Fairphone 4: Sustainability, Not Megapixels, Is the Focus of This Phone

You can avoid upgrading this phone, thanks to its modular design.

Dan Avery Former Writer
Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
Expertise Personal finance | Government and Policy | Consumer affairs
Dan Avery
3 min read
The Fairphone 4

The Fairphone 4 was launched in Europe in 2021 but has only just been made available stateside.


Improved camera features and updated specs are usually touted by smartphone manufacturers, but a new player in the US market is banking on social responsibility.

Murena's Fairphone 4 is made from "fairly sourced and recycled materials" by workers who are paid a living wage, according to the Dutch manufacturer.

Available in Europe since 2021, the device has finally landed in the US. It's powered by Murena's /e/ operating system, a modified take on the Android OS that Murena says is designed to protect user privacy.

In a statement, Fairphone CEO Eva Gouwens called the launch "a great opportunity for us to pilot selling devices in the US ... and learn more about the American market."

The Fairphone 4's modular design makes it easy to repair and customize, thereby postponing a full upgrade: The battery is removable, and the camera array, USB-C port, loudspeaker and body are all individual components, with replacement parts available to US customers on the Murena website. The company says repairs can be made with a standard screwdriver.

Inside the Fairphone 4

The Fairphone 4's components are individual and can be removed and replaced by the user.


Even the Fairphone's five-year warranty outstrips the iPhone's standard one-year guarantee

The phone market has matured to the point where companies don't really have anything new to offer, Murena CEO Gaël Duval told CNET in an email, "just a few more megapixels on the camera." (For what it's worth, the Murena Fairphone 4 features a dual 48-megapixel rear camera and a 25-megapixel front-facing camera.)

"With sustainability and privacy combined, we are answering new and growing market needs," Duval added. "Who really needs more megapixels while the planet is heating and the climate is changing so fast?"

The Fairphone 4 is the only option in the US market that's TCO Certified, a sustainability certification for IT products that examines socially responsible manufacturing, environmental impact, user health and safety, product lifetime extension and other factors. It also carries the German government's Blue Angel label, awarded based on durability, energy efficiency, recyclability and emissions.

The phone doesn't even come with a USB cord, plug or headphones, as Murena says it wants to encourage customers to use accessories they already have around the house.

Beyond sustainability, the Fairphone is a standout in user privacy. While Google has paid millions to settle data privacy and location-tracking lawsuits, Murena says its /e/ OS is a DeGoogled version of Android.

"We don't scan your data in your phone or in your cloud space, and we don't track your location hundred times a day or collect what you're doing with your apps," a statement on the company's website says.

You can still download Google apps if you want, The Verge reported, but Murena says it snags them directly from the Play Store without giving Google your personal details.

There are some tradeoffs, including the choice of carriers: Using a Fairphone 4 with anyone besides T-Mobile "is not recommended," according to Murena.

There's also the wait. Per the Murena website, the phone is currently only available on backorder.

Pricing for the Fairphone 4 starts at $629 for 128GB of storage or $699 for a 256GB device.

Phone repairability is becoming more important for buyers. Google has been partnering with iFixit to sell replacement parts for its Pixel phones since last year, including for its new Pixel Fold, and AppleSamsung and Microsoft similarly sell DIY fix-it parts for their phones and tablets.

Read more: Pixel 7 Pro Review: Google's Best Flagship Phone Gets Better