Fairphone 5 vs iPhone 15: which is more ethical?

The arrival of new Apple iPhone 15 models have been greeted with typical amounts of enthusiastic praise and general excitement. Apple’s Wonderlust event has showcased, once again, that it has successfully iterated the design of its market-leading mobile to deliver a miniature technological marvel.

However, if you’re looking beyond the technology inside the iPhone 15, hoping that it will deliver an obvious ethical choice for your business, then stop. Apple makes some minor sustainable improvements with the iPhone 15, but it will still be a long way behind the market leader, whose new handset has also just hit the market.

That’s because, unlike the iPhone 15, the Fairphone 5 is built for sustainability and repair. And it’s also packed with the potential to save your business money.

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Why is the Fairphone 5 an ethical choice?

The Fairphone 5 is the latest mobile phone from Dutch firm Fairphone. Unlike nearly every other tech brand, Fairphone’s mission is to show that sustainable electronics are possible.

This isn’t just greenwashing. Fairphone a global pioneer in creating a fairer system that changes the lives and welfare of the workers who mine for the vital elements that are packed into the device in your pocket.

Is the Fairphone 5 better than the iPhone 15?

The Fairphone 5’s sustainability credentials are unparalleled in the mobile sector. Let’s start with some eye-catching headlines. The Fairphone 5 has a five-year hardware warranty, more than double the EU’s statutory minimum and five times the one-year warranty that comes with the iPhone 15.

Fairphone’s aim is to support the handset by making its Android OS, software and security updates available until 2031. That’s nine years of Android compared to the five years offered by Google on its premium Pixel phones.

If this sounds fanciful, then consider that 2019’s Fairphone 3+ launched with Android 10 and now runs Android 13 whereas the Google Pixel 3 (launched in late 2018) came with Android 10 and was unsupported by Android 12.

Apple aims to support the iPhone 15 for at least six years, but historically it was keen that businesses should refresh their devices much sooner. In a 2018 iOS Life Cycle Management report, it said:

“While running a new iOS version on existing hardware is a benefit for companies looking for a good ROI, many organisations are learning that there are also benefits to refreshing devices every two or three years”.

Apple, 2018 iOS Life Cycle Management report

The key to making an ethical choice for a business is to assess the lifecycle of purchases. We need to consider the upstream environmental impact and assess what resources, energy and materials were used to create the product and how much waste it created. When thinking about downstream impact, look at the useful longevity of the product in order to offset its upstream deficit. That’s before we get into end-of-life recycling.

In short, we need to make everything last as long as possible. Encouraging customers to ditch your products early is unethical, unsustainable and one of the reasons why electronics is the fastest growing waste stream on the planet.

I can’t pretend that the Fairphone 5 has the performance and slick usability of the iPhone 15. In benchmarks, the iPhone 15 will wipe the floor with most other devices, but as anyone who has ever had a takeaway delivered in under seven minutes will testify, speed can be a misleading metric. The Fairphone 5 has plenty of other tricks which benefit the environment and will get your business off the expensive treadmill of “refreshing devices every two or three years”.

iPhone 15 vs Fairphone 5: Which will last longer?

Fairphone 5 vs iPhone 15 for repairability
One reason why the Fairphone 5 is more ethical: because it’s designed for repair

So the Fairphone 5’s software support eclipses the iPhone 15 by several years. Great. For this to play out in the real world, however, the hardware must survive.

Apple’s hardware is usually magnificent (we’ll ignore the bendy iPhone 6) and the iPhone 15 range looks stunning with an array of colours on offer to tempt buyers. However, if an iPhone fails or suffers damage, then repairs can be very tricky and expensive.

Historically, iPhone repair has been hampered by expensive parts, software serialisation and a design ethos that makes the procedure extremely risky. The iFixit guide to changing the battery on the iPhone 14 is a 30-step process estimated to take between one and two hours, using a bunch of non-standard tools including a hair dryer. Conversely, to exchange Fairphone 5’s battery takes about 15 seconds and requires no tools.

In short, the company built the Fairphone 5 for repair. Anything that can be repaired will live longer and will maximise the resources used — and waste created — by the manufacturing process.

