back to article Fairphone makes wireless earbuds less foul, by charging batteries carefully

Fairphone, an outfit that uses only ethically sourced materials and regulated labour to make smartphones, has revealed a new model of its flagship handset and started selling wireless earbuds too. The earbuds don't offer the ability to replace components – a clear differentiating feature of Fairphone's handsets. But as a nod …

  1. Shak

    But will it last?

    This is great, but I'll only pay 650eur for open sourced SoC drivers (or whatever it is). What's the point of changing parts if the CPU isn't supported after 3 years?

    It's disappointing that reuse is hobbled by the whim of Qualcomm.

    1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

      Re: But will it last?

      They ported Android 9 to the Fairphone 2 without the help of Qualcomm.

      They mean business when they promise support.

    2. James 51

      Re: But will it last?

      Fairphone have a good track record on supporting their phones. If my fairphone 3 wasn't a year old this would be the phone I'd be getting. Now if only it had Jolla with Android app support it would be prefect :)

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Which is greener?

    Non-replaceable batteries and a charging system, or a cable and a plug?

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Which is greener?

      Exactly. Greenwashing.

      1. James 51

        Re: Which is greener?

        If people are going to have this tech, at least this option is less bad than others. Fairphone is about 100 people, they're having an outsized impact on the industry for their size.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Which is greener?

          at least this option is less bad than others.

          And that is sad where we have come to. Settling for the lesser evil.

          1. James 51

            Re: Which is greener?

            Journey of a thousand miles and all that. If we don't start we'll never get there.

            1. DavidYorkshire Silver badge

              Re: Which is greener?

              That relies on companies like this sticking to principals - not following the herd (which in this case means removing the 3.5mm socket) and thereby leading to more waste as people have to buy new headphones more often.

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Which is greener?

      There is a market for wireless headphones, whether you personally like them or not. That market is not suddenly going to realize that what they really want is to go back to tangled cords and damaged jacks, so it makes sense to find a less environmentally-problematic solution to the problem of dead wireless headphones. To me, the most obvious solution is to create slightly bulkier earbuds or headphones which allow the batteries to be replaced, but the market unfortunately probably favors small size over the ability to replace batteries.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Which is greener?

      I suppose that depends on the difference in lifetimes between the two. I've had a lot of cheap earphone cables break, meaning I've just discarded the strand of copper. If the earphones concerned were cheap, I likely discarded the audio bit at the end because it couldn't be replaced. If the cable was removable, things are probably better, but the jack can also sustain damage and it's harder to deal with that. If Bluetooth ones break less, then that could lessen the environmental difference. I do not have statistics to prove whether that happens.

    4. Manolo

      Re: Which is greener?

      Fairphone also sells an USB-C to 3.5 mm jack adapter. Something another review I read overlooked, but faulted Fairphone for.

  3. devin3782

    I have the fairphone 3 and its good phone bar some small software issues. The lack of headphone jack means I won't be buying a fairphone 4 when my 3 finally dies, they really did shoot themselves in the foot with this phone.

    The weak excuse about we need to make the phone thinner and they only collect dust and fail to work is utter cods-wallop I have a nokia 7 plus (with a broken and unfixable usb-c port) which is 1.1mm thinner than the Fairphone and aluminium and has a 3.5mm jack at least with a repairable phone I could fix my headphone jack, besides I've got old sony discman's my old nexus 5X those headphone jacks have been plugged and unplugged 1000's times the headphone jack it still working.

    Also why the hell are they using Qualcomm for their soc's, Qualcomm are the least sustainable cpu designer out there and they don't give a shit about supporting the crap they spew forth into the world. Companies should be forced to open source their firmwares/drivers once they stop supporting a specific device.

    1. James 51

      At least with fairphone the usb port is replaceable. I agree losing the 3.5mm jack is disappointing but since I got my Roccat Khan I've been using an adapter to listen to podcasts and music at my desk. Sadly it's the way the industry is heading. At least they've stuck with the easily replaceable battery.

      1. devin3782

        This is why I bought the fairphone 3 replaceable components, the usb-c and a glued together phone is just the worst, screw nokia, screw apple, screw samsung. The industry just copies the worst things apple does because they see apple getting away with it, the lack of 3.5mm jack is prime example.

