Choosing what matters for the Fairphone 5 battery

Originally published at: Choosing what matters for the Fairphone 5 battery - Fairphone

We’re extremely proud of the Fairphone 5 battery. You’ve heard us sing its praises before, and we’re about to do it again: this battery is a small-but-mighty symbol of Fairphone’s mission to build fairer electronics. We’ve integrated fair lithium and Fairtrade gold in its supply chain. Its cobalt supports improved working conditions for artisanal and small-scale miners. The manufacturer is committed to the highest standards of CO2 reduction and social auditing. And it’s the first battery to support living wages for the factory workers who make it.

When it comes to fair specs, the Fairphone 5 battery is currently best-in-show.

New battery benchmarks

A new benchmarking study from DxOMark praises its “great overall charging efficiency” and “low residual power drain,” which are important considerations for a phone’s energy usage, and especially important for an overheating planet when that energy comes from fossil fuels. Less positively, the report concludes that “when compared to other devices in the Premium segment, the Fairphone 5 [battery] finds itself in the lower half because of the weak performances in autonomy and charging.” Ouch.

“Autonomy” is the length of time the phone remains on after disconnecting it from the charging cable. DxOMark used robots in Faraday cages to measure how long the battery kept going while doing tasks like constantly making calls or constantly listening to music (what’s on the robot’s playlist?). We performed well on those metrics, less well when the robots were streaming video and gaming (Please tell us the robots play Minecraft!).

When it comes to charging, our numbers for how long it takes to charge the battery and how much juice you get from a quick five-minute recharge were middling at best, and the discharge rate for tasks on the move were higher than we’d like.

The phone’s poorest performance was in “mixed use” testing, where actual humans walked around with the phone doing actual phone things like social media and switching between cell towers.

We agree there’s room for improvement, not so much with the battery itself, but the way the phone is consuming energy.

People and planet first

In the ten years we’ve been making phones, Fairphone has steadily climbed in quality because we’ve listened and responded to performance issues like this. The DxOMark study has already sent our engineers scurrying to the studio with ideas for making battery improvements a priority. They expect some of the autonomy issues can be improved through the magic of software and tweaks they can make through operating system updates. We love operating system updates: we’ve committed to keep providing them for Fairphone 5 right up through 2031.

But in some cases, a trade-off is simply a trade-off. And when we have to decide between competing priorities, we prioritize people and planet – always have, always will. In this instance, replaceable batteries generally require bulkier housing. Since we wanted a battery that can be easily replaced, but still wanted to maintain a sleek design, we opted for a 4200 mAh replaceable battery instead of a 5000 mAh non-replaceable one. Would our tech specs be better with a higher capacity battery? For sure! Would Fairphone build a phone that has to be thrown away when the battery dies? Never.

Overall satisfaction from our customers

We make our phones for our users, and their reviews are the ones that matter most to us. After almost half a year with the Fairphone 5, most of them report being happy with the phone overall. 89% of the users who have reviewed the Fairphone 5 with Trustpilot give it 4 stars or better, and many specifically mention being pleased with the battery life.

We may not be top of the premium phone pack when it comes to some technical aspects of battery life, but we’re miles ahead when it comes to phone life, as well as the quality of life of the people who make our phones. Those are the lives that matter most — to all of us in the Fairphone community.