Fairphone 3 Teardown

(ifixit.com)

271 points | by sohkamyung 136 days ago

13 comments

  • 24gttghh 135 days ago

    https://www.ifixit.com/smartphone-repairability?sort=score

    There is only one other phone from the last five years (that isn't also a Fairphone) that has a score better than an 8/10 on ifixit's 'repairability score'. Well done!

    • mkettn 135 days ago

      What about the software side? Fairphone 3 supports Android 9, Fairphone 2 supports Android 7. I see no use in a smartphone with replaceble hardware parts if I cannot install at least security patches for my phones OS on the long run.

      • xorcist 135 days ago

        Fairphone has had very solid software support. It is together with Nexus and Oneplus the hardware most enthusiasts choose, so there is a functioning community around it.

        It is not only well supported in LineageOS, but also most alternative phone OSes such as UBports (Ubuntu Touch), Sailfish and postmarketOS have or have had people actively using the hardware.

        It's quite a good track record considering the Fairphone 2 is already twice the age the minimum software update guarantee from Google for their own hardware.

        • freehunter 135 days ago

          Absolutely not. I don't download Windows updates from "enthusiasts" or "the community", and I don't consider community security patches to be "solid software support".

          There's nothing wrong with LineageOS and I'm not criticizing their work. They do a great job keeping phones supported past the time when manufacturers have dropped support. But the Android community is far too willing to trust ROMs downloaded from forums that include who-knows-what and calling it "solid software support".

          Solid software support is updates from the manufacturer, the company I originally trusted to provide updates when I bought the phone. If I have to rely on the work of people who once called themselves "Team Douche" [1] because the company who released the original software has stopped support, I'm not considering that "solid software support".

          [1] https://www.talkandroid.com/16074-modders-round-table-with-t...

          • jsingleton 135 days ago

            I'd say a Fairphone is better supported than a Nexus (no experience with Oneplus). For example, the Nexus 5 is no longer supported, even by lineage (https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/hammerhead/), although they do say:

            > A build guide is available for developers that would like to make private builds, or even restart official support.

            Edit: I should add that although I've already ordered my Fairphone 3 I've not had a chance to actually test it out yet. If anyone is interested I can post a 25 EUR discount referral link?

            • tgsovlerkhgsel 135 days ago

              Does it receive real security updates (i.e. all the CVEs that are supposed to be fixed by that patch level are actually fixed), or "whatever we can reasonably fix" updates where e.g. the kernel is left on an outdated version without fixes because the fixes never got backported and upgrading the kernel is impossible due to limited support from e.g. the SoC vendor?

              https://www.wired.com/story/android-phones-hide-missed-secur...

            • joecool1029 135 days ago

              That Fairphone 2 fully supports Android 9 officially on LineageOS: https://download.lineageos.org/FP2

              • mattkevan 135 days ago

                I bought one of the second batches of the first Fairphone - I love the idea and the phone was great for a proof of concept, but it was disappointing to find it was never going to be upgraded beyond Android 4.4.

                It kind of broke the promise of repairable, sustainable hardware if the chipset provider obsoleted the device through lack of updates in less than a year of ownership.

                While 4.4 wasn't brilliant, I could have continued on with it - but I was uncomfortable using such an increasingly insecure OS.

                • vanderZwan 135 days ago

                  FP2 still gets Android security patches - the main problem by now is that the drivers for the hardware are not properly updated to Android 7 (due to the manufacturer not providing any updates)

                • mosselman 135 days ago

                  This is great, especially since modern cell phones are not that revolutionary anymore and should be fairly static in terms of parts. In theory you should be able to upgrade your fairphone in a few years with new parts, like you can with a PC.

                  • OrangeMango 135 days ago

                    This is the 3rd version; their website doesn't list the previous two. Are parts still available? Can you fit the guts of the 3rd version into the shell of the 2nd?

                    I'm going to pay attention to this brand; it's very promising. But they still have a lot of work to do before its sustainable.

                    • lnsru 135 days ago

                      It’s a nice theory, but the real world has the problem of component obsolescence. Basically the company must start redesigning parts with new components for old product while developing a new product. It’s ok in industrial settings, but I doubt anybody will do this in consumer space. DDR2 memory is already gone. Plus cellphone market cycles are extremely short.

