The Fairphone 2 is a modular smartphone that doesn't compete against Project Ara
Some of you may remember that, a few weeks ago at the I/O 2015 developer conference, Google showed a working Project Ara prototype, hinting that the commercial launch of the smartphone shouldn't be too far off. If your mind is set on a modular, environment-friendly smartphone, it turns out that your options may extend beyond Google's Project Ara. Enter the Fairphone 2, a smartphone that seems to take the middle road between Project Ara and un-serviceable smartphones.
Right off the bat, it should be mentioned that, although the Fairphone 2 is a modular smartphone, its components are not as easily replaceable as on Project Ara. The phone is, in many ways, built like a regular smartphone, although the company did its best to make the handset as serviceable as possible.
Since the phone is designed to be modular, it will be quite simple for users to replace internal components. The concept is fairly similar to the idea behind Google's Project Ara. Need a better camera / more RAM / a faster processor? Replace the old one! In all fairness, most users will probably have a tough time doing this by themselves, as replacing the camera is not as easy as removing a LEGO bloc - like on the Project Ara prototype. Take the handset to a smartphone repair shop, however, and the trained professionals there should not encounter any major setbacks.
Furthermore, the Fairphone 2 comes with a replaceable outer shell that also doubles as a protective case, and the company promises to launch multiple outer case versions in the future, varying both the design and the protection level. The standard shell will come with a thickness of 11mm, thicker than modern smartphones, but the upside is that the outer shell can withstand a drop of nearly 2 meters on concrete without any significant physical damage.
In many ways, upgrading the Fairphone 2 should be, if we take the manufacturer's word for granted, as straightforward as upgrading your desktop PC. The company says that removing the display is as easily done as removing the protective outer shell and pushing the pair of clips that hold the display in place.
In terms of specs, the Fairphone 2 will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, dual-SIM capabilities, a 2420mAh removable battery, and an 8MP primary camera. Looking into the future, the manufacturer plans to release updated components, such as better cameras and NFC-capable back covers.
At the moment, it's unclear if the smartphone will ever make it to the United States. The Fairphone 2 will launch this Fall in Europe at a price of €525 ($590) unlocked.