New camera modules make upgrading the Fairphone 2 a snap

Fairphone 2

The modular phone dream has always been about upgrading modules to improve a device, and to keep it from becoming outdated. The Fairphone 2 is one of the few modular phones you can actually buy, and for the first time the company has introduced new camera modules for the phone, ready for owners to swap out using nothing except a screwdriver.

Fairphone says this takes the phone past the usual two-year life cycle that has become normal in the mobile industry, and along with a software update, means your Fairphone 2 will have many more months of use for a comparatively small financial outlay.

It’s hard to argue with this kind of system, as upgrading parts of a phone will extend its usefulness — but don’t think you’re about to swap out the Fairphone 2’s old camera for a dual-lens setup ready to challenge the iPhone 7 Plus. The new module is a little more modest than that. The rear camera module now has 12 megapixels and a dual-flash system, and the front selfie camera has an improved, next-generation sensor retaining the original’s 5 megapixels. The 12-megapixel component is a sensible increase over the existing 8-megapixel rear camera, which took passable pictures when we reviewed the Fairphone 2 last year.

The software update came earlier this year, and although all updates are good, the already out-of-date Fairphone 2 is still, sadly, out of date. It received Android 6.0 Marshmallow in April, and nothing has changed since then. This is now two versions behind devices like the Google Pixel, although the Fairphone 2 does offer the benefit of allowing alternative operating systems to be installed, including a specially designed version of Jolla’s Sailfish. That’s some consolation, but the Fairphone 2 is still woefully behind the competition in its Android software.

However, people will likely buy the Fairphone 2 not because of its software, but because of how it was designed to reduce the environmental impact of mobile devices. This green commitment extends to everything from ethically sourced components, the use of recycled materials, and the ongoing intention to to make the phone last for up to five years using upgrades. All standard Fairphone 2 components can be purchased from the company, including a replaceable battery.

Owners of the Fairphone 2 will pay 70 euros ($84) for both of the new camera modules, or 45 euros ($54) for the rear camera and 30 euros ($35) for the selfie camera if purchased separately. Any new Fairphone 2 ordered will come with the new sensors already fitted. The modules will be sold through Fairphone’s online store and some retailers in September.