While smartphones are always being recognised for their breakthroughs in power, affordability or hardware, it’s not often that you hear about the phones that are the most sustainable of them all. Luckily, there are manufacturers out there that are yet to earn their seats at the big table among the giants but continue to make a name for themselves and break the status quo by sticking to their beliefs that phones can be made with longevity in mind and be less detrimental to the environment.
So, updated for 2024, here’s our own selection of the most sustainable phones. If you’re looking to buy an environmentally friendly smartphone in 2024, read on and find out which is the best fit for you.
Updated for 2024, this list of sustainable phones includes:
Google Pixel 8
Your Current Phone
Any Refurbished Phone
Fairphone is the undisputed king of ethical phone manufacturing. This Dutch phone maker is the only brand at the moment that puts producing long-lasting, repairable, fairtrade-sourced and modular devices at the forefront of their operations. As much as Apple will claim that they’re an ethical company, Fairphone walks the walk as well as talks the talk, leaving their competitors in the dust.
Fairphone have yet again pushed the limits and created the Fairphone 5 which has 5G support, runs on Android 13, houses dual rear cameras, 4200 mAh battery, comes with 8GB of RAM and looks modern. Who said that green phones can’t have the latest features? All this while having a 10/10 repairability score on iFixit and 5 year warranty because they know the longer the phone is kept, the more sustainable it becomes. Moreover, Fairphone 5 has guaranteed Android software updates all the way through 2031, hoping to extend it even further and roll out Android 18. Hearing this from Fairphone, we know it’s possible and doable because that’s what happened with the Fairphone 2 which was supported for 7 years (final software update was in March 2023).
Fairphone 5 uses 100% post consumer recycled plastics, fairtrade gold, tungsten as well as recycled tin and other rare earth metals. Furthermore, you can make your Fairphone 5 e-waste neutral by recycling your old phone. As it has become increasingly apparent, the way the smartphone industry currently impacts the environment is unsustainable, and so there’s been an outcry among environmentalists for a phone which adheres to the circular economy. Fairphone once again succeeded at this with the Fairphone 5 which should be the top choice for anyone prioritising sustainability and of course with a genuine need for a new phone.
Image courtesy of Fairphone website
While Fairphone is our top pick for the most sustainable phone, we think that the Nokia G22 is a worthy runner-up. In comparison to the Fairphone 5, Nokia G22 was released in March 2023 offering at least two years of major Android updates and three years of monthly security updates which we think is a pretty good deal when focusing on the price of the phone. But, when up against other phones on the market which offer at least 5 years of updates and support, it doesn’t come close.
In terms of the specs, the Nokia G22 has three rear cameras, an 8MP front facing lens, a 5050 mAh battery, 4GB of RAM, 100% recycled plastic back cover and a ‘QuickFix’ design allowing easier self repairs which include battery replacement. It is also worth noting that the Nokia G22 does not support 5G as well as only including two years of software support and three years of monthly security updates, which may put some people off. However, considering the price is just over £100, we think that this is fair especially because the repairability score is so high meaning you’ll have no hefty costs if it breaks. These specs aren’t pretty on paper and for a flagship user looking for some fancy features, it will be a difficult switch, but it all seems to be worth it for the fact that you can pop the plastic back, remove the battery and fit a new one. Isn’t that amazing in 2024?
Image courtesy of Nokia website
Next up we have the Google Pixel 8. What we like about this phone is that it’s packaged in 100% plastic-free boxes and not only this, but the Pixel 8 duo are reportedly the first flagship models in 5 years to have the lowest lifetime CO2. Google also managed to reduce the Pixel 8’s lifetime carbon emissions to 68kg of CO2-e (Pixel 7 has 70kg). So, in terms of sustainability, we think Google has put in effort in trying to improve from the Pixel 8 predecessor which is a reason it has made it into our best sustainable mobile phones of 2024.
Not only does the Pixel 8 come with 8GB of RAM, 4485 mAh battery but it also supports 5G connectivity which surprisingly not all new mobile phones do. Although iFixit rated the Pixel 8 with a respectable score of 6/10, the device is equipped with 7 years of Android and security updates which is fantastic and will likely be one of the strongest reasons for many people switching to this device. Google also offers a free service which allows consumers to get access to OEM replacement parts for general repairs which can also be purchased through the iFixit website.
If you've just learned about how bad phones are for the environment and it’s making you think that you need to get rid of your ‘dirty’ phone and order a Fairphone, don’t. The phone you’ve got is already a more sustainable option than buying a new phone, so we couldn’t not mention the phone you currently own on our sustainable phones list. You’ll probably agree that it’s not ethical to part with a perfectly working phone and get a greener option just for the sake of it. Extend your current phone’s lifespan for as long as you can before it dies. Just by continuing to use your phone for 4 years instead of 18 months, you can decrease its environmental impact by 40%. And when you’re ready to switch, get the best price to sell your phone with Compare and Recycle.
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This list wouldn’t be complete without us mentioning refurbished mobile phones. Any smartphone can be refurbished to quality standards if it isn’t beyond repair. You can find well-known brands among certified refurbished phones like OnePlus, Huawei, Apple and Samsung if Fairphone, Nokia or Google don’t take your fancy.
Refurbished smartphones are gaining popularity and every year an increasing number of people choose a new phone for themselves from a refurbished range. The benefits are not only environmental but also financial as refurbished smartphones have lower price tags than brand new phones. Picking a refurbished iPhone or Samsung phone not only extends the useful life of that particular device, but also reduces its carbon footprint as there was no need to extract raw materials to ‘produce’ it.
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Samsung now releases their product specific environmental reports, however they didn’t make the list due to the complexity of repairs and low repairability scores. We'd like to see more ethically sourced phones on the market without the performance being compromised, and tech giants like Apple and Samsung could follow in Fairphone’s footsteps to launch a sustainable product line. Who knows, a sustainable phone could become mainstream one day.
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