Fairphone 5 sets a new standard with 8-10 years of Android support

The Fairphone 5 is official and full of surprises. As you might expect, it’s the usual repairable phone from Fairphone, with parts available to order and easily installable with just a screwdriver. A new phone means faster components and a more modern design. What you might not expect is Fairphone opting entirely out of Qualcomm’s consumer upgrade cycle thanks to its choice of an “industrial IoT” SoC that promises longer support times. With a longer window from Qualcomm and a commitment from Fairphone to keep going even after Qualcomm’s industrial support cycle, Fairphone says this device will end up with a jaw-dropping 8–10 years of OS support.

The Fairphone 5 is not for sale in the US. Europeans, though, can get the device for 699 euros (~$753), with preorders starting today and a ship date of September 14. For the basic specs, we have a mid-range loadout, starting with a 6.46-inch, 90 Hz, 2770×1224 OLED display. There’s 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a side fingerprint reader, and a microSD slot. For rear cameras, it offers a 50 MP Sony IMX800, an anonymous 50 MP wide-angle sensor, and a time-of-flight sensor. The front cam is a 50 MP Samsung JN1.

Of course, the battery is removable, just like an old-school smartphone. You can see the big trade-off of that, though, since it’s a rather small 4200 mAh battery. With a 161.6×75.83×9.6 mm body, devices in this size class usually pack a 5000 mAh battery. The good news with it being removable is that you could have extra batteries that you swap in whenever one dies, with zero recharge time. When you want to recharge it, you can pump 30 W into the battery. Some devices have water resistance, plus a removable battery, but you won’t find an example of that here, with only an IP 55 rating. That means the Fairphone 5 can survive rain but isn’t submergible.

An SoC from the back pages of the Qualcomm catalog

One of the most interesting parts of the Fairphone 5 is the choice of chipset. Fairphone has previously called out Qualcomm for its rather short support timelines, and with the Fairphone 5, it’s doing its best to work around that. Rather than a Qualcomm Snapdragon something-or-other, Fairphone dug through the back pages of the Qualcomm catalog and found the “Qualcomm QCM6490” SoC, which Qualcomm describes as “purpose-built for industrial and commercial IoT applications.” Fairphone says it chose this chip specifically because Qualcomm is willing to give it a longer support lifetime than a Snapdragon chip, because Qualcomm wants to give “industrial” gear a longer lifetime (5 years) than “consumer” products.

So what the heck is a Qualcomm QCM6490, and is it any good? The “industrial” chip might sound a bit scary, but listed in the possible use cases are “ruggedized handhelds and tablets,” so this is still meant for Android and the usual phone use cases. This is the fastest industrial chip Qualcomm makes, but that still makes it a mid-range 6 nm chip with four Cortex-A78 cores (one clocked at 2.7 GHz and three at 2.4 GHz) and four Cortex A55 cores. There’s also an Adreno 642L GPU. If we’re going by the Snapdragon lineup, it seems like a rough equivalent would be a Snapdragon 778G with slightly higher clocks.

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