Fairphone 3+ review: Camera upgrades for the modular ethical smartphone


Graphic: Fairphone

When you get a handset from Amsterdam-primarily based Fairphone, you happen to be not acquiring just a different smartphone: you happen to be acquiring into ethical production, and supporting a enterprise that ploughs cash back again into strategies that advantage personnel at the coalface of the handset business. 

The most current £425 (inc. VAT) Fairphone three+ is created from 40{fb741301fcc9e6a089210a2d6dd4da375f6d1577f4d7524c5633222b81dec1ca} recycled plastic, and has a modular layout so that consumers can swap new sections for previous, or switch nearly anything which is broken alternatively than only acquiring an totally new handset. A measure of the achievement of this upgradable product is the Fairphone 3’s 10/10 repairability rating from iFixit.


The 5.sixty five-inch Fairphone three+ operates on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 632 platform with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, and accommodates two SIMs and a MicroSD card. The three+ product will come with a 48MP principal camera and a 16MP selfie camera, to which homeowners of the 12MP/8MP Fairphone three can up grade.

Images: Fairphone

The important feature of the Fairphone three+ as opposed to 2019’s Fairphone three is up to date cameras at the front and rear. The principal camera now has a 48MP sensor and an f/1.seventy nine lens, whilst the selfie camera has a 16MP sensor and an f/2. lens. The other specifications are rather substantially similar, apart from for a slightly louder speaker on the three+ product, so Fairphone three homeowners can contemplate acquiring a single or both equally of the up to date cameras to self-install.

The cameras shoot realistic position-and-simply click images, but operation is minimal and if you happen to be definitely interested in smartphone images, you can want to look in other places. No a single is heading to get the Fairphone three+ due to the fact of its camera.

The stark black plastic backplate incorporates a fingerprint reader and the Fairphone branding as properly as an NFC marker and a small lozenge that houses the solitary rear camera and its flash device. The back again has a matte end, producing it pleasingly grippy. 

At nine.89mm thick, the Fairphone three+ appears and feels chunky. On its remaining edge there’s a textured ability button and a pair of quantity rockers. They’re created from plastic, there’s no simply click when they are employed, and they experience a little unresponsive. Even now, they do their positions completely properly.

SEE: 5G smartphones: A cheat sheet (no cost PDF) (TechRepublic)

The leading edge has a three.5mm headset jack, and there’s a USB-C cost/relationship port on the bottom. You never get a headset, cost cable or mains plug with the Fairphone three+. If you want these you can get them independently, but quite a few folks currently have these objects and can only repurpose them. There is certainly no rapid-charging to accommodate in this article, so you can go with a common charging set up, which means that a single far more charging package and headset has not experienced to be produced.

Flagship handset makers communicate up their screens with attributes like bezel-no cost layouts and high refresh costs, but Fairphone sticks to a far more essential — but completely serviceable — display screen. The 5.sixty five-inch IPS Liquid crystal display has a resolution of 2,one hundred sixty by 1,080 pixels (427ppi) and is completely good plenty of for displaying textual content and online video. Gorilla Glass 5 presents it some security versus knocks, and whilst there isn’t really a pre-equipped screen protector, if you want a single it ought to be straightforward plenty of to obtain. The long edge bezels are a few of millimetres wide, whilst the leading and bottom bezels both equally exceed 10mm, resulting in a moderate screen-to-body ratio of seventy two.5{fb741301fcc9e6a089210a2d6dd4da375f6d1577f4d7524c5633222b81dec1ca}. The Fairphone branding disguises the bottom bezel to some extent, whilst the leading bezel houses a notification gentle, the front camera and the front speaker. 

This speaker functions as a 2nd outlet for audio, with the principal speaker on the bottom edge, to the remaining. Seem output is lousy, with a minimal-bass, tinny quality.


Fairphone three+ disassembled (the mobile phone will come with a screwdriver for the task). You can switch the principal and selfie cameras, the display screen, the battery, the bottom module (vibration motor, USB-C port, key mic) and the speaker module.

Graphic: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The other, far more important, weak position is the battery. At three,040mAh it really is rather small, and has a claimed lifetime of twenty hrs. The Fairphone three+ just about lasted a day for me and managed twelve hrs forty nine minutes on the PCMark for Android battery rundown test. In my common a few-hour YouTube streaming test it dropped 31{fb741301fcc9e6a089210a2d6dd4da375f6d1577f4d7524c5633222b81dec1ca} of a comprehensive cost. It really is gradual to recharge, using three.5 hrs to go from zero to a hundred{fb741301fcc9e6a089210a2d6dd4da375f6d1577f4d7524c5633222b81dec1ca}. The a single saving grace is that the battery is conveniently accessed, so you could cost a spare and swap that in if required, but for those people with just a single battery, charging will need to be planned.

Fairphone has worked challenging to continue to keep development costs down all round, and this is mirrored in the main hardware. The Snapdragon 632 chipset with 4GB of RAM is the exact same as in very last year’s Fairphone three, but it nevertheless turned in realistic Geekbench 5 scores: 269 (solitary main) and 1208 (multi main). For comparison, flagship-course handsets like the Snapdragon 865-primarily based OnePlus 8 rating around 900 and 3300 respectively.

There is certainly just 64GB of internal storage, of which 13.3GB was employed out of the box on my evaluate device, leaving 50.7GB no cost. This is reduced by today’s benchmarks, but you can insert far more storage through a MicroSD card. This isn’t really a 5G handset, but it will settle for two SIMs — and you never have to sacrifice MicroSD enlargement to accommodate a 2nd SIM.

The Fairphone three+ operates Android 10, with no extras or bloatware aside from a single small application, which is a small details resource about Fairphone. As I write, Android eleven has only just been launched. Fairphone commits to five many years of software updates, so Android eleven ought to arrive to it in owing system.  


I’m employed to viewing the most current feature-packed smartphone telephones with their fancy industrial layout, or types that intensify a single certain feature, or consider to deliver a fantastic price/performance ratio, or have some other aspect to shout about. The Fairphone three+ isn’t really developed to continue to keep up with the pack, and to evaluate it to other handsets in phrases of ‘bang for buck’ alternatively misses the position.

Visitors will both like Fairphone’s ethical business enterprise product and go with it, or they will not. So if you happen to be intrigued, acquire a look at what Fairphone is carrying out.

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