                      • pjmlp 135 days ago

                        Given the trend regarding consumer devices towards laptops and 2-1 devices and decreasing desktop sales, it is more like "you used to do with a PC".

                        • pvorb 135 days ago

                          The article mentions that tha parts of the Fairphone 2 are not compatible with this version, unfortunately. Maybe future versions will be compatible to the Fairphone 3, though.

                        • Tepix 135 days ago

                          Congratulations to the Fairphone team for achieving a 10/10 score!

                          • tgsovlerkhgsel 135 days ago

                            The more I look at this sort of project, the more I wonder if the "hyper-repairable" approach is worth it. How many of those phones will need repairs? How much more resources have to be spent, and what other trade-offs have to be made, to enable that repairability? (One of the trade-offs being less economy-of-scale because not as many people are willing to buy a bulky yet expensive phone.)

                            At which point is it better to just build 12 non-repairable phones instead of 10 repairable ones + some spare parts?

                            Take, for example, the user-serviceable battery with its thick casing. Given that you'd expect to swap it 1-2 times during the useful lifetime of a phone platform, does it need to be that easy to swap, or would it be OK to require some level of disassembly?

                            Not "melt the glue, pull with suction cup, pry open, disconnect 15 connectors, loosen two sets of 8 screws (all different), remove all innards, replace some single-use parts" level of disassembly, something like "losen two screws, pry off the back, loosen two more screws, swap battery" like with the Nexus 4: https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Nexus+4+Battery+Replacement/130...

                            We don't complain when we take a wristwatch to a watch shop at the corner to swap the battery every few years, waiting a few minutes and paying $5-10 for the service and another $5 for the battery. I would be perfectly OK with a phone that works like that: Repairable (especially commonly swapped parts), but not average-user-servicable.

                            Edit: Looking at the Fairphone 3, it doesn't look as bad. I remember looking at the Fairphone 2, which looked like a brick made of cheap plastic all around.

                            • la_barba 135 days ago

                              The more you look at the e-waste that is being generated and dumped (often in developing countries, or.. out of sight of most westerners) the more you realize that increasing repairability/re-use/longetivity of devices is important for the planet. Can you imagine dumping your laptop in the garbage if one of the keys stopped working? Or if your CPU fan clogged up with dust? That's essentially whats happening with iphones, because Apple refuses to give customers the option to take their phones to reputable repair shops by prohibiting suppliers to sell to repair-shops, or in some cases using DRM to prevent repair.

                              >How many of those phones will need repairs? How much more resources have to be spent, and what other trade-offs have to be made, to enable that repairability?

                              Judging by the large amount of phone repair shops in existence, we already have the answer.

                              >(One of the trade-offs being less economy-of-scale because not as many people are willing to buy a bulky yet expensive phone.)

                              Why do you assume that the phone has to be bulky? That's simply a lack of imagination on the part of designers..

                              • pergadad 134 days ago

                                The repairability of the fairphone seems to be more a side project - the real aim of the company is to ensure a 'fair' smartphone in the sense of 'fair'trade: fair labour practices in the production, traceable raw materials that don't support slavery/war/etc. They set up whole certification processes in industries where those didn't exist yet.

                                The fair towards users regarding repairability is just an additional positive.

                                • not_a_cop75 135 days ago

                                  The more I read comments like this, the more I question the real possibility of shilling here. Yes repairability is important, but only if the likelihood of needing repair is not increased.

                                  Remember FORD? Easy to repair, but you might have to Fix Or Repair Daily. Don't be that company.

                                  • disjhshava 135 days ago

                                    As a user of a phone with a swappable battery, I keep an extra battery in my bag and swap whenever the battery gets low. The dead battery goes in a charger when I'm home. The swapping functionally is getting used frequently.

                                    Also, as a user of a more recent phone with good battery life and wireless charging, the battery never dies so I've never felt the need to swap it.

                                    On a side note, I feel that the rampant accusations of shilling lower the quality of discourse here and are indicative of a failure of empathy or theory of mind.

