The modular DIY cell phone you can upgrade yourself

; Date: Thu Mar 08 2018

Tags: DIY Repair »»»» Right to Repair

Most cell phones are built to prohibit repairs or upgrades by the owner. Instead the manufacturers seem to want to force us into buying new phones every two years. The Fairphone is different, using a modular design it can be completely disassembled, and parts can be easily swapped out or even upgraded.

Apple iPhones are the most egregious examples of this trend. My iPhone 6 has no simple/easy way to do things like swap the battery pack, or open it up for other repairs. It is easy to swap the SIM card, as I do when traveling overseas and I buy a local phone number. Instead, opening an iPhone today requires using a heat gun to melt the glues holding down the screen glass, and risk breaking the glass to get to the innards.

I have an iPad with an older battery pack - it's the same deal. Instead of a slide-off cover giving access to the battery pack, a heat gun is required to melt the glues, remove the display, and then a heat gun is required to melt other glues to get at everything and replace the battery pack.

The only technical advantage is that Apple was able to make these things very slim and light-weight because of tight integration. But we lost the Right to Repair.

The Fairphone doesn't have any of those limitations. Instead it's designed specifically to be opened by something so radically simple as a screwdriver. Normal every-day screws are what holds the Fairphone together. The parts are all modular, so you snap it together before tightening the screws down.

Screen breaks? Battery wears down? Unscrew some things, and swap the parts.

They developed a new camera module between the taping of the video below (8 MP module) and today, because the website says there is a 12 MP camera module now available. And, that upgrading the camera was simply a matter of opening the case and swapping the camera modules.

This sounds great from a Right To Repair standpoint. So long as the company is able to stay in business by selling replacement parts, this is a good thing for us.

According to the video there are two downsides.

  1. The specs are a few years old
  2. It feels chunky and heavy

Also - it's only available in Europe at the moment.

About the Author(s)

( David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.