Last Friday my Fairphone 3 arrived. Yay! In this article I’ve collected my thoughts after using it for three days. I expected a world of hurt when transitioning from my iPhone. In reality the transition went pretty smooth. But it wasn’t all perfect. Read on to find out why.

I believe our power as consumers is greater than we think. We can not only vote in elections, we can also vote daily with our purchases. When I ordered my Fairphone last august I voted for fairness and sustainability. It was a risky bet because I’ve been very dependent on iPhones in the last few years.

The concept

For those of you unfamiliar with the Fairphone concept, the idea is to offer a phone that lasts longer because you can repair it yourself. The materials are sourced 99% fair and slavery free. I’m not sure that the repairing aspect makes the Fairphone more sustainable than any other phone. In my town there are at least 3 shops that repair an iPhone screen or swap a battery while you are waiting. And it isn’t that expensive either considering it’s pretty much hassle free.

Unboxing the Fairphone

What’s in the Fairphone 3 box

The Fairphone comes in fairly large box and there’s no charger included. The bottom 3 cm of the box is taken up by a screwdriver. The screwdriver looks uncomfortably small. I think I will have misplaced it before I ever need it. I suppose the designers wanted to make a statement with that screwdriver. Including a screwdriver as an option when ordering spare parts would have been more user friendly I guess.

Unlike the iPhone packaging this packaging contains no plastic and is fully recyclable. And it’s even better than recyclable: you can use the packaging to send your old phone back to Fairphone. They promise a EUR25 rebate and sustainable recycling.

Bulky and rugged hardware.

My first impression of the phone was: massive. It’s 10mm thick with it’s bumper. It’s more than 16cm high. It’s like walking around with a brick the size of a scientific pocket calculator in your pants, but heavier. 

The back side is translucent and shows the internals of phone that should be easy to repair. 

The screen is sharp and bright. It’s a rectangular full HD panel. Unlike the newest phones the screen doesn’t go all the way to the edges. That’s OK with me, but I would have liked a hardware home and a back button to save screen space. 

The speaker on the Fairphone is on the left side. This means the palm of your hand will be covering it if you’re a lefty and the volume will be really low.

Unlike iPhone the Fairphone has two sim card slots and an SD card slot. I’m using only one sim, but for many people a second sim is very important. I put a 64Gb micro SD card in the SD card slot, but I haven’t needed it so far.

A fingerprint sensor that takes some practice

The fingerprint sensor is on the back. It’s either very secure or not so accurate, as it often requires multiple tries to recognize my finger. This means you have to pick it up every time to unlock it. When working I usually liked to leave my iPhone flat on the table. I then unlocked it with the home button from time to time to look something up.

Fast charging USB-C

The Fairphone has a modern USB-C socket. If I use my USB-C Macbook charger it says ‘Fast charging’ on the lock screen and takes about 90 minutes to fully charge.

Fairphone 3 charging rapidly on a MacBook Pro USB-C charger

Camera

The camera was the biggest disappointment. The specs promised a 12MP camera. That didn’t sound too bad. However, it’s slow, it shows artifacts and isn’t sharp. Yesterday I was at a party and I ended up asking my friends to message me their pictures because mine were blurry.

I suppose the camera will be functional at work. It will capture flip-over sheets just fine. It will also scan tickets and documents. But don’t count on beautiful memories of parties you were at.

The camera is a hot competitive item on smartphones these days. Even the cheaper ones have great cameras. The Fairphone lost big time. I really REALLY hope they release a camera upgrade you can install yourself. Maybe even a Fairphone 3.1 that ships with a better camera by default.

iOS to Android

I expected a new operating system would be the biggest of my problems. I have invested in some iOS apps and expected to loose a lot. However, the software transition was easier than the hardware transition. It turns out the apps I use are either free or subscription based and I could transfer my subscription to android. The only exceptions I found so far are Green Kitchen – a recipe app – and irealb – a sheet music app. I can still use those apps on my iPad. I did not use iCloud very much. At some point I will have to migrate all iCloud notes to google drive. Google has many free and ad-free apps that work really well. I hope Google does not turn evil one day, because they now everything about me now.

I also didn’t use the iCloud keychain very much – I have different password storage. This made logging in to my apps on Android really easy.

I’m going to miss airdrop – I used that a lot. Maybe google drive will be some kind of substitute. I’m also going to miss the Apple Siri Shortcuts app. 

On the other hand I really appreciate the Android widgets and the Glide Typing keyboard.

Conclusion

So far I think the Fairphone is a reasonable phone for the price. It’s rugged and functional. If it would have had a more expensive version with a better camera and maybe a faster processor, I would have bought that one for sure. The Fairphone 2 was never upgraded with partially better hardware. I hope the Fairphone 3 will get life extenders to stay relevant in a fast market. Let’s see what the next few days of Fairphone use have in storeā€¦.

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