It’s a modular phone, designed to come apart easily for fixing. A Fairphone video demonstrates that the Fairphone 5’s 50mp Sony main camera can be replaced in under two minutes, using a genuine part costing less than €70 from Fairphone’s store. That’s refreshingly impressive.

Fairphone 5’s Sony main camera replaced in under two minutes

Camera replacement on an iPhone 15 is impossible unless you take it to Apple. Why? Apple’s software serialisation bonds the camera to the phone, so even if you physically replace the camera, the iPhone’s software will refuse to acknowledge the replacement part. Currently, we don’t know how much Apple will charge to replace the camera on an iPhone 15, but they want over £300 to replace the one on my iPhone 12.

Not impressed by a camera replacement, how about the screen? Fairphone’s OLED screen is €99.95. We’ve yet to find out the cost of changing the iPhone 15’s new USB-C charging port, but I imagine it’ll be considerably more expensive than the €19.95 Fairphone is charging for its port.

The design of the Fairphone 5 means that your fleet of mobiles can stay supported and operational for longer, potentially saving you a fortune in refresh costs. If you have a breakage, Fairphone will sell you a part which can be easily fitted using a Philips screwdriver and without fear of any shady software shenanigans.

How long does the battery last on the Fairphone 5?

The battery inside the Fairphone 5 is rated at 4,200mAh, which is lower than some comparable Android phones, but higher than the Fairphone 4. Arguably, it doesn’t matter. €39.95 will get you a spare, which can be swapped in less than 30 seconds. The Fairphone 5 can be fast-charged (30W) which will get the battery from flat to 50% in 20 minutes.

However, the Fairphone 5’s battery has already lasted far longer than many of its competitors, because most of it is recycled.

It makes the battery inside the Fairphone 5 from 100% recycled tin, solder paste and steel. It uses 100% Fairtrade Gold and 100% of the lithium comes from IRMA-assessed mining facilities. The cobalt has been bought using cobalt credits, which help support the welfare and conditions of miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Meanwhile, 100% of the silver is purchased with Fairmined silver credits, which supports certified artisanal miners.

Fairphone has also expanded its living wage program to increase the wages of the people who make the battery. Fairphone’s major supplier meets the internationally recognised standards (SA8000 and ISO45001) that focus on paying living wages, worker welfare, health and safety and strengthening the voice of the people who put the Fairphone 5 together.

Should I choose the Fairphone 5 or iPhone 15 for business?

Both phones will perform handsomely for your business. The iPhone 15 is a class leader and its reputation for performance and enterprise management is well deserved.

The Fairphone 5 is Android enterprise recommended, which means it meets Google’s requirements for a secure mobile environment. This also gives it full access to the Google eco-system and apps.

There are more technical details about the iPhone 15 and the Fairphone 5 in the FAQ section below. However, if you want to make the best ethical choice for your business, then the Fairphone 5 outperforms the iPhone 15 at every turn.


What is the price of the Fairphone 5?

The Fairphone 5 is available for £649 in the UK and €699 in Europe.

What are the specs of the Fairphone 5?

The Fairphone 5 features a 6.46in OLED screen rated at 880 nits, 90Hz and with a resolution of 1,244 x 2,700. It is fully replaceable.
The handset weighs 212g and has two rear cameras – a 50MP f/1.88 Sony IMX 800 and an ultrawide 50MP Sony IMX 858. On the front is a 50MP f/2.45 HDR selfie camera, which can also capture 4K at 30fps. All three cameras are replaceable.
The handset is available in three colours: matte black, sky blue or transparent.
It’s powered by an eight-core Qualcomm QCM6490 chip, 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Up to 2TB can be added via the microSD slot.
Fairphone claims that the 4,200mAh Li-ion battery will last for over 450 hours on standby and around 12 hours of constant calling. As this is a replaceable battery, it’s not something you need to be concerned about.
For connectivity, it features Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2. It’s dual-SIM friendly (one physical, one eSIM) and is 5G enabled. The USB-C port is rated for USB 3.2 Gen 1 for file transfers up to 5Gbits/sec.
Due to its modularity, the Fairphone 5 is only rated for IP55, but has been drop tested to 1.8m and military tested to 1.5m. However, as most of it is replaceable, this is less of a concern than typical phones.

