Take the motherboard of a Fairphone 3, improve the plastics of its shell, add Android 10 to it and give it new camera modules … you get the Fairphone 3+ (FP3 +), the “new” terminal of the Dutch company. On the pure technical side, nothing changes: the (aging) Snapdragon SD632 is still in control of the device, alongside its 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The LCD screen is the same and all the mechanical elements of the Fairphone 3 are obviously 100% compatible (plastic shells, battery, etc.).
The main technical improvement comes from the camera modules which are vastly improved compared to the previous generation. The rear module is equipped with a Samsung 48 Mpix sensor that can be found in many other current terminals, and which (theoretically) offers good results in low light. On the optics side, it is supplied with photons by a wide-angle lens opening at f / 1.9. On the front, the FP3 + benefits from a module equipped with a 16 Mpix sensor and an optic opening at f / 2.0.
The good news for Fairphone 3 owners is that the improved Fairphone 3+ camera modules are designed to be mounted on their old terminal. As with the Fairphone 2, all you have to do is order the modules, update the OS, turn off and take down the device, swap the modules and turn the device back on to enjoy a much improved photo / video part. All for a low price at launch – until the end of September, both modules cost 70 euros.
It remains to be seen, however, how Fairphone engineers and their Arcsoft partners worked on image quality. One thing is certain when reading the ISP specifications of the SD632 chip: the 48 Mpix sensor pushes it to its limits (it is theoretically qualified for 40 Mpix maximum). This will therefore be the last possible photo update for the device. Incidentally, the integration of sensors and optics into the lenses in the interchangeable module was not without difficulty, since the new components were thicker than those used in the past. The mechanical engineers therefore had to work very hard to find the place …
Android 10 for everyone
The Fairphone 3+ will be launched with Android 10 and it is only logical that the Fairphone 3 will receive its system update during the month of September – easy, it’s the same motherboard. Fairphone may not officially be an affiliate partner of Google like Samsung et al., But the teams have said they are working hand in hand with the US giant in software integration. The company, which has sold 90,000 units of the Fairphone 3 according to CEO Eva Gouwens, may be a dwarf in the telephony ecosystem, but its “clean” brand image is forcing Google to play along. side there.
If Android 10 and the camera modules allow a Fairphone 3 to transform into a Fairphone 3+, there will remain one technical difference: the audio part which benefits from a new higher quality component, supposed to improve listening and recording. An element incompatible with the first version of the phone.
Plastic is fantastic (when it’s recycled)
Mechanically similar to the FP3, the FP3 + can share modules and other rear shells with it. Even if its plastic parts are different from the point of view of the composition: when the first model showed a rate of 9% recycled materials, the Fairphone 3+ displays 40% recycled plastic.
Simple formality? Not at all. According to Wayne Huang, the company’s senior executive responsible for the product side, “The change in the composition of plastic changes its properties. For the team, therefore, it was necessary to find the right balance and the right formula for the mixture of plastics (petroleum and recycled) to offer the right mechanical properties. And for a European SME that sells less than 100,000 phones per year, this is probably much more difficult than for the big names in the field.
Beyond technique, ecology and ethics
Thus, Fairphone teams continue to improve the virtue of their supply cycle: strengthening of eco and socially responsible mining programs (DRC), additional wages for workers in assembly plants (China), etc. The company is thus the only company in the world to guarantee that electronic components do not contain materials from conflict zones. And for good reason: when it comes to gold, it was Fairphone that quite simply created the industry … without ever being supported by Apple, Samsung and others. Even on the transport side, the company is also at work, preferring the train to the plane, for example.
Let’s be clear: buying a Fairphone is a committed act and it is certain that in 2020 the performance of this “new” Fairphone 3+ is tailored for “reasonable” use and not for gamers and other heavy users of smartphones. Its fairly high price does not reflect pure technique and performance, but a “real” cost of technology.
The Fairphone 3+ will be available from September 14 at 469 euros.
The camera modules will be available on the same date as a bundle at 69.95 euros until September 31. After this date, the 48 Mpix rear module will be launched at 59.95 euros and the front module (selfie) at 34.95 euros.