                                  • Rotareti 135 days ago

                                    I think the repairability of the Fairphone 3 is a huge step forward, but in the long run I want a phone that allows me to run an up-to-date OS for as long as I want. The Fairphone 3 will get updates for 5 years, that's not enough if you ask me.

                                    • mynameisvlad 135 days ago

                                      Most people replace their phones within 3 years. That's why phone contracts (and now HUPs and EIPs) generally are for 2-3 years. 5 years already is a long time in the cell phone space.

                                      To compare, 5 years ago the Nexus 6 was released, and had its EOL 3 years ago. The iPhone 6 did slightly better, with the last software release being 12.x which was released last year (and only just got superseded yesterday).

                                      Expecting more than 5 years of support is pretty ridiculous, given industry trends and just the evolution of phones and technology in general in the span of 5 years.

                                      • organsnyder 135 days ago

                                        Five years seems reasonable to me. The further out they get, the harder it gets for them to provide support—they're dependent on chipset vendors for up-to-date drivers.

                                        I'll be interested to see what options there will be at the five-year mark: I'd guess that there would be options for non-official firmware.

                                        • ShteiLoups 135 days ago

                                          So you want indefinite software support?

                                          Technically achievable with open source, but even OSS projects come to an end.

                                          • mrweasel 135 days ago

                                            Five years seems great, for getting a new up-to-date OS, but I would start to expect security updates to be available for longer. That not only Fairphone, but all phone manufactures.

                                            Apple is pretty good about supporting older hardware, but I feel like we reached a point in the last few years where phones are powerful enough that upgrades cycles could be five years for an average consumer. So it should be expected that security fixes would be available for longer.

                                            • bradfa 135 days ago

                                              Would it be reasonable to you to get something like 2 years of monthly security/software updates included in your purchase of a phone and then pay a nominal (like $25) yearly fee to continue getting only security updates beyond the first 2 years? If not, then how would you suggest funding the people who perform the software/security update process for your phone?

                                              • spookthesunset 135 days ago

                                                5 years is enough time for the underlying cell technology to have shifted somehow and carriers will eventually stop supporting devices that don’t work on their new networks.

                                                You probably can’t take a 10 or 15 year old cell phone and expect it to work on any carrier out there today.

                                                There is an upper bound to how long a phone will even worn on a network...

                                                • la_barba 135 days ago

                                                  Agreed, I think there should be an option for paying for long term service/support. The 5years thing is purely due to lack of funding.

                                                • tarkin2 135 days ago

                                                  I had a fairphone about three years ago (I'm guessing fairphone 2). The software was for a very old version of Android and the update was very slow coming. I tried to update but had huge problems. There were no custom ROMs for it either - hopefully there are now.

                                                  I never got to the point where I replaced a hardware component because the software problems, especially software update problems, and perhaps some mild hardware problems, meant I eventually gave up and used another phone. I hope FF3 is a vast improvement.

                                                  Edit: I see lineage has a ROM for FF2 giving it Android 8.1. That wasn't there when I used my FF. It may have given me a good experience.

                                                  • Fnoord 135 days ago

                                                    > Edit: I see lineage has a ROM for FF2 giving it Android 8.1. That wasn't there when I used my FF. It may have given me a good experience.

                                                    The LineageOS 16 OS is based on AOSP / Android 9.x Pi; not 8.x Oreo. That was LineageOS 15.

                                                    (We also don't use the acronym "FF"; we use the acronym "FP".)

                                                    > I had a fairphone about three years ago (I'm guessing fairphone 2). [...] There were no custom ROMs for it either - hopefully there are now.

                                                    I have a Fairphone 2 (FP2) for 4 years, and what you say is untrue. There have been alternative OSes for Fairphone for ages. Fairphone delivered a version of FPOS called Fairphone Open. It is Android without OpenGapps.

                                                    The OSes which have been around the past 4 years on FP2:

                                                    * SailfishOS (community edition)

                                                    * FirefoxOS [now defunct]

                                                    * Ubuntu Touch

                                                    * LineageOS (for approx 2-3 years?)

