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

Nancy J. Delong

Graphic: Fairphone When you obtain a handset from Amsterdam-based mostly Fairphone, you are not obtaining just a different smartphone: you are obtaining into ethical manufacturing, and supporting a corporation that ploughs revenue back again into strategies that profit workers at the coalface of the handset business.  The most up-to-date £425 […]


Graphic: Fairphone

When you obtain a handset from Amsterdam-based mostly Fairphone, you are not obtaining just a different smartphone: you are obtaining into ethical manufacturing, and supporting a corporation that ploughs revenue back again into strategies that profit workers at the coalface of the handset business. 

The most up-to-date £425 (inc. VAT) Fairphone 3+ is produced from forty% recycled plastic, and has a modular structure so that customers can swap new parts for previous, or change anything at all that is damaged somewhat than only obtaining an solely new handset. A measure of the accomplishment of this upgradable product is the Fairphone 3’s 10/10 repairability score from iFixit.


The 5.65-inch Fairphone 3+ runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 632 system with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of inner storage, and accommodates two SIMs and a MicroSD card. The 3+ product arrives with a 48MP key digicam and a 16MP selfie digicam, to which homeowners of the 12MP/8MP Fairphone 3 can improve.

Visuals: Fairphone

The vital attribute of the Fairphone 3+ when compared to 2019’s Fairphone 3 is current cameras at the entrance and rear. The key digicam now has a 48MP sensor and an f/1.79 lens, when the selfie digicam has a 16MP sensor and an f/2. lens. The other specifications are really a great deal identical, other than for a slightly louder speaker on the 3+ product, so Fairphone 3 homeowners can consider obtaining one or each of the current cameras to self-install.

The cameras shoot affordable level-and-click images, but performance is restricted and if you are actually interested in smartphone pictures, you are going to want to search somewhere else. No-one is likely to obtain the Fairphone 3+ due to the fact of its digicam.

The stark black plastic backplate incorporates a fingerprint reader and the Fairphone branding as perfectly as an NFC marker and a very small lozenge that houses the single rear digicam and its flash unit. The back again has a matte complete, making it pleasingly grippy. 

At 9.89mm thick, the Fairphone 3+ looks and feels chunky. On its remaining edge you will find a textured energy button and a pair of quantity rockers. They’re produced from plastic, you will find no click when they’re made use of, and they sense a little unresponsive. Nevertheless, they do their jobs correctly perfectly.

The leading edge has a 3.5mm headset jack, and you will find a USB-C demand/link port on the bottom. You don’t get a headset, demand cable or mains plug with the Fairphone 3+. If you want these you can obtain them independently, but lots of persons now have these objects and can only repurpose them. There is certainly no rapid-charging to accommodate below, so you can go with a normal charging setup, this means that one far more charging kit and headset has not had to be created.

Flagship handset makers discuss up their screens with features like bezel-cost-free layouts and large refresh prices, but Fairphone sticks to a far more fundamental — but correctly serviceable — display screen. The 5.65-inch IPS Liquid crystal display has a resolution of 2,160 by 1,080 pixels (427ppi) and is correctly superior ample for displaying text and video. Gorilla Glass 5 offers it some safety versus knocks, and when there is not a pre-equipped display screen protector, if you want one it should be straightforward ample to get. The long edge bezels are a few of millimetres huge, when the leading and bottom bezels each exceed 10mm, resulting in a average display screen-to-entire body ratio of seventy two.5%. The Fairphone branding disguises the bottom bezel to some extent, when the leading bezel houses a notification mild, the entrance digicam and the entrance speaker. 

This speaker functions as a 2nd outlet for audio, with the key speaker on the bottom edge, to the remaining. Sound output is very poor, with a nominal-bass, tinny high-quality.


Fairphone 3+ disassembled (the phone arrives with a screwdriver for the task). You can change the key and selfie cameras, the display screen, the battery, the bottom module (vibration motor, USB-C port, main mic) and the speaker module.

Graphic: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The other, far more essential, weak level is the battery. At 3,040mAh it truly is really compact, and has a claimed everyday living of 20 several hours. The Fairphone 3+ just about lasted a day for me and managed twelve several hours 49 minutes on the PCMark for Android battery rundown test. In my normal a few-hour YouTube streaming test it dropped 31% of a whole demand. It is really sluggish to recharge, taking 3.5 several hours to go from zero to a hundred%. The one preserving grace is that the battery is quickly accessed, so you could demand a spare and swap that in if essential, but for those with just one battery, charging will need to be prepared.

Fairphone has worked tricky to hold advancement fees down all round, and this is mirrored in the main hardware. The Snapdragon 632 chipset with 4GB of RAM is the exact as in final year’s Fairphone 3, but it even now turned in affordable Geekbench 5 scores: 269 (single main) and 1208 (multi main). For comparison, flagship-class handsets like the Snapdragon 865-based mostly OnePlus eight score all-around 900 and 3300 respectively.

There is certainly just 64GB of inner storage, of which thirteen.3GB was made use of out of the box on my critique unit, leaving 50.7GB cost-free. This is small by today’s standards, but you can insert far more storage via a MicroSD card. This is not a 5G handset, but it will acknowledge two SIMs — and you don’t have to sacrifice MicroSD expansion to accommodate a 2nd SIM.

The Fairphone 3+ runs Android 10, with no extras or bloatware apart from one very small application, which is a compact details useful resource about Fairphone. As I compose, Android eleven has only just been launched. Fairphone commits to five decades of computer software updates, so Android eleven should come to it in thanks training course.  


I am made use of to viewing the most up-to-date attribute-packed smartphone telephones with their fancy industrial structure, or designs that intensify one particular attribute, or try to produce a excellent rate/performance ratio, or have some other element to shout about. The Fairphone 3+ is not designed to hold up with the pack, and to compare it to other handsets in terms of ‘bang for buck’ somewhat misses the level.

Readers will both like Fairphone’s ethical small business product and go with it, or they would not. So if you are intrigued, consider a search at what Fairphone is executing.

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