        Besides who is asking for thinner phones considering most get the chunkiest cases imaginable thinness clearly isn't foremost when they make their purchasing decision.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          I realise that I may as well piss against the wind, but can I point out that Apple were not the first to get rid of the headphone jack?

          1. devin3782

            Sir, I stand corrected thank you, although I have to say few would have noticed the Motorola removing the jack, apple removing it and everyone notices (sadly).

            On the dongle front I seem to remember an advert in a magazine years ago with a PC and a pile of dongles and next to it was a mac which didn't because they'd embraced usb or something, shame I can't find that image anywhere because it is amazing that we're back at square one, but the PC needs no dongle but you need loads for a mac or your phone, its almost like we forgot.

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Every phone has replaceable ports though. The problem is that you are not always able to buy a replacement part on an open market. Can you go to Mouser and buy spares for Fairphone? I doubt.

        1. James 51

          But you can go to fairphone and buy them at a resonable price and they aren't chipping their phones so they won't work with third party components if someone does bring them to market.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            You say that if you want to repair that phone you have to buy parts from the manufacturer only - so if you remove the aspect who is going to the replacement, how is that different from Apple or other phone company?

            It seems like the only difference is that you can get the part and fit it yourself, instead of having e.g. Apple getting their contractor to fit it.

            You still cannot buy individual parts - e.g. charging chip dies you have to replace the whole module? Just like any other phone.

            and they aren't chipping their phones so they won't work with third party components if someone does bring them to market.

            Since you can't buy 3rd party parts, then I can't see how this is relevant.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward


              See parts! So you can't get individual chips but, I bet you can find those for sale if you take a module apart. You certainly can't buy apple parts they go to the ends of the earth to ensure it and mostly they'll make you buy a refurbished phone or a new one.

            2. James 51

              It's not just like any other phone. There is no other phone I have ever had that you could take apart and put back together like this one. It is by a vast margin the easiest and cheapest phone to repair on the market in this segment. To pretend that because you can't but individual chips that it is no different from any other phone such as the Samsung S range or an iphone is disingenuous and I suspect at this point you're just farming down votes.

            3. Filippo Silver badge

              If, every time that someone starts makes some steps in the right direction, you say that they are just the same as those who haven't even left the couch, then don't act surprised when you find that nobody actually completes the journey.

    2. DrXym

      Thinner phones than this have had a 3.5mm jack so it's definitely an excuse. I'm sure the hole does collect dust but it's not hard to clean, nor are there many consequences if it does get a bit of gunk. I've had far more problem with crap getting into the USB-C port on my phone which made charging unreliable and I had to spend a long time with a sewing needle scraping it out.

    3. Lazlo Woodbine

      Get a USB-C headphone adapter, they cost a couple of quid on eBay, and pay a bit more and they have USB-C pass-through as well so you can carry on listening to music while you charge the phone

  4. DrXym

    But no 3.5mm headphone jack?

    Looking at the Fairphone 4 and I am semi tempted but I would have thought that they of all people would have included a 3.5mm earphone jack. Instead you've got to use wireless earbuds with all the extra waste that entails.

    That aside the specs for the phone and the general design make it a lot more attractive and capable than some of their previous offerings. It's still pricier than competing phones though and I wonder if that is anything to do with "ethically sourced parts" (most of which come from the same Chinese factories making parts for other phones) or just a tax on virtuousness.

    1. babaganoush

      Re: But no 3.5mm headphone jack?

      Well I would have thought repairabilty and guaranteeing you longer support will cost them some money too in comparison to their competitors.

      That it is expensive is a feature not a bug in this instance.

      1. DrXym

        Re: But no 3.5mm headphone jack?

        It isn't an expensive feature. An ear jack implies 2 lines (left+right speaker) running from the DAC and one line (microphone) running to the ADC plus a GND. So 4 lines on the board that are soldered to a connector.

        We're literally talking pennies of expense here. If they wanted to get fancy with the repairability they might put the jack in a separate housing from the board and join it with a ribbon. So that might be 20p.

        So more likely they dropped the jack just so they could flog their "sustainably sourced" wireless earbuds for £89.95/€99.95.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          No, you don't get jack!

          You'd be surprised.

          A friend who worked in the motor industry once commented that a hero in the industry was someone who shaved a cent of the cost of producing a car.

          It doesn't sound like much of a cost until you scale it up to the volumes being produced.

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: But no 3.5mm headphone jack?