                                                    * /e/ (more recent, but also a newcomer)

                                                    * PostmarketOS (more recent)

                                                    Source: [1]

                                                    Especially the SailfishOS port has been around for ages, by community member mal (who now works for Jolla). Ubuntu Touch I'm not sure about when that was released, but it was the main development device for UT.

                                                    Assuming good faith on your behalf, are you sure this was 3 years ago? From the information you post, it was likely 5 years ago or so, and a Fairphone 1.

                                                    [1] https://forum.fairphone.com/t/operating-systems-for-fairphon...

                                                  • steeleduncan 135 days ago

                                                    Does anyone know if the Fairphone 3 will support Android Pay? I've asked their support a few times now, but I've never gotten a clear answer.

                                                    • sbradford26 135 days ago

                                                      Their website says it has NFC for card payments. So I would assume it would.

                                                    • ansible 135 days ago

                                                      Wow, that's neat. This might just be my next phone. It's a little more expensive than I'd like, but not bad, really.

                                                      • victorbojica 135 days ago

                                                        What would be the use cases for such a easy repairable phone? Compared to other phones not so easily repairable (i.e. 6/10).

                                                        • kiba 135 days ago

                                                          Everytime my macbook pro break, it becomes a session in anger management, because it's hard to fix or required lot of money to fix.

                                                          If an easily repairable phone breaks, it's not a big deal.

                                                          • pvorb 135 days ago

                                                            You can do almost everything you can do with any other high end phone. I think the smartphone market will soon settle at a much slower pace like the PC/notebook market. I haven't replaced my personal notebook since 2012.

                                                            • eswat 135 days ago

                                                              Being able to swap modules out of your phone like you can swap components out of a PC is very enticing to DIYers.

                                                              With enough maturity there could be a new market to sell modules for very different purposes than phone manufactures intended (ie: you can use the drive bays in PC case for a variety of components, not just “drives”, and it will work as long as it interface with the motherboard)

                                                              • rvense 135 days ago

                                                                Why should we accept less?

                                                                People throw away phones that work perfectly well except for one simple component. E.g. the body and all the electronics are sent to the landfill even if it's just the screen that's broken.

                                                                • Tepix 135 days ago

                                                                  Longevity. Use less resources by repairing.

                                                                  • detritus 135 days ago

                                                                    I could fix my phone more than once, unlike my Nexus 5, which survived one attempt at repair (new screen and battery) and is now inscrutably beyond fixing, no matter what combination of replacement parts I try.

                                                                    • meddlin 135 days ago

                                                                      Big cost savings.

                                                                      For myself, I would have no problem popping it open to replace parts. It would be great to get 5-6 (planned) years of use out of a single device. For family, that I regularly provide "tech support" for, it would be great to repair their phones instead of being beholden to some "bar", on the other side of town, requiring in-person visits/appointments for $100+ repairs.

                                                                      We could just get it done at the kitchen table.

                                                                    • ProZsolt 135 days ago

                                                                      It doesn't support USB-PD only QC3.0 [1]. I won't buy anything that uses a proprietary charging.

                                                                      [1]https://shop.fairphone.com/en/accessories/usb-charger-eu

                                                                    • ineedasername 135 days ago

                                                                      On specs this seems to be a mid-low level phone. I'm not sure I see the point of having a phone built to be repairable and last for the long haul if it's not got the specs to see that lifetime through, and as others have noted the lack up updates in prior iterations is troubling.

                                                                      I also wonder if the repairability will really impact repair costs. Swapping a battery is one thing, but if the phone isn't mass produced in sufficient qualities then getting replacement screens might not be much cheaper. Other repairs seem much less likely to be needed-- battery and screen probably account for a huge majority of repair issues.

                                                                      • nickserv 135 days ago

                                                                        I've replaced my last 4 phones not because I wanted something faster or thinner or any hardware improvements at all in fact.

                                                                        Just that something broke and fixing it was almost as much as getting a new one. Or the software was full of security holes or incompatibilities, and no way of upgrading.

                                                                        Honestly phones are pretty much where PCs are now, upgrading every year is pointless except for certain specific use cases, and something that can last 4-5 years with minor repairs and regular software updates is enough for the vast majority of users.

                                                                        My only concern with the Fairphone is the high initial price.