Fairphone and Above reveal new “de-technified” Fairphone 5

Fairphone 5 is designed for “increased repairability” with replaceable parts, while 70% of its materials are from recycled or “fair-mined sources”.

Scandinavian innovation agency Above has collaborated with Dutch smartphone company Fairphone on Fairphone 5, designed to be gender neutral with “de-technified and refined details”.

Fairphone first reached out to Above two years ago when working on Fairphone 4 and the two companies have been collaborating since. With their most recent venture, Fairphone and Above sought to “merge and balance many valuable stories into one simple, iconic product”, from durability, repairability and modularity to sustainability and fair materials, all while meeting the “high industry expectations of smartphone products”, says Above senior creative director Ryan Helps.

Reducing “design clutter” was a key target for the Fairphone 5, says Helps, which Above looked to achieve by reducing “the number of attachment points and screws that hold the modules in place” and “reducing the barriers for the user when changing modules”. He explains how the team “de-technified and refined mechanical details” in a bid to reduce “the fear factor and intimidation some may face when interacting with their phone’s critical components”.

Although the Fairphone 5 has a larger screen, its thin profile makes it lighter than its predecessors and its “softer corners” make for “a more ergonomic grip”, says Helps. He adds that the new phone has a “more gender-neutral expression”, while its “iconic triangle camera” helps “tell the modular story”.

Another key feature is its “increased repairability” completed with ten spare parts, according to Helps, including both wide and ultra-wide cameras available as individual module and the SIM card slot and SD card slot. The purpose of these additional spare parts is to enhance modularity by “expanding the scope of DIY repair compared to Fairphone’s earlier models”, while “creating more space and streamlining the device”, says Helps.

He explains that the device can be initially opened by hand, without a tool, with only a small screwdriver required to access the modules inside, which are “snapped together”. Fairphone 5 is supported by the same five-year warranty that was introduced with Fairphone 4.

Material innovation in the Fairphone 5 extends to sourcing  c recycled materials such as aluminium – from suppliers audited against the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) – tin, rare earth elements, nickel, zinc, copper, magnesium, indium and plastics. Its translucent, 100% recycled back cover was chosen to showcase “the innovation and sustainable thinking inside the product”, Helps reveals.

He also claims that Fairphone is “the first company to use and implement mineral credits with organisations such as the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) and The Impact Facility (TIF) with support from the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA)”. The result is that more than 70% of the 14 focus materials used in the device are from either recycled or “fair-mined sources” or support responsible production with unique Fairphone and partners’ impact projects, according to Helps.

Above plans to continue its work with Fairphone, building “more sustainable products and experiences, both physical and digital for a more positive future”, says Helps.

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  • Richard Shaw September 5, 2023 at 10:14 am

    As someone looking to drive sustainable design forward, this is a fantastic case study. I hadn’t heard of ARM, TIF or FCA but will be looking into them.

  • Steve Lasko September 5, 2023 at 4:13 pm

    A “more gender neutral expression” in mobile phone design? Is this seriously being promoted as a feature of the device?

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