What if you wanted to get your hands on a modular phone in a relatively shorter amount of time, rather than wait for Google’s Project Ara? Google did show a working prototype of its own modular smartphone project at Google I/O 2015, but the reality of the product going to market is still a ways off. Not so with the Fairphone 2. Not only is it modular (after a fashion), not only is it committed to non-“conflict” minerals, but you can actually get your hands on it soon.
The idea for a greener, more “ethical” production for a smartphone device had led the makers of Fairphone initially to crowd-funded a device that cuts unethical practices of gadget production. It sold 60,000 units of that first effort – not much by Samsung standards, but enough to fund a second iteration which now takes more seriously the greener, don’t-throw-it-all-away-just-yet mantra. The Fairphone 2 is modular – but not like the Lego-like Project Ara. The phone is built in many ways like a regular smartphone, but the company is trying to make parts of the handset as replaceable and reparable as possible. In this sense, it prolongs the device life – longer than the semi-annual cycle we have of replacing phones.
The Fairphone 2 is designed to be modular and with easily replaceable/repairable parts – for this, iFixit’s teardown team will probably give them a lot of props. Need a better camera, or more RAM, or a faster processor? Things might not be as straightforward as with Project Ara, but this is doable – just order the parts from Fairphone. The external case? Replaceable, with more designs to follow. Camera? 8MP at this point, but Fairphone will make better modules available soon. Get the idea?
But what are we getting out of the box? It sports a 5-inch full HD (1080p) LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection, powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset. This is supported by 2GB RAM and 32GB internal storage (expandable via microSD). It has dual SIM slots, a 2,420mAh battery, and will have 4G LTE connectivity. In all senses, this would slot right into the higher-end of the midrange spectrum. The device will be available in Europe in the Fall for around USD$590. That’s a small price to pay for a device that could well last you 4 years or more.