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iFixit tears down the newest Fairphone—how repairable is it?

Dutch company Fairphone believes smartphones can and should be completely repairable and free of conflict-sourced materials. Ars covered the Fairphone 2 launch back in 2015 and performed an assisted teardown of a late prototype model with the company’s CEO. This time around, repair guide site iFixit got the pre-launch prototype and took it down top-to-bottom to see if Fairphone still makes good on its promise.

The Fairphone 3 itself

Before we get into the physical teardown, let’s take a quick look at the Fairphone 3’s specs.

  • 5.65-inch display—2160×1080, 24-bit color depth, 18:9 aspect ratio, Gorilla Glass 5
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 SoC—1.8GHz eight-core CPU, with Adreno 506 GPU @ 650MHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB internal storage, microSD expansion available
  • 12MP rear/8MP front camera. Rear camera has dual LED flash and takes video 4k@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@60fps
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi with BlueTooth 5 + LE, NFC, and support for multiple GNSS (GPS) standards
  • Dual nano-SIM card, supporting 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE (GSM only—no CDMA; sorry Verizon subscribers)
  • USB Type-C, sensors include fingerprint scanner, ambient light, accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, barometer, and compass
  • 3.5mm headphone jack included—no USB-C dongle needed!
  • 11.8Wh battery

If you’re not a complete phone-head, you may want a few comparisons to place where the Fairphone 3 sits on a performance scale. A lot of international phones use the same Snapdragon 632 SoC, but very few seem to have been sold in the USA. It’s best described as a middle-of-the-road budget chipset. When comparing either CPU or GPU scores on multiple benchmarks, the Snapdragon 632 used in the Fairphone scores roughly 25% to 33% faster than the Exynos 7884B used in the Samsung Galaxy A10e (one of AT&T’s current line-up of “free with new subscription” budget phones) but only half as fast as the Snapdragon 845 used in Google’s flagship Pixel 3. These observations hold up across a wide range of both CPU and GPU benchmarks.

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