Fairphone 4 launches with upgradeable components and 5-year warranty

The Fairphone 4 blends the company's ethical and environmental stance with modern hardware.

Fairphone 4 smartphone in green
Credit: Fairphone

Fairphone, the ethically-minded company behind a range of repairable and long-lasting smartphones, has announced its latest device, the Fairphone 4. The device brings modern hardware focusing on repairability, helping it stand out against other flagship units.

The phone comes in three colours — grey, green, and speckled green — with either 126GB of storage and 8GB of RAM or 256GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. To make it future-proof, it offers 5G support and ships with Android 11, released in late-2020.

The Fairphone 4 is powered by the Qualcomm 750G system-on-a-chip, also launched in September 2020. Alongside some of the latest hardware, the phone comes with a five-year warranty.

Notably, it achieves a 9.4 on the French Repairability Index, a recently implemented sustainability and environmental rating. The phone charges via USB-C, allowing you to top up the 3,905mAh removable Lithium-ion battery.

In 2020, the Fairphone 3+ bridged the gap between the 4 and the older Fairphone 3, offering upgradable components, like the camera and speakers. The groundwork had been laid with the Fairphone 3, as you could switch those newer components into the device.

The Fairphone 3 debuted in October 2019, making it just over two years old. For most smartphones, that would mean the device would be nearing the end of official support, with maybe a year or two of security updates remaining.

When I reviewed the Fairphone 3 for MakeUseOf, it seemed to be a reliable mid-range smartphone, but the company's ethics and environmental approach were the main reason to invest.

Fairphone 4 (Grey) front and rear
Credit: Fairphone

The way Fairphone has structured its designs means that you don't have to jump ship now that the Fairphone 4 has launched. Instead, you can upgrade the hardware in a similar way to how you'd extend the life of a desktop PC.

There are two main reasons for taking this approach. The first is repairability. Very few smartphones, or electronic devices more generally, are designed to be user-repairable. In most cases, there are glued components, unopenable body parts, and specialist equipment needed.

Some smartphones, notably Apple's iPhone range, even detect non-official parts and repairs, invalidating warranties and purposefully degrading the user experience. This has led to the growth of the Right to Repair movement, which campaigns to reverse this trend.

There's more than just money at stake too. Consumer electronics, like smartphones, cost the planet dearly. The minerals and materials required are often mined or heavily processed, destroying the environment in the process.

Even after they're produced, if you're forced into an annual upgrade cycle or have to write off a superficially damaged device, the environmental impact is made worse by the premature disposal of the phone.

This is why the Fairphone 4 is such an essential and possibly game-changing device. After refining the process with previous releases, the company has launched a smartphone that doesn't just come out on top of ethics but also competes against most current mid-range options.

The Fairphone 4 is available to order now directly from the company, costing £499 for the entry-level grey device. Due to the ongoing global supply chain issues, the company estimates a 12-week lead time on all orders.