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

Graphic: Fairphone

When you purchase a handset from Amsterdam-dependent Fairphone, you might be not acquiring just one more smartphone: you might be acquiring into ethical producing, and supporting a company that ploughs money back into strategies that gain workers at the coalface of the handset industry. 

The latest £425 (inc. VAT) Fairphone three+ is built from forty{d11068cee6a5c14bc1230e191cd2ec553067ecb641ed9b4e647acef6cc316fdd} recycled plastic, and has a modular layout so that end users can swap new components for previous, or swap something that’s damaged rather than basically acquiring an totally new handset. A evaluate of the results of this upgradable product is the Fairphone 3’s ten/ten repairability rating from iFixit.


The 5.sixty five-inch Fairphone three+ operates on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 632 system with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of inner storage, and accommodates two SIMs and a MicroSD card. The three+ product arrives with a 48MP key digicam and a 16MP selfie digicam, to which proprietors of the 12MP/8MP Fairphone three can up grade.

Visuals: Fairphone

The vital aspect of the Fairphone three+ in comparison to 2019’s Fairphone three is up to date cameras at the front and rear. The key digicam now has a 48MP sensor and an f/one.seventy nine lens, even though the selfie digicam has a 16MP sensor and an f/2. lens. The other specs are really a great deal equivalent, other than for a slightly louder speaker on the three+ product, so Fairphone three proprietors can think about acquiring one particular or both equally of the up to date cameras to self-install.

The cameras shoot realistic position-and-simply click pictures, but features is limited and if you might be really intrigued in smartphone images, you are going to want to appear somewhere else. No-one particular is going to purchase the Fairphone three+ mainly because of its digicam.

The stark black plastic backplate incorporates a fingerprint reader and the Fairphone branding as properly as an NFC marker and a little lozenge that properties the solitary rear digicam and its flash unit. The back has a matte end, making it pleasingly grippy. 

At 9.89mm thick, the Fairphone three+ appears to be like and feels chunky. On its remaining edge you can find a textured electricity button and a pair of quantity rockers. They are built from plastic, you can find no simply click when they’re employed, and they truly feel a small unresponsive. However, they do their work opportunities flawlessly properly.

The top edge has a three.5mm headset jack, and you can find a USB-C cost/connection port on the bottom. You you should not get a headset, cost cable or mains plug with the Fairphone three+. If you want these you can purchase them separately, but quite a few people today now have these products and can basically repurpose them. There is no quickly-charging to accommodate below, so you can go with a conventional charging set up, this means that one particular more charging kit and headset has not experienced to be produced.

Flagship handset makers chat up their screens with functions like bezel-no cost styles and large refresh premiums, but Fairphone sticks to a more basic — but flawlessly serviceable — display. The 5.sixty five-inch IPS Liquid crystal display has a resolution of 2,a hundred and sixty by one,080 pixels (427ppi) and is flawlessly very good plenty of for displaying textual content and online video. Gorilla Glass 5 offers it some protection against knocks, and even though there is just not a pre-fitted screen protector, if you want one particular it ought to be quick plenty of to get. The lengthy edge bezels are a few of millimetres broad, even though the top and bottom bezels both equally exceed 10mm, resulting in a moderate screen-to-overall body ratio of 72.5{d11068cee6a5c14bc1230e191cd2ec553067ecb641ed9b4e647acef6cc316fdd}. The Fairphone branding disguises the bottom bezel to some extent, even though the top bezel properties a notification mild, the front digicam and the front speaker. 

This speaker functions as a second outlet for audio, with the key speaker on the bottom edge, to the remaining. Audio output is poor, with a nominal-bass, tinny excellent.


Fairphone three+ disassembled (the cell phone arrives with a screwdriver for the career). You can swap the key and selfie cameras, the display, the battery, the bottom module (vibration motor, USB-C port, major mic) and the speaker module.

Graphic: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The other, more important, weak position is the battery. At three,040mAh it is really compact, and has a claimed life of 20 hrs. The Fairphone three+ just about lasted a working day for me and managed twelve hrs forty nine minutes on the PCMark for Android battery rundown check. In my conventional a few-hour YouTube streaming check it dropped 31{d11068cee6a5c14bc1230e191cd2ec553067ecb641ed9b4e647acef6cc316fdd} of a complete cost. It is really gradual to recharge, having three.5 hrs to go from zero to one hundred{d11068cee6a5c14bc1230e191cd2ec553067ecb641ed9b4e647acef6cc316fdd}. The one particular saving grace is that the battery is very easily accessed, so you could cost a spare and swap that in if necessary, but for individuals with just one particular battery, charging will require to be prepared.

Fairphone has labored really hard to retain development expenses down all spherical, and this is mirrored in the main hardware. The Snapdragon 632 chipset with 4GB of RAM is the same as in last year’s Fairphone three, but it continue to turned in realistic Geekbench 5 scores: 269 (solitary main) and 1208 (multi main). For comparison, flagship-course handsets like the Snapdragon 865-dependent OnePlus 8 rating around 900 and 3300 respectively.

There is just 64GB of inner storage, of which 13.3GB was employed out of the box on my review unit, leaving 50.7GB no cost. This is small by present day specifications, but you can add more storage through a MicroSD card. This is just not a 5G handset, but it will settle for two SIMs — and you you should not have to sacrifice MicroSD growth to accommodate a second SIM.

The Fairphone three+ operates Android ten, with no extras or bloatware aside from one particular little app, which is a compact information and facts source about Fairphone. As I generate, Android eleven has only just been released. Fairphone commits to five decades of software updates, so Android eleven ought to come to it in owing system.  


I’m employed to observing the latest aspect-packed smartphone phones with their extravagant industrial layout, or designs that accentuate one particular certain aspect, or try out to produce a terrific value/effectiveness ratio, or have some other part to shout about. The Fairphone three+ is just not developed to retain up with the pack, and to assess it to other handsets in terms of ‘bang for buck’ rather misses the position.

Visitors will both like Fairphone’s ethical organization product and go with it, or they would not. So if you might be intrigued, take a appear at what Fairphone is accomplishing.

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