Fairphone 3+

What is it?

It’s a little different to your standard smartphone. Fairphone’s ethos is to make products ‘with care for people and the planet’. Its eco credentials include being made from 40% recycled plastics and in a socially responsible supply chain. It’s also built in a modular design that’s replaceable and repairable, so you can, in theory, keep your phone as long as you like. If you do tire of it, it can be sent back to Fairphone for recycling.

It’s equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor (far from the newest technology) and 4GB of Ram. You get 64GB of storage, of which 48GB is usable, though there’s an option to extend this via the card slot.

It has a 5.6-inch LCD display, though it’s not edge to edge, so the phone is taller than it needs to be. There’s a fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone and a headphone jack, so you won’t need an adaptor for a wired pair of earphones.

The major difference from the Fairphone 3 is the updated camera. The 3+ sports a 48Mp wide lens on the back and a 16MP wide selfie camera and supports 4k video.

It comes with a screwdriver to help you replace parts and do minor repairs yourself.

What’s it like to use?

It’s lacking the high definition display we’ve come to expect from premium smartphones, but some engineering has clearly gone into its design. The colour can be a bit off, with a slightly bluish tint, but the contrast is good, and face-on it’s easily readable in bright sun, dim conditions and with the dark mode activated.

The processor is not be top of the range by any means, but it can cope with you opening multiple apps and tabs, with only a minimal lag.

It is, on the whole, a user-friendly phone. The manual is only a brief guide, but it’s pretty intuitive to use without it. It’s quick to set up and find your way around the menu, and you can easily use the search for settings you can’t find.  The touchscreen is nicely responsive, and the keyboard is a good size and well laid out.

The camera functions are a bit fiddlier to navigate. Annoyingly there’s no touch focus – instead, tapping the screen will automatically take a picture.

How long does the battery last?

On full brightness, slightly worse than the Fairphone 3 at 21 hours. However, turning it down gives you 26 hours.

It takes a fairly lengthy three hours to recharge once you’ve drained the battery. It’s worth doing the full time, as you only get 16% of battery (which can just about stretch to three hours) if you only charge for 15 minutes.

How good are the cameras?

They’re a marked improvement on the Fairphone 3, though there are still some issues.

The wide lens on the back takes its best pictures in daylight, where despite being a little grainy, the colours really pop. There’s good separation between the subject and the background on portrait mode too. Photos aren’t as good in low light though, being too pale and oversaturated without the flash, plus the zoom blurs your images. Videos turn out OK, if a little too dark.

The front camera isn’t bad, although selfies do come out with slightly unnatural colours and poor separation between your head and the background. The videos leave a lot to be desired though – they come out blurry with harsh contrast.

Is there anything I should watch out for?

It doesn’t come with a charging adaptor, USB cable or earphones, so you’ll have to buy these separately.

The call clarity isn’t the best, with dull sound that worsens in a busy environment with lots of background noise. There’s room for improvement with the speaker sound too. It’s quite compact and sharp so isn’t ideal for listening to music.

Is there anything else I should know?

As you’d hope from a sustainable smartphone, it’s pretty durable. It survived our scratch test virtually unscathed, and it won’t stop working if you get caught in the rain.

It’s clear that Fairphone takes data security seriously. It guards your data well and doesn’t ask for more information from you than it needs.

Should I buy it?

Yes – if you’re after a sustainably made, repairable phone then it isn’t a bad choice. But if that isn’t your main priority, pick from one of our Best Buys instead.