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 2022, here’s our own selection of the most sustainable smartphones on the market. If you’re looking to buy an environmentally friendly smartphone in 2022, skip the digging on your own and read on.
Fairphone is the undisputed king of ethical smartphone manufacturing. This Dutch smartphone 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 4 which now has 5G support, runs on Android 11, houses dual rear cameras, 3905 mAh battery, comes with 6 or 8GB of RAM and looks modern. All this while having a 10/10 repairability score and 5 year warranty. Who said that green phones can’t have the latest features? Moreover, Fairphone 4 has guaranteed Android software updates all the way through 2025, with Fairphone hoping to extend it even further and roll out Android 15. Hearing this from Fairphone, we know it’s possible and doable because that’s what happened with Fairphone 2 which is on its journey of receiving 7 years of software support.
Fairphone 4 uses 100% post consumer recycled plastics, fairtrade gold, tungsten as well as recycled tin and other rare earth metals. Furthermore, it’s aiming to become an e-waste neutral device meaning for every Fairphone 4 sold, Fairphone will responsibly recycle 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 smartphone which adheres to the circular economy. Fairphone once again succeeded at this with the Fairphone 4 which should be the top choice for anyone prioritising sustainability.
First Runner-Up: Teracube 2e While Fairphone is our top pick for the most sustainable smartphone, we think that Teracube is a worthy runner-up. In comparison to the newly released Fairphone 4, Teracube 2e has been around since late 2020, but it runs stock Android with Teracube guaranteeing at least 3 years of software updates, so it is safe to say it will last a good few years. Additionally, Teracube 2e has 4 years of premium care warranty that covers parts, performance, labour, express replacement and two-way shipping (UK and other select markets). In terms of the specs, the Teracube 2e comes with a dual rear camera, an 8MP front facing lens, a replaceable 4,000 mAh battery, a 6.1” HD+ display, eco-friendly packaging (made with soy ink and recycled paper) as well as a biodegradable case. These specs aren’t pretty on paper and for a flagship user looking for power or outstanding camera it will be a difficult switch, but it all seems worth it for the fact that you can pop the plastic back, remove the battery and fit a new one. Isn’t this amazing in 2022? The only downside is that the Teracube 2e is sold out in the UK (at the time of writing), but if being sustainable is what’s important to you, then keep an eye for stock updates on the Teracube 2e.
If you've just learned about how bad phones are for the environment, 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 our second runner-up is the phone you currently own. 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 up to 40%.
These awards wouldn’t be complete without us mentioning refurbished 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 or Teracube don’t take your fancy.
Renewed 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.
We like to see more ethically sourced smartphones on the market without the performance being compromised, and tech giants like Apple and Samsung could follow in Fairphone or Teracube’s footsteps to launch a sustainable product line. Who knows, a sustainable phone could become mainstream one day.
Cover image by Edward Howell on Unsplash
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