September 26, 2023

Brighton Journal

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Fairphone 5 sets new standard with Android support for 8 to 10 years – Ars Technica

Fairphone 5 sets new standard with Android support for 8 to 10 years – Ars Technica

Fairphone 5 is official and full of surprises. As you might expect, it’s the typical Fairphone repairable phone, with parts available to order and easily fitted with just a screwdriver. A new phone means faster components and a more modern design. What you might not expect is Fairphone completely scraps Qualcomm’s consumer upgrade cycle thanks to its choice of “industrial IoT” SoCs that promise longer support times. With a longer window from Qualcomm and Fairphone’s commitment to continue even after Qualcomm’s industrial support cycle, Fairphone says this device will end up with impressive OS support for 8 to 10 years.

Fairphone 5 is not for sale in the United States. However, Europeans can get their hands on the device for €699 (~$753), with pre-orders starting today and a shipping date of September 14th. As for the basic specifications, we have a mid-range load, starting with a 6.46-inch 90 Hz OLED screen with a resolution of 2770×1224. There is 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a side fingerprint reader, and a microSD slot. For the rear cameras, it offers a 50-megapixel Sony IMX800 camera, a 50-megapixel wide-angle unknown sensor, and a time-of-flight sensor. The front camera is Samsung JN1 with a resolution of 50 megapixels.

Of course, the battery is removable, just like an old smartphone. You can see the big trade-off for that, since it’s a small 4,200mAh battery. With a body measuring 161.6 x 75.83 x 9.6mm, devices in this size class usually have a 5,000mAh battery. The good news about being removable is that you can have extra batteries that you can swap out when someone dies, with no recharge time. When you want to recharge it, you can pump 30 watts into the battery. Some devices have water resistance, as well as a removable battery, but you won’t find an example of that here, with only an IP 55 rating. This means that the Fairphone 5 can withstand rain but is not submersible.

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SoC from the back pages of Qualcomm’s catalog

One of the more interesting parts of the Fairphone 5 is the chipset selection. Fairphone has previously criticized Qualcomm for its short support schedules, and with the Fairphone 5, it is doing its best to work around that. Instead of using a Qualcomm Snapdragon one thing or another, Fairphone dug through the back pages of the Qualcomm catalog and found “Qualcomm QCM6490SoC, which Qualcomm describes as “tailor-made for industrial and commercial IoT applications.” Fairphone says it specifically chose this chip because Qualcomm wants to give it a longer support life than a Snapdragon chip, because Qualcomm wants to give it “industrial” hardware with a longer lifespan. (5 years) of “consumer” products.

So what is the Qualcomm QCM6490, and is it any good? The “Industrial” segment may sound a bit intimidating, but included in the potential use cases are “Powerful Mobiles & Tablets”, so this is still for Android and typical phone use cases. This is the fastest industrial chip Qualcomm makes, but that still makes it a mid-range 6nm chip with four Cortex-A78 cores (one at 2.7GHz and three at 2.4GHz) and four Cortex A55 cores. There is also an Adreno 642L GPU. If we are dealing with the Snapdragon lineup, it seems that the approximate equivalent would be A Snapdragon 778G With slightly higher hours.

Zoom in / The schematic diagram of Qualcomm’s QCM6490 looks normal to me.


The QCM6490 and Fairphone 5 don’t seem to be missing any major features. It still has Wi-Fi 6E support, NFC, sub-6GHz 5G, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, normal voice modem, DSP engine, ISP, and AI. Being “industrial” doesn’t seem to have any obvious downside, and the available data only points to it being a rebranded Snapdragon chip without any actual silicon changes. What a loophole!

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Let’s talk about 8 to 10 years of industry leading Android support, which doesn’t necessarily mean 8 to 10 major OS updates. Right now, Fairphone is promising “at least five OS upgrades” because that’s how long Qualcomm’s exotic chips will be officially supported. Fairphone says Qualcomm will support that chip “until 2028” after which “Fairphone is committed to extending support through 2031 and is aiming for 2033, giving users a total of eight to ten years of software support.”

Normal Android development has a chain of incubation: Google releases an Android version, then the SoC vendor, in this case Qualcomm, takes that version and integrates its drivers and proprietary code, then the phone vendor, Fairphone, adds support for the rest. devices and charge them. In an effort to boost its profits and force an artificial upgrade cycle in the market, Qualcomm chooses not to participate in the process after a few years, often forcing these devices to become electronic waste. Fairphone, despite its arduous development efforts, was the only Android manufacturer that kept going even after Qualcomm stopped supporting it.

Fairphone’s language after those five years of official Qualcomm support is imprecise because it would have to start producing updates for the QCM649 without Qualcomm. Since life after 2028 is not supported, no one can really be sure what that process will look like, what the minimum Android specs will be by then, or what changes are required to continue support. Fairphone benefits from the skepticism because it deserves it, thanks to updates to Fairphone 2 support after Qualcomm and the seven years of updates coming to Fairphone 3. I find it clear that Fairphone isn’t just saying Qualcomm’s customer support schedules are inadequate; You find even Qualcomm’s industrial support timelines too short for the consumer market.

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Spare parts and repair

Verfone 5 parts.
Zoom in / Verfone 5 parts.


The Fairphone 5 is designed first and foremost with repairability in mind. All you have to do is pry off the back of your nail and you’ll see that everything is glued – not glued – together. Fairphone 5 contains 10 commercially available spare parts. The higher part count is because the rear cameras are now individual components, whereas on the Fairphone 4, they came in a single mold. Here is the full list in Euros:

  • Battery: 39.95 ($43)
  • Bid: 99.95 ($108)
  • Back Covers: 24.95 ($27) (comes in gorgeous black, blue, and clear)
  • Main camera: 69.95 ($75.50)
  • Wide angle camera: 44.95 ($50)
  • USC-C port: 19.95 ($22)
  • Bottom Speaker: 24.95 ($27)
  • Earbud: 19.95 ($22)
  • Top unit: 39.95 ($43) (that’s the MicroSD slot, SIM slot, camera TOF sensor, and camera flash)

As usual, the only part you can’t buy is the main case, which contains things like the motherboard, frame, SoC, RAM, storage, modem, antennas, fingerprint reader, and buttons. I can understand not wanting to resell the motherboard for Qualcomm licensing reasons or concerns about changing the IMEI – that’s the number that identifies phones for billing purposes and the theft block list – but why can’t you buy a frame? The tire, and especially the exposed rim, will take the brunt of any fall, and I can see wanting to swap it out for a new version if you crash it. I can also see wanting to change the buttons or the fingerprint reader, but that’s not officially supported either.

However, this phone is more repairable than any other smartphone, and that makes it easy to offer a five-year warranty if anything goes wrong.