We need to talk about smartphone innovation - Fairphone

A short article, but with a number of strong messages, I thought. In particular:

The smartphone in 2020 is pretty much the same as it was in 2019. That’s a good thing. It means, if you have a working smartphone, you’re fine ignoring all the talk about innovation for a while and holding on to it.

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With the back of my phone being cracked and twice attempting to replace the back glass with it breaking when I put the new one due to dents in the frame, I’ve been taking a look at alternative phones. There really isn’t much change happening. Granted prices are coming down a bit, and features/specs are getting better in lower end phones. Generally only minor incremental changes.

Phone tech had now plateaued and a phone should now last several years barring physical damage, or significant change of use. The big issue is software and security updates and making sure that they go out for a reasonable time. The problem is the manufacturers generally don’t have an incentive to do this due to the business model where for Android phones there is generally no revenue to the manufacturer after the initial sale. Apple have other revenue streams from the ecosystem thus can fund the improvements.

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Honestly, once you have a solid screen (perhaps OLED, but excellent LCD at best), solid touch input, solid wireless networking, a decent camera, good materials, fast performance, a Secure Element with Fingerprint Sensor, NFC payments, USB Type-C with Power Delivery, good battery life, and perhaps even Wireless Charging, it would take something truly transformative to win me over.

I realised some time ago that with USB Type-C in particular laptops had gotten “good enough” for me and that I vastly prefer the boring but solid and repairable nature of my personal ThinkPad X270 that I bought used and upgraded with a Smart Card reader, NVMe storage, and better display, than buying a new MacBook Pro.

Fairphone is one wireless charging module, removal of the front text, and more subtle back text away from being the phone I would replace my current iPhone X with when it eventually dies, just because it seems to be a solid and repairable implementation of everything I want. I would miss the OLED display and general niceness of Apple’s hardware but even though I can afford an iPhone 11 Pro, I just can’t justify it anymore.

(As an aside, I would have to figure out my Apple Watch situation but that’s a different lock-in story. :grimacing:)

I don’t really want a phone with three cameras, just one that meets the “nice enough” bar and meets my needs, repairability is a bonus.

Maybe I am just getting old. :sweat_smile:

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Yes to all of that! Although I wouldn’t complain if my X270 had a MacBook’s trackpad. :sweat_smile:

I switched from iPhones to the Fairphone 2 and found that I didn’t care about NFC. Do miss the fingerprint sensor though. Should’ve waited for the FP3.

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The lack of NFC was one of the reasons for moving away from my Fairphone 2. (Poor performance was another - I tend to have too many apps installed).

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I think there’s another thing here in that

We all have different types of smartphone we like, and there’s always minor / major improvements coming in design / other areas at the very least

For instance what @Rika appreciates in a phone is very far from what I want

All I want is:

  • nice screen preferably not based on OLED,
  • Big stinky speakers
  • Fast charging (matching my mac book Pro if possible)
  • Beefcake battery
  • USB-C

Which is why so many phones get released and why they can afford to come out every year with a new one. Hopefully we get to the stage where the experience peaks for 99% of what people do

Then we can build open standards for a good bit of the rest (for example authentication) and build implementations for Android/iOS in a repository that manufacturers can push to their devices in a Lineage style; would keep phones updated, secure and would be a good balance with great usability and enjoyment

But then again, most phones aren’t really that different. The market caters for a pretty narrow set of desires.


That’s fair, currently I’m with the ROGPhone until Apple meet my preferred set of features. Front firing dual speakers + USB-C really isn’t difficult in 2020

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I thought it was time to renew this thread and see what phones people recommend?

I recently took the plunge and moved away from Apple after about 10 years of iPhones to the Fairphone 4 and have been quite impressed so far.

Good to hear that ^^ I’ll be honest, I almost only hear bad stories about Fairphones from the people that have them,

I’m still using my Fairphone 2, but that’s in spite of it being rather unreliable. (I’m sure LineageOS has some part to play in that though!)

I am not sure why Fairphone seem to be trying to compete with top-end phones. I’d much rather see a solid and reliable phone with all the ethical credentials than one with a bunch of bells and whistles that don’t work great. I worry that the “eh” quality of the hardware is giving the whole idea a bad reputation.

Thanks @anon57251825 that’s a good point, it will be incredibly tough to compete with the likes of apple and samsung R&D wise.

Me moving to it was partly for ethical reasons and partly to coincide with an aim to use my phone less so hopefully for a more limited set of features needed it will suffice but let’s see! I still find myself using both so haven’t completely adjusted! Thanks for the post!

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I had the Fairphone 3 which was working well though I occasionally going it slow at times. My wife’s phone a Sony was slow, lacking updates, and running out of space regularly. So I decided to upgrade to the Fairphone 4 and give her my old phone.

The Fairphone 3 had a problem with many USB cables not staying attached, so it was easy to buy the spare part and replace it. She’s been much happier since getting the new phone as it is much faster and more reliable than older one.My Fairphone 4 has a couple of minor issues such as a crack in the back cover where one of the latches are and a scratch on the screen. The thing I rather like is the ease of repairability even if it is slightly bulky compared to some other phones, however having held someone else’s phone that was incredibly thin I was scared I was going to bend or drop it.

I had a previous phone where I had cracked the screen and it was incredibly difficult to replace. I tried twice and just made it worse so have up and switched to the Fairphone 3.

One of the reasons I like slightly more powerful hardware at the start is that it can last long longer even with software updates. This is one of the reasons they haven’t gone for the low end market.

Having had all the major Fairphone versions I’m seeing it maturing and is much more likely I’ll keep for longer.

My main bugbear at the moment is Android Pay needing the wallet so to be opened before it works. If it’s been recently opened them it works fine from the lock screen. Though suspect it’s an issue that could happen on any phone. I’ve just changed the setting about which app to use for payments from “except when another payment is is open” to “always”, so hopefully that will fix the issue.

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