015 Fairphone 2. You can upgrade the phone's original 8-megapixel rear camera with a 12-megapixel module or the original 2-megapixel selfie camera with a 5-megapixel model.
Outside of the new cameras, the Fairphone 3 Plus is functionally similar to the Fairphone 3. It still has a 5.7-inch 1080p display, is still powered by a Snapdragon 632 medium-range processor, and has a swappable 3,000 mAh Battery pack. There is 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded up to 400 GB via microSD. Android 10 is preinstalled, and the company announces that it will roll out the operating system on top of the existing Fairphone 3 in September.
Outside of its cameras, the Fairphone 3 Plus is similar to last year's phone.
In addition to the improved cameras, the new 3 Plus offers better audio performance with louder, clearer sound, according to Fairphone. More recycled plastic is also used in its construction. It now has 40 percent recycled plastic, up from 9 percent last year. Unfortunately, the only way to get these upgrades is by purchasing a brand new phone. They are not available as stand-alone modules.
Outside of the phones themselves, Fairphone is working on a number of other sustainability projects, including sourcing more ethically produced gold, cobalt, tin, tungsten and copper, and working to improve conditions in cobalt and gold mines. There are also programs in France and Germany that allow customers to send in their old or broken phone modules for recycling or repair, as well as initiatives to support factory workers in China.
Fairphone's relentless focus on sustainability means it's no easy task. Telephones need to be made with modern enough specifications that people can buy and use them. However, releasing a new device every year can result in the same wasteful upgrade cycle as other phone manufacturers. With its modular structure, Fairphone has developed an interesting way to get around the problem.
According to Fairphone, the Fairphone 3 Plus will be available across Europe from selected online retailers and operators.