Fairphone Brings Desktop Modularity to Your Pocket

Dutch company Fairphone is a phone maker with a difference. The company’s self-named smartphone uses ethically-sourced materials and is designed to have a long lifespan: it is modular, but in a different vein to Project Ara. Rather than users replacing the display module when they want a larger screen, or adding better speakers, the Fairphone 2 is focused around becoming ‘the most sustainable smartphone ever’.

One of the most obvious components is the outer shell. This is replaceable and acts as a protective case. It also features a rubber rim around the edge of the display glass, to protect it from shocks. Although there is only one case available today, Fairphone hopes to launch more, with different functionality and levels of protection, over time.

Although the Fairphone is not completely sealed, it is protected against ingress of dust and moisture. It can survive drops from 1.85m, on any side or surface, onto concrete.

As a modular item, the phone is constructed around seven components:

  1. The external case;
  2. The replaceable battery pack;
  3. The transceiver (containing most of the electrical components);
  4. The display;
  5. The receiver unit;
  6. The rear camera unit; and
  7. The speaker unit.

All of these subsystems are self-reliant; that is, if you replace one, you will not need to throw away any other piece. All are ‘easily’ replaceable, fixed together without soldering. The display can be replaced without tools, while the receiver, rear camera and speaker units only require a screwdriver. Other components can be replaced by advanced users, or at a service centre.

Some technologies that are still not widely adopted, like NFC and wireless charging, are not featured on the Fairphone 2. However – like Samsung’s smart TVs – the phone can be upgraded, using an expansion port on the transceiver. New back covers, integrating such technologies, can thus be added.

The Fairphone 2 will be shipped this autumn, with a 5″ display (1920 x 1080) covered in Gorilla Glass 3. A Snapdragon 801 SoC will run Android 5.1, alongside 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

Two SIM slots and a micro-SD slot will be featured, as well as an 8MP rear camera. WiFi, 4G connectivity and Bluetooth 4.0 will be pre-installed.

Fairphone will sell the handset for €465, ex VAT.