And some thoughts on right to repair
I am going to start this post with a completely unrelated topic. Yesterday my good friend the espresso machine decided that it would be much for fun to blow a fuse in the morning as making delicious coffee was the same old thing for her (yes her).
So without coffee and desperation creeping in I called the repair shop in Vienna, they asked me what exactly had happened and gave me a quote for the repair between 500 and 1000€ stating that either the power-supply was shot or the boiler leaking water on the electronics or both.
Given that fully automatic espresso machines can be bought for way less I decided it was time for her to go where good machines go after their death and get one of the automatic ones instead of repairing her.
Big mistake, the brown goo I had for breakfast had hints of coffee in it but gets nowhere near to the excellence of my good old Magica.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but you get the point.
After work my inner Frankenstein woke up and I decided I would be brining her back to life myself.
The beauty about these machines is, they are very easy to work on, 10 identical Inbus-screws to remove and everything on the insides is available to you.
I unplugged a connector, checked if she still blew the fuse and continued until I found the culprit, the heater had corroded and shorted out the machine. I ordered a new one for 69€ and she’ll be good for the next decade.
Devices that are easy to repair like her are a rose among thorns, as long as spare parts can be sourced they basically work indefinitely.
This is good for ones purse, the environment and overall how things should work. That’s why I am a strong supporter of right to repair.
Which brings me to the Fairphone 5
Shell we start with a couple of pictures?
It sure is a nice looking phone.
Since my iPhone started giving me trouble, dropping calls, the SIMs crashing and only after a reboot I would see a list of missed calls I was in a bit of trouble, given I also use it for business. The battery after 3 years of use is also a bit degraded and getting a full day of use out of it is lucky at best. (Btw Apple quoted me 250€ for the replacement battery if I drove down to their store in Vienna, adding at least 50€ of fuel and parking fees to the repair). So I asked my company to be so kind as to provide me with a working phone and asked for this one. It arrived a week ago.
Why this phone you ask? Glad you did.
Just as my coffee machine (see how the circle closes?), this phone is very easy to work on, pop the back get the battery out and a couple of screws later the entire thing comes apart and almost all parts can be user replaced. So as long as you can source spare parts, this thing will work. And the company behind it guarantees 8 years of spare part availability. And given how much work has to be done when installing a new phone, not having to do that for 8 years at least sounded very good.
Also a new battery for the Fairphone 5 will cost 39,95 and be shipped to my doorstep, I’ll pop the cover when the day comes and will have about 5 minutes of lost time to replace it in total.
So much for my reasons, but how is it?
First up the size.
I am coming from an iPhone 12 Mini and next to it, the FP5 is a huge monster of a phone, but funny enough, not thicker than the iPhone and the case, but still, if you consider this beast, you are going to need big pockets. Also do some weight lifting prior to ordering it, it is a heavy one.
Yes, the screen is bigger than the iPhones, but it is also a lot faster, it refreshes at 90Hz.
Now prior to using the FP5 I always said that was a gimmick and nobody would really notice the difference between 60 and 90Hz on a phone of all things. Boy was I wrong. While the CPU is slower than the iPhones, the FP5 feels faster due to the screen.
It is also very usable in bright sunlight and from my perspective the colour reproduction holds up the iPhones.
Prior to getting this phone, I read reports that the reviewers had trouble getting 7h out of the battery. Not sure what they did with the poor phone, but I am in sales now, I do a lot of calls each day and easily get two to three business days out of it. I guess with less calls 4 days should not be an issue. I however have to say, I did not enable the always on display mode, as I see this as complete bul.. ahme completely unnecessary. Speaking of calls
Call quality and speakers
Now this is where the phone doesn’t shine, the best thing I can say about the speakers in it is they are user replaceable so there is a chance of improvement. And you notice that issue while calling. Calls crackle at times and the other person often is hard to understand. It is a lot better if you are using headphones, but that isn’t always an option.
Also I wasn’t aware of it, but it seems iPhones do noise cancelling on calls and a good job of it, the FP5 less so.
Software and OS
This part is a huge plus and a huge let down at the same time.
Let me start with the positive stuff. There is little to no bloatware pre-installed just the basics and it is of course a phone with android and the google stuff.
Bringing me to the downside. I haven’t used a fully googled phone in years and while android itself isn’t half bad, the google apps are horrible, how does anyone put up with this sh, stuff I meant stuff.
Just take a look at the PlayStore, you search for an App you want, but that is not what you get, a bunch of ads for stuff I didn’t ask for, sponsored apps and after a bit of scrolling I get to what I want.
One App I wanted wasn’t available for Android 13 yet. So google pointed me to a gambling app instead. Seriously??? Who at google decided that was a good idea?
I know, the AppStore now has ads too, but at least they are colour coded and have a nice big blue button telling you it is an ad. And it’s just a single one for now. Anyway, back to the FP5.
I almost forgot to write about the cameras, how could I. Probably because it’s not a big deal for me.
But here we go
They are okay … for a much cheaper phone. But here are the good news, most things like bad autofocus, strange decisions on depth of field and so forth are software driven and as such something that can easily be fixed with an update and I expect that will happen along the way.
Also since all modules are replaceable you can expect an upgrade over the 8 years of life this phone has, like the did with the FP3, so yes, even if it’s the hardware, they can update that. Modularity you know, not bad ey?
What else is one supposed to talk about in a phone review? Specs? Please look them up at fairphones homepage, what else, not sure to be honest… What about an résumé?
Overall this phone is the most interesting phone in my eyes that came out recent years. It doesn’t fold, it has no super fancy camera system or heat sensor or a half eaten fruit on its back or anything, but it is a phone that comes with a lot of promises.
The promise of long-time support by the manufacturer, both hardware and software.
The promise of hardware upgrade-ability.
The promise of fair payment down the supply-chain.
The promise of full user repairability.
So yes, a lot of promises and given the last 4 phones Fairphone made, they seem keep those promises.
But is it a good phone?
Well as I said, it is not too good a the phone part and the hardware is a bit slow, which makes me wonder if 8 years of use is realistic, but if you can live with a bit of crackling in calls and don’t do anything excessive on it, I guess for the next couple of years it will be a good enough phone and what more could you ask of a business phone?