Fairphone adds fully refurbished handsets to its modular reuse mix

Away from the premium smartphone feature-utility hyperbole swirling around dynamic islands, mobile devices remain much of a muchness. But ethical mobile brand Fairphone has always done innovation differently — applying attention to supply chain conditions and novel modularity to support repairability and lifespan longevity, with a dual mission to make consumer electronics more ethical and sustainable.

It’s now added another string to its sustainability bow by selling a (limited) stock of its 2019 flagship, the Fairphone 3, as refurbished handsets — which come with a two-year warranty.

It said the refurbished Fairphone 3 devices are on sale from today — offered as a more environmentally conscientious alternative to purchasing last year’s Fairphone 4 flagship (aka, its first 5G handset).

This means you can pick up a three-year-old Fairphone 3 with the promise that it’ll work for (at least) another couple of years. That represents a decent run for an Android-based smartphone — akin to iPhone-levels of device longevity. (NB: Fairphone has previously achieved seven years of software support for the Fairphone 2 by getting Android 10 running on the 2015-released device.)

The “New Life Edition” of the Fairphone 3 is being sold for €359 — which is 10% less than the price for handset when sold new.

“We aim for five years of software support after launch, which means we will provide software updates until August 31, 2024. But we will aim for two extra years of support, taking us to 2026. This would provide around seven years of software support, similar to the Fairphone 2 that just received an update to Android 10 at the beginning of this year,” said a spokesperson.

The Fairphone 3 is already modular, so owners of the device have always been able to avoid the need for a full upgrade by paying to replace only parts that break or otherwise need a boost.

Fairphone said it will also be offering refurbished Fairphone 3+ handsets in the coming weeks. The latter was already backwards compatible with the Fairphone 3 and available as a €70 upgrade by swapping out a few modules (vs buying a whole new Fairphone handset).

The Dutch social enterprise is now taking that reuse agenda a little further by bringing more fully refurbished handsets to market — offering an entry point to its reusable, modular mobiles that comes with an even lower carbon footprint since the handset you’re buying has already been pre-owned. (It previously sold refurbished Fairphone 2 handsets, back in 2019.)

“These pre-owned phones have been refurbished in France and tested to ensure 100% functionality,” said Fairphone in a press announcement about the refurbished device sale which notes the second-hand devices will come with a new or “almost-new” battery that it said “guarantees at least 80% of the original capacity”.

There is limited stock of the refurbished phones — so sales will only continue while stocks last. Fairphone told us it expects to sell around 500 refurbished Fairphone 3 handsets and 1,200 refurbished FP3+. “Based on the stock that we had available in our repair center of devices that have been returned, we refurbished the maximum we could to give them a new life and reduce e-waste as much as possible,” a spokesperson for the company told us.

“They have the same 2-year manufacturing warranty originally reserved for new devices of this model,” Fairphone added.

The market for second hand smartphones has been heating up for years as the mobile market has matured and hardware innovation has become increasingly incremental — driving major investments into reseller marketplaces such as France’s Back Market and Finland’s (iPhone-focused) Swappie, to name two.

Environmental concerns are also encouraging consumers to look toward pre-owned mobiles — and opt for reuse vs buying new.

This report was updated with additional info from Fairphone