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Fairphone shows Samsung how you can support phones for much longer

Firmware
By 

Last updated: October 4th, 2021 at 20:00 UTC+01:00

Samsung is becoming more eco-conscious every year, or at least, its efforts in this area are becoming more visible to the consumers, for better or worse. For instance, these efforts led to the removal of the wall charger from the retail boxes of recent flagship models, but on the bright side, the retail packaging was streamlined, and it’s now made almost entirely out of recycled materials.

But while Samsung is showing the world that it’s aware of the e-waste problem on one hand, on the other, the company continues releasing tons of mid-range phones and rebranded models every year. Some of Samsung’s low-cost phones barely get updated with new versions of Android OS, and as a rule of thumb, the cheaper the phone, the more likely it is to receive Android OS updates later than desired.

Because of this, customers are inclined to upgrade to newer smartphone models more often, and ultimately, this leads back to the same problem of e-waste. And despite Samsung’s efforts to minimize these negative effects on the environment, other smaller companies seemingly do a better job keeping the Earth clean.

Take Fairphone, for example. It’s a relatively small company based in the Netherlands that creates smartphones designed to have a low impact on the environment. And one of the ways Fairphone achieves this is by supporting its products for longer periods.

The company announced a new model which will be going on sale this month in the UK and select European markets, and it’s promising unprecedented levels of firmware support. Well, unprecedented for other Android smartphone companies, at least.

New Fairphone 4 guarantees firmware support until 2025, aims for 2027

The Fairphone 4 ships with Android 11 and benefits from a 5-year warranty, claims the official product page. And according to a statement cited by ArsTechnica, the company will update the Fairphone 4 with new Android OS updates until the end of 2025. Not only that, but Fairphone aims to extend this period even further until the end of 2027.

This might sound impossible to achieve because the Fairphone 4 uses a Qualcomm chipset, and the chipmaker itself doesn’t offer support for this many years. However, Fairphone already did something similar with the Fairphone 2.

The latter is a 5-year-old phone that got updated to Android 9 earlier this year despite the fact that Qualcomm is no longer supporting the Snapdragon 801 SoC or the products that still use it. But Fairphone spent its resources where it thought it mattered and developed the firmware update on its own with the modding community– without Qualcomm’s support whatsoever. Fairphone is now looking to do something similar with its latest smartphone model.

The caveat, because of course, there’s one

Although Fairphone promises unprecedented support for its phone, the problem is that the company doesn’t have nearly the same resources Samsung or other major Android smartphone makers. And because of this, Fairphone tends to release new Android OS updates fairly late. The Fairphone 2 is half a decade old and was updated this year, but the OS version it received was already late to the party. In fact, had Fairphone moved quicker, perhaps it could’ve benefitted from Qualcomm’s support for Android 9 a couple of years ago.

Anyway, the company guarantees to provide firmware updates for the Fairphone 4 until 2025, at least, but only up to Android 13. The company aims to extend the support period until 2027 just so it can upgrade the phone to Android 14 and 15. But by that time, Google will have Android 18 ready for launch — assuming that the search engine giant will continue providing yearly OS upgrades.

In other words, Fairphone has a steeper hill to climb, and although it offers more years of firmware support than even Samsung, its development cycle takes a lot longer. It’s a smaller company, so it doesn’t benefit from the same level of support as, say, Samsung. But despite these hurdles, the company wants to prove once again that Android smartphones could benefit from support for many more years if only part manufacturers and OEMs would want that.

Samsung, as some of you know, recently revised its firmware update policy for select smartphone lineups. It now promises to support high-end and a few mid-range devices with three major Android OS updates, which is better than what other major Android OEMs are offering. However, the Korean tech giant could still learn a thing or two from smaller companies like Fairphone, if it wants customers to regard it as the paragon of eco-consciousness in the mobile world.

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