After I began taking aside the Fairphone 5, I didn’t actually count on any surprises. 

Having dis- and reassembled the previous model a number of occasions, I had some expertise with Fairphone’s method to constructing a smartphone: Modularity paired with quick access to all main elements. 

It’s a profitable system for a repairable smartphone they’ve iterated on a number of occasions now. So, what’s really completely different this time round—aside from a brand new and glossy OLED display and beefed up cameras?

Opening Up

The preliminary opening process continues to be the identical: Simply unclip the plastic again cowl and also you’re good to begin your restore. 

The outer form of the again cowl is modified from the Fairphone 4 although, which, along with an elevated thickness of nano coating, results in a barely improved IP55 score. So whereas the Fairphone 5 has the identical mud resistance as its predecessor, it’s now capable of survive water jets as an alternative of simply splashes. 

This time round, the battery takes up noticeably more room than earlier than and it exhibits within the capability: 4200 mAh as an alternative of 3905 mAh. It’s the centerpiece sandwiched in between the highest and backside modules.

Minor, However Considerate Enhancements

Going deeper, there are some high quality of life enhancements for fixers which are very a lot appreciated. 

The connector cowl of the highest module is now related to the module as an alternative of being separate, so the small plastic piece can’t get misplaced through the restore.

A photo showing how the connector cover of the Fairphone 5's top module is connected to the module itself.

Beneath the highest module, the individually replaceable cameras are straight accessible, so it’s not mandatory to interchange the whole digicam module if one in every of them breaks prefer it was the case with the predecessor. The Time of Flight sensor, in the meantime, stays straight built-in with the highest module.

On the underside of the telephone, USB-C port replacements have grow to be a bit extra easy. No extra prodding utilizing a small cutout, now a small metallic lid on the left facet allows you to carry it out comfortably.

The Core Change

The key inner change, nonetheless, turns into seen as quickly as all these floor degree elements are eliminated. 

As an alternative of a Fairphone 4 model Core Module that snakes across the casing much like the logic boards of latest iPhones or Google Pixel telephones, we’re greeted with a view that’s way more widespread in Android telephones: a cut up between a motherboard and daughterboard.

We’ve requested Fairphone about this transformation they usually said that it was essential to create more room for the larger battery.

A view of the front and back of the Fairphone 5 after substantial disassembly.

The change explains the warning stickers that, at first look, really feel misplaced in a Fairphone. Beforehand, securing the Core Module with a Torx screw sufficed in an effort to steer homeowners in direction of the proper path of restore. The brand new format creates a complete array of further areas for by accident disconnecting one thing you actually shouldn’t.

Detailed view of the antenna cable connector and cables.
Lettering on the board signifies whether or not the antenna cables are related to the fitting connector.

The stickers create a cease signal to consider disconnecting the antenna cables or the interconnect cable between the motherboard and daughterboard, as a result of each have the potential to interrupt performance.

However even for those who resolve to disconnect the antenna cables, the connectors are clearly marked to be sure you will reconnect the cables appropriately afterwards.

That’s what intuitive restore design is all about: it ought to be simple to do the fitting factor and complex to do the mistaken factor.

Past Snapdragon

It’s not solely on the {hardware} facet the place you see Fairphone’s dedication to sturdiness. 

Whereas the Fairphone 5 comes with a promise of 5 Android model upgrades and a minimum of 8 years of safety updates, 10 years is their said aim. Which means that Fairphone may really make the decade-lasting phone a actuality.

The SoC that powers this promise is from Qualcomm, however it’s intentionally not a Snapdragon processor. As an alternative, Fairphone opted for the QCM6490 SoC, a chip that’s, as Qualcomm places it, “purpose-built for industrial and commercial IoT applications“.

It’s the quickest industrial chip Qualcomm makes, however actually not probably the most cutting-edge know-how the chipmaker has to supply. Nonetheless, on account of its industrial audience, QCM6490 comes with a longer lifetime support than Qualcomm’s shopper merchandise.

Contemplating initial benchmarking tests, time will inform whether or not the chip will nonetheless be capable of deal with Android and its apps a number of years from now. Proper now, it’s aggressive with mid-range telephones, however not high-end ones.

Conserving it 10/10

Total, the Fairphone 5 retains the features that had been nice about earlier fashions and provides some nicely thought out enhancements to the restore expertise, like individually replaceable cameras. It incorporates a modular design with quick access to vital elements and simply accessible, moderately priced substitute elements. Moreover, Fairphone supplies the mandatory restore info.

The brand new format of motherboard and daughterboard could also be extra ‘standard’ than beforehand, however that doesn’t imply that the telephone’s general repairability suffers. Even within the case of the Fairphone 4, the Core Module was not accessible on the market “due to the legal and logistical constraints regarding the administration of the IMEI numbers”.

What’s a bit extra disappointing is that changing the fingerprint sensor stays very tough with no substitute half being bought, however taking a look at it from a standpoint of anticipated part failure charges and IP score, it appears like an inexpensive compromise.

The principle repairability function of the Fairphone 5 lies in its software program longevity. Even for those who can repair your telephone six years after you acquire it, it usually simply doesn’t make a lot sense as a result of it will imply operating an outdated, insecure model of Android. 

Massive gamers like Samsung and Google have improved their replace coverage in recent times and now supply safety updates for as much as five and even seven years for his or her newest high-end fashions. Nonetheless, these market leaders maintain lagging behind Fairphone. They already proved that they’re able to fulfilling seven years of safety updates with the Fairphone 2.

All of which means the Fairphone 5 is a ten out of 10 in our books, hopefully for the subsequent 10 years.

Graphic depicting 10 out of 10 on iFixit's Repairability Scale.

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