What you need to know
- The Fairphone 5 is the latest smartphone from Fairphone, a company that designs with repairability in mind.
- Despite splitting the phone’s main board into two parts, the Fairphone 5 still earned a perfect repairability score from iFixit.
- There are new improvements to the Fairphone design, too, like individually-replaceable cameras.
iFixit has released its repairability score for the new Fairphone 5, and to no one’s surprise, it performed excellently. But beyond that, the Fairphone 5 earned a perfect score, which is simply unheard of for any phone made by a company other than Fairphone.
iFixit creates repair guides for products, championing right-to-repair laws and giving the best smartphones their own repairability score. It gave the entire iPhone 15 series a “do-not-recommend” score of four out of 10 and gave the Pixel 8 Pro a six. Amidst smartphones with dwindling repairability options, Fairphone takes the opposite approach.
The flagship feature of the Fairphone 5 is the back plastic cover that can be snapped off without any tools required. Then, there’s the battery, which can be swapped out for a new one just by popping it out of place. It’s like the old phones we used to see in the flip or slide form factors but on a modern device.
But all that has been the norm for Fairphone, so what’s new? It starts with a new camera module that is both better and easier to repair. Each camera lens in the sensor can now be replaced individually. Previously, if a camera sensor broke on the Fairphone 4, the entire system needed to be replaced.
Fairphone also split up the main board on the Fairphone 5, favoring a setup of a motherboard and a daughter board. This has been the norm with some recent flagships, as it allows OEMs to fit in bigger batteries. According to iFixit, this is precisely the reason why Fairphone chose this layout.
It’s impressive that the Fairphone 5 earned a perfect repairability score because the split-board layout did not hinder user repairs. iFixit found that while there are new warning labels inside the Fairphone, they’re not there to stop you from disassembling your device. They’re present so that a user repairing their phone won’t accidentally make a mistake while disconnecting components that damage their device.
iFixit also notes that despite the spit boards don’t affect repairability at all, pointing out that the Core Module (i.e., the main board) was never available for sale on the Fairphone 4. That’s mainly because international regulations regarding IMEI numbers on cellular devices would make supplying replacement boards — which would have their own IMEIs — extremely difficult.
The main obstacle to the Fairphone 5’s repairability is the fingerprint sensor since it is not sold as a replacement part. As we’ve seen with past Apple products, you can find secondhand parts for repairs via donor phones. But they will be much harder to source on a device as niche as the Fairphone.
The Fairphone 5 is simply an anomaly, and with a 10/10 repairability score, it might be the smartphone for right-to-repair enthusiasts. Unfortunately, you can’t get it in the US.