Best Sustainable Smartphones 2021

Now that we’re into the second month of 2021, we have a clearer sense of which smartphones are the best for sustainability. While smartphones are always being recognised for their breakthroughs in being the most powerful or affordable, it’s not often that you hear about the phones that are the most environmentally friendly. Luckily, there are manufacturers out there that have been making handsets that are less detrimental to the environment than the industry standard. So, we’ve decided to offer our own selection of the most sustainable smartphones, as we think that this is an essential attribute to consider when buying a new device. If you’re looking to buy an environmentally friendly smartphone in 2021, then read on.

The Winner: Fairphone 3 Plus

Fairphone is the undisputed king of ethical smartphone manufacturing. 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 has created what they’re calling their most sustainable smartphone yet with the Fairphone 3 Plus. It’s made of 40% recycled plastics, uses fairer materials and what’s more Fairphone pays a living wage to the factory workers that manufacture the devices, which we all know the top smartphone manufacturers don’t do, which is wholly unacceptable. 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 have succeeded at this with the Fairphone 3 Plus. In terms of specs, you get a bright and crisp display, a 48MP rear camera, a Snapdragon 632 chipset, Android 10 and a 3,040 mAh battery. While the specs aren’t top of the range, the Fairphone 3 Plus is a sustainable smartphone that will be the top choice for anyone prioritising sustainability.

First Runner-Up: Teracube 2e

While Fairphone is our top pick for most sustainable smartphone, we think that Teracube is worth mentioning. The Teracube 2e is designed to last at least four years or more, which is the length of time we would recommend that you keep hold of your device for before replacing it. 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. While these specs aren’t the best, like the Fairphone 3 Plus, this isn’t the main selling point. If being sustainable is what’s important to you, then the Teracube 2e might be the phone for you.

Second Runner-Up: Your Own Phone

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 or Teracube 2e device, 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%.

Honourable Mention

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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