Fairphone, the Dutch social enterprise dedicated to making consumer electronics (more) sustainable and ethical, including by supporting repair options so users can hold on to their hardware for longer, has announced public testing of Android 10 for the six-year-old Fairphone 2.
Owners of the modular handset, which was first released back in 2015 running Android 5, should expect to be able to upgrade to Android 10 (release date: 2019) in early 2022, Fairphone said today announcing the beta rollout of The upgrades.
Fairphone stopped producing (but did not support) Fairphone 2 back in 2018 – continued to release Fairphone 3 (in 2019), Fairphone 3+ (in 2020, also available as a modular upgrade to 3) and earlier this fall, Fairphone 4 , its first 5G handset – which it said would be supported until at least 2025.
Given Fairphone 2’s upcoming update to Android 10 next year – which will mean it will have been supported for a total of seven years – 2025 looks like a conservative estimate of how long Fairphone 4 owners should expect to receive software support.
Fairphone says it collaborated with its community of users for the Android 10 upgrade project – and with a software developer in India, Bharath Ravi Prakash, who it says worked as a volunteer open source developer – and in doing so, it says it was able to streamline processing and reduce the time required to perform the upgrade.
So while the previous Fairphone 2 OS update (for Android 9) took 18 months, this time the process has been condensed to 10 months.
Google has meanwhile continued to release Android 11 (2020) and Android 12 (last month) – to get a sense of how far behind the Fairphone 2 upgrades follow the latest OS release.
“The company learned a lot from the Android 9 upgrade, and although it’s still complex, Android 10 was more predictable than Android 9,” notes Fairphone in a press release, which also quotes its head of software lifetime & IT, Agnes Crepet, who writes: ” Our unique approach to software has enabled us to help our users keep their devices as long as possible, and we’re excited to provide our Fairphone 2 community with another software upgrade and achieve our goal of providing at least five years of support from the launch of our phones, and with the Android 10 upgrade we move on to seven years of support. We are constantly raising the bar for ourselves and the industry and showing that it is possible to make things more sustainable in software. “
Seven years of support puts Fairphone in Apple iPhone software support time. But of course, the average Android-based handset can expect reasonably fewer years of software love – typically, Android smartphones only get about three years of support. So that’s a great achievement.
And while Fairphone may only now be catching up with Apple on the software lifetime front, it is already years ahead of Cupertino in another respect: Hardware sustainability through modular build and offering spare parts directly to the consumer.
Earlier this month, Apple announced that from next year it will launch a “Self Service Repair” program – shipping spare parts and repair tools to iPhone and Mac users to have them perform basic repairs at home.
It is by no means full modularity from the company that – historically – has loved a hermetically sealed, stupidly thin, often literally glued closed box, but it is a small step in a more sustainable direction. And someone like Fairphone has long been a pioneer.