The Fairphone 3 and Fairphone 3+ are basically alike. The difference is in the cameras, the speaker and the amount of recycled plastic (forty instead of nine percent). Android 10 is also included immediately this time. But how do you like the device?
Fairphone 3 Plus
price € 470, –
Color Matt black
OS Android 10
Screen 5.65 inch LCD (1080 by 2160 pixels)
Processor Snapdragon 632
RAM 4 GB
Storage 128 GB
Battery 3080 mAh
Camera 48 megapixel (rear), 16 megapixel (front)
Connectivity 4G, Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi, GPS, NFC
Format 158 x 71.8 x 9.9 mm
Weight 189 grams
Other dualsim, fingerprint scanner, micro sd card slot
Website Fairphone 8 Score 80
- Easy to replace modules
- Bare Android version
- Upgrades up to Android 14
- Not the fastest hardware
- Not the best camera
- Camera software
- Design looks outdated
Let’s face it: many people buy a new smartphone too often. Some people find it a problem that they have to do this once every two or three years, others do it twice a year without thinking. Ultimately, you have to know for yourself. It’s your money, but that’s not all it’s about: all those smartphones (along with other electronics products) are an attack on the environment.
And that is what Fairphone has based its business model on. The manufacturer makes durable appliances. Not only are suppliers paid better, you can also easily replace certain parts. So you do not have to pay high repair costs and you are not tempted to immediately buy a new smartphone as soon as the old one is broken.
Specifications Fairphone 3 Plus
In 2019 Fairphone released the Fairphone 3. Exactly a year later, the Fairphone 3+ is now coming. Basically, both devices are very similar. There is (again) a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632, which is accompanied by 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage space. The specifications ensure a relatively slow smartphone, but fortunately that experience is not disturbing. When you use your device for some messaging services and phone calls, it should be fine.
You can also insert a micro-SD card into the device by removing the battery. That battery has a capacity of 3040 mAh. That will get you through a day, but keep in mind that you have to charge it at the end of that day. Wireless charging is not available, that is done via a USB-C cable.
Economical use of the environment
That USB-C cable is not included. That happens for a reason. Fairphone believes that you already have such a cable and charger that you can use. If that is not the case, you can order one more separately on the website. Apple is now trying to do the same trick with the Apple Watch Series 6. That smartwatch is not provided with a charger in the box. The company sells that as environmentally friendly, but in this case it is more about cost savings. And we don’t perceive that idea when it comes to the Fairphone 3+. The approach is different, because the whole corporate culture is different. And there is something to be said for that.
The Fairphone 3+ has six parts that you can replace when they break. Or if you just want to upgrade them of course. The idea behind this is that you can make your phone feel somewhat modern or new, without purchasing a new one right away. You can see an overview of available parts on the manufacturer’s website. Examples are the new cameras and the matte black back. And the great thing is: if you have a Fairphone 3, you can also use those parts in your old smartphone. Can you still leave that 3+. Saves again.
Replacing the parts is very simple. You remove the battery and unscrew all screws. Then you carefully press the screen out, so that you can easily reach the separate modules. With the camera you first have to remove the ribbon cable, but then you unscrew the screws here too and easily push the module out. You place the new camera, plug it back in, put in the screws and you’re done. If you can’t figure it out, Fairphone has all kinds of tutorials on YouTube. Replacement is therefore easy and accessible, also thanks to the fact that a small Philips screwdriver is included. So as long as you have it at hand, you can use the six different parts of your Fairphone 3 Plus +.
Video and audio
One of the replaceable parts is the screen. And that is precisely, together with the back, a part of a smartphone that often suffers a lot of damage. So it is a good thing that you can replace the display without too much hassle and expertise.
The LCD screen is 5.65 inches in size, has a Full HD + resolution, a screen ratio of 18: 9 and a pixel density of 427 pixels per inch (ppi). Anything above 400 ppi produces a nice image and we can also draw that conclusion with the Fairphone 3+. The screen is not excellent and even has a little bit of a ghosting effect (where residual images are still visible after a moving image), but otherwise colors are displayed reasonably accurately. You can easily view photos and videos here; for daily use it just looks neat. Letters are perfectly legible. The viewing angle is not very large, but fortunately that is not the most important thing.
The speaker on the Fairphone 3+ is also this time on the left side of the device. May be useful for people on the right, but this left-handed person doesn’t always like it. The audio is constantly hidden away as the held phone leans against the palm. And right-handers should be careful not to put their finger on that speaker. It is a great solution for when you watch videos horizontally, because at that moment your hand is not in front of the speaker, but it is less desirable for vertical use. We must say that the speaker sounds better than its predecessor. The audio sounds clear, but is further stripped of bass.
The new camera module is much better than the module that was introduced with the previous Fairphone. The 48 megapixel camera shoots colorful and detailed photos, but you need enough light for that. If it is just too dark, you will notice that the camera has a hard time. Artifacts then arise and the quality generally decreases.
It is striking, however, that you cannot shoot the photos in full resolution. You make them standard in 12 megapixels (where the pixels are therefore combined for more light and detail). Furthermore, the autofocus is nice and fast and you can now use object tracking and scene optimization. There is no optical zoom, but you can zoom in digitally up to eight times.
There are also some annoying things. In normal photo mode, tapping to focus also immediately takes the photo. Pro mode does not do that. In addition, you can shoot 4k videos at 60 fps, but not full hd videos; this is only possible in 30 fps or 120 fps. The slow motion images look fine, but otherwise not impressive.
For example, the iPhone SE 2020 or the Google Pixel 4a falls in the same price category. Both smartphones take much better photos than the cameras on the Fairphone 3+. So that is something to take into account.
Android 10 to Android 14
The device comes directly with Android 10. Despite the somewhat outdated hardware, the device still feels modern. So you can enjoy everything Android 10 has to offer: the new features and the extra security. The security update is on August 5, 2020, so the device is slightly behind the rest. It is good to know that Fairphone is planning to release five upgrades, so that you can use the phone undisturbed and safely until the release of Android 14. That really benefits the durability.
Android 10 on the Fairphone 3+ is pretty stripped down. But that is a positive point in this feeling. The phone is only equipped with the standard Google apps. You get one app from Fairphone, but you can switch it off. This gives you access to vanilla Android, which provides a positive experience for many users. There is no bloatware, and there are no unnecessary functions that you don’t use anyway. It is also striking that the device comes standard with the old-fashioned navigation keys in the picture, but fortunately you can change that to the new way of navigation (namely with the new gestures).
Fairphone 3+ – conclusion
Let’s be honest. For an amount of 470 euros you can get better smartphones at home. In the field of good software you can go to Nokia and the OnePlus Nord, and in terms of camera work, the Pixel 4 and the iPhone SE 2020 in particular do wonders for about the same amount. However, the reason you go for a Fairphone is because you attach different values to your smartphone use.
You think it is important that such a device is durable and good for the environment. And in that respect, Fairphone is the only one of its kind. By being able to exchange the modules and the five promised upgrades, you will not have to buy another device in the coming years, which is ultimately better for the environment. Yes, the Fairphone 3+ has outdated hardware, but for the average user (who makes some WhatsApp, makes phone calls and shares photos and videos) it can get through. However, don’t expect to be able to game well on this.
In any case, it is good to see that Fairphone continues to make new modules and invest more in recycled plastic. The manufacturer is a real example for Google, Apple and Samsung, among others. At the bottom of the line, you choose the Fairphone 3+ because you support the company’s ideals, not because you are looking for a smartphone that offers a lot for little money.