When will the Fairphone 5 be released?

The Fairphone 5 will ship on 14 September 2023.

Will the Fairphone 5 be released in the USA?

For now, Fairphone is only shipping to Europe and the UK.

How many cameras are on the Fairphone 5?

There are three cameras on the Fairphone 5. It features dual cameras on the rear, both are rated at 50MP and made by Sony. One camera is a Sony IMX800, the other is the IMX858.
The IMX800 1/1.56″ in size with 1.0μm pixel size and 84.1 degree field of view.
The IMX858 is 1/2.51″ in size with 0.7μm pixel size. These cameras use optical and electronic stabilisation techniques and have up to 8x optical zoom. The phone is capable of wide and ultrawide shots.
The front camera 50MP HDR camera has a 1.5x digital zoom and image stabilisation. It features a 1/2.76″ sensor with 0.64μm pixel size. As it’s a selfie camera, its field of view is 90 degrees.
All three cameras are replaceable.

How do Fairphone 5 specs compare to iPhone 15?

FeatureFairphone 5iPhone 15
Release date14 September 202312 September 2023
Operating systemAndroid 13iOS
Storage256GB storage (expandable up to 2TB with microSD)128GB, 256GB or 512GB
RAM8GB RAMNot stated
ChipsetQualcomm GCM6490 with eight cores (1x Kyro Gold @ 2.7GHz, 3x Kyro Gold @ 2.4GHz, 4 x Kyro Silver @1.9GHz)Apple A16 Bionic
Display typeOLEDOLED
Display size6.46 inches6.1 inches
Display resolution1,224 x 2,770 pixels (459ppi pixel density)1,179 x 2,556 pixels (461ppi)
Main cameraDual: 50MP plus TOF sensor and 50MP (Ultrawide) Dual: 48MP and 12MP Ultrawide
Selfie cameraSingle: 50MP with HDR supportSingle: 12MP
Battery capacityLi-Ion 4,200mAhNot stated
Specs comparison between Fairphone 5 and iPhone 15

What are the differences between Fairphone 4 and Fairphone 5?

The Fairphone 5 represents a reasonable shift in technology from the Fairphone 4. There’s a faster Qualcomm core inside the 5, and it’s based on an industrial design which should extend the durability and software support.

The screen is slightly larger but with a jump to OLED at a higher resolution. Both rear cameras on the Fairphone 4 were of similar levels to the Fairphone 5, but the new 50MP selfie camera is much better. Despite having a physically smaller size than the Fairphone 4’s battery, the Fairphone 5’s has a higher mAh rating.

FeatureFairphone 4Fairphone 5
Release date25 October 202114 September 2023
Operating systemAndroid 11 (now shipping with Android 12)Android 13
Storage128GB/256GB storage (expandable up to 2TB with microSD)256GB storage (expandable up to 2TB with microSD)
ChipsetQualcomm SM7225 Snapdragon 750G 5G (2x Kyro Gold @ 2.2GHz, 4 x Kyro Silver @1.9GHz)Qualcomm GCM6490 with eight cores (1x Kyro Gold @ 2.7GHz, 3x Kyro Gold @ 2.4GHz, 4 x Kyro Silver @1.9GHz)
Display typeIPSOLED
Display size6.3 inches6.46 inches
Display resolution1,080 x 2,340 pixels (410ppi)1,224 x 2,770 pixels (459ppi)
90Hz, 880 nits
Main cameraDual: 48MP plus TOF sensor and 48MP (Ultrawide)Dual: 50MP plus TOF sensor and 50MP (Ultrawide) 
Selfie camera25MP50MP
Battery capacityLi-Ion 3,905mAhLi-Ion 4,200mAh
Specs comparison between Fairphone 4 and Fairphone 5

This article was updated on 13 September to include the specs of the iPhone 15 and to update the comments about Apple’s launch.

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Lee Grant

Lee is a long-time advocate for sustainability within IT, with a fierce passion for everyone to have a right to repair. In his day job, Lee and his wife Alison run a computer repair shop, Inspiration Computers, near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, UK. He's also a contributing editor and podcaster for PC Pro.