A growing number of smartphone makers are promising to deliver major operating system updates and security updates for at least three to five years. But a small Dutch company called Fairphone has earned a reputation for pushing past that boundary.
Today the company released its final OS update for the Fairphone 2… a smartphone that was first launched more than seven years ago in 2015.
The final update isn’t all that exciting on its face. Fairphone OS & Fairphone Open 23.02.0-rel.0 include Google’s security patches from January and February, 2023 Fairphone Open also brings an updated version of Chromium WebView (the browser engine that’s allows apps other than browsers to display web content).
The operating systems are still based on Android 10, which is a few years old at this point. But that’s till not bad at all considering that the Fairphone 2 originally shipped with Android 5.
Fairphone’s commitment to long-term software and security updates is matched by the company’s general approach to hardware: the Fairphone 2, 3, and 4 smartphones feature modular designs that make them easier to repair than most smartphones on the market. If you need to replace a battery, display, speaker, or other component, you can probably buy a replacement part from Fairphone.
But there are challenges with supporting old devices indefinitely. The Fairphone 2 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of built-in storage. Not only are those specs rather underwhelming by 2023 standards, but Qualcomm and Google no longer offer Android support for that chipset, which makes porting newer versions of the operating system to the Fairphone 2 difficult.
The number of people actively using a Fairphone 2 has also likely shrunk over the years. So the company announced in January that it would release one last software update for the phones in March, and now it’s here.
While existing Fairphone 2 owners could continue to use their phones indefinitely, Fairphone does recommend “you avoid using apps that access sensitive data after May 2023” because any security vulnerabilities discovered in the coming months and years will not be patched. So you might not want to use the phone for things like mobile banking (and eventually Fairphone notes mobile banking apps and some other software might stop working on the phone).
Anyone who still has a Fairphone 2 can try installing an third-party operating system (like LineageOS or /e/OS) or take advantage of Fairphone’s Reuse and Recycling Program. The company will offer a 50 Euro voucher for the Fairphone shop if you register your device with the program by the end of March, 2023.