My previous phone died (not a fairphone, and at 6 years old it was a good run, although I only had it for the last two of those). Fairphone 5 has just been released but I bought a Fairphone 3+ on eBay. Why, especially when I could have got a used FP4 for not much more?
This is a combined motivation and review as some of these (particularly experiences of the camera) I was only able to judge once I had the phone.
It has an earphone jack socket, and all the earphones I own (3 pairs) use that, not USB or bluetooth. I really don’t understand why that was removed for the FP4 and FP5, my previous phone was IP68 rated and had one. I understand waterproofing an openable phone is more of a challenge, but the jack plug isn’t the problem!
It has a notification LED. This is the biggest one for me and the deficit of the FP4 and FP5 I couldn’t get past. They seem to be disappearing generally, which is a shame. I regularly have my phone on silent and the notification LED is how I see it a glance that there is a message, and not only that but from across the room I can see which app it came through on (and therefore how important it is). Always on display/oled doesn’t fill the gap.
It is a small upgrade technically on my previous phone (a 2017 model) but it feels faster. The camera is technically an upgade on paper but it takes far worse photos. Its good enough, I have a proper camera for photography. It actually takes better videos, although they have some funny motion effects (floor sometimes looks like it is liquid). I wonder why the videos look so mich better when the photos are worse. The difference an extra gig of ram makes? The selfie cam on the fp3+ is much better despite being similar in spec to my old phone.
With the aim of software updates until sometime in 2026 it is going to be supported longer than some new phones I could buy now from other brands. I tried stock but have quickly switched to LineageOS as its what I am used to, and I feel reasonably confident Lineage will support it for a while to come.
Neither the stock rom nor Lineage work correctly with VoLTE on my network, calls are fine but the caller I’d displays “Unknown”. I am 99% sure this is purely a software issue and in Fairphone’s hands but their page on VoLTE suggests the network is somehow at fault.
I have kept a close eye on postmarketos for a while and the FP3 chipset seems to be doing quite well in terms of mainline kernel support, which is very exciting.
I’d still prefer a smaller phone, but I can juuust about manage to type on the FP3 one-handed. Ideal width for my hands (which are actually quite large) is a little narrower but not too much, and my last phone was actually slightly wider, which I found uncomfortable. I don’t mind the height, it feels a bit tall but excess width is worse. There is demand for smaller phones (see the small android phone project by the founder of Pebble), if Fairphone is going to release a model every two years they should consider making every second release a smaller one.
I have a tendency to drop phones, and the death of 2 previous phones was my butchered attempt to replace a screen. I actually bought this one with a faulty screen knowing even I could replace it. Sadly it still only half works (if I put any of the screws back, or even hold it wrong, in it goes noisy, slow, or cuts out completely). I am getting by because I know where to press and pull to being it back to life
On paper this phone looked good to me. I almost bought one before my last phone. I haven’t been disappointed, it feels nice in the hand and is just about usable one handedly for short periods of time.
I think Fairphone made some mistakes with the FP4 and FP5 (not to say they didn’t make a lot of improvements too) but the long support means I don’t feel pressured to have the latest model.
Without screws the risk of dropping the phone is too high. I will probably have to try a third screen or buy another phone, but it will almost certainly be a FP3+.