        Well I would have thought repairabilty and guaranteeing you longer support will cost them some money

        Well, since you cannot buy parts from 3rd parties and only from the manufacturer, then they rather save money on not having to run full scale repair service, because customers will buy overpriced parts and fit them themselves - and since you cannot buy individual parts, there is quite a chunk of money to be made on selling entire modules.

        It's just a gimmick with a clever marketing.

    2. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Instead you've got to use wireless earbuds

      Or a set of usb c headphones?

      1. devin3782

        Re: Instead you've got to use wireless earbuds

        But then you can't listen to music while your phone charges, talk about a step backwards.

        1. Lazlo Woodbine

          Re: Instead you've got to use wireless earbuds

          Get a USB-C to headphone adapter, most have a USB-C passthrough so you can listen while you charge

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But no 3.5mm headphone jack?

      I was considering the Fairphone, but glad I bought a Samsung A52S instead: headphone jack, and 4 years support (from now, since this model was only just released).

      They were also throwing in free earbuds in a launch promotion. I probably wouldn't have bought them, but they're nice to have.

  5. El blissett

    Very tempting for all my needs until I looked up how heavy it is (they don't say on their website). It's heavier than my Xiaomi Poco which is a real brick to hold for extended periods of time. Still, this is the closest I've come to getting one since the original.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Remove shoe, aim gun

    Ooh, a new Fairphone! I thought.

    I got as far as "no headphone jack" and stopped.

  7. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    Fairphone, an outfit that uses only ethically sourced materials and regulated labour to make smartphones, has revealed a new model of its flagship handset and started selling wireless earbuds too.

    One person ethics can be another's indecency. It's bizarre that they have to point out the use "regulated labour" whatever it means.

    Aren't their products made in China?

    1. James 51

      Re: Regulated

      That's were the factories are. They are at least making sure the workers are getting a living wage.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Regulated

        Nonsense, there are factories in countries that respect human rights.

        They are at least making sure the workers are getting a living wage.

        Wow, an employer bragging about paying a living wage in an essentially still a 3rd world country. Have we really come that low?

        1. James 51

          Re: Regulated

          Yes, we have. Fairphone are trying to change that though. Why the astroturf complaints?

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Lazlo Woodbine

      Re: "six years of software updates"

      I guess the 6 years of updates are for the new phone, not the earphones

    2. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: "six years of software updates"

      Inserting subliminal ads into the audio stream?

  9. DavidYorkshire Silver badge

    Was thinking of getting one of these, but lack of a hedphone jack rules it out - it's not practical to use a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter when out with it in a pocket - it's too unwieldly, and will easily lead to the socket getting damaged.

    It's disappointing that even a company which claims to be about making devices which last is going down this route. Does it not occur to them that some of us are quite happy with wired headphones and have no wish to have to buy new wireless ones every few years because the batteries have died (or sooner if one gets dropped down a drain).

    Phones do not need to be any thinner - it just makes them harder to hold and more prone to bending and damage. They are already quite thin enough.

  10. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Nice idea ... but ... how fucking much?

  11. JDPower666

    LiIon? Come on now, you're a tech site ffs

  12. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I'm going to be yea-sayer

    I wish I'd thought about Fairphone when I replaced my Pixel. This phone seems like exactly what I want. It may be slightly pricier than some of the equivalent phones, but I won't have to pay someone else to replace a dead battery or cracked screen, which means that the extra cost will probably come out in the wash. As for the lack of headphone jack, I can certainly understand the complaints, but I expect that Fairphone read the room and decided that the grumpy complainers of The Register's comment board are probably not their target demographic. If they can make inroads among young, affluent buyers, that's probably seen as more sure path to success than appealing to cranky, aging Luddites.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: I'm going to be yea-sayer

      I would think the grumpy complainers in the Reg are exactly their target market. They aren't going to sell to ordinary consumers, who don't give a damn how easy it is to replace a battery or a screen. They are going to pay someone else to do that regardless.

      The thing I don't get is why they don't have a replaceable battery in their wireless earbuds. Claiming some advantage over Apple via "careful charging" is pretty hilarious.

      Samsung made the battery in their earbuds replaceable, so why can't Fairphone at least equal them? Granted Samsung's aren't easily replaceable as iFixit says it will take 30-60 minutes, but it is possible.

  13. Ilsa Loving

    No North America

    It's disappointing that they don't ship to the US. I would love to get one.

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