Fairphone 2 review

The smartphone with an ethical ethos and a modular design

Fairphone 2

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Nexus 5X

Google Nexus 5X

At first blush the Nexus 5X gives you more phone for less money when pitted against the Fairphone 2 (5X prices start at £299/US$379/AU$479 rather than the euro equivalent of £400/US$575/AU$815): you get a more recent processor, more megapixels in your camera and of course Marshmallow installed from the off (not to mention speedy updates straight from Google when new versions appear).

However, factor in a five-year lifespan for the Fairphone 2 and suddenly it looks a much better-value proposition.

If you're a stock Android diehard it's well worth giving the Fairphone 2 OS skin a chance, although quite how you'll do that without buying the phone is hard to say. You might be surprised at how competent it is, and it's worth a second look if you were planning to plump for the 2015 collaboration between LG and Google.

The Nexus 5X doesn't have the world's greatest camera, so honours are probably even there, but it can take advantage of some of the new features introduced with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, such as the native fingerprint sensor technology, or the Doze battery-saving system that shuts down unused apps when your device is idle.

Find out what we really think about the Nexus 5X

iPhone 5S

iPhone 5S

Comparing the Fairphone 2 with Apple's handsets is an interesting exercise, not only because you have to go back to the iPhone 5S to find an iPhone that can compete with the Fairphone 2 on price, but also because Apple is another company that makes much of its environmental and ethical principles.

The iPhone 5S is capable of running the latest and greatest iOS 9, and so probably edges it against the Fairphone 2 in terms of software and performance (unless you really can't see yourself using anything other than Android), even with innards from late 2013.

One area where the iPhone has long been the market leader (at least until the latest Galaxies came along) is in camera lens quality: you're bound to get much better shots with an Apple device than you are with the Fairphone 2, at least until the Dutch company comes up with a substantially superior camera module.

If you buy the iPhone 5S with a Fairphone 2-matching 32GB of storage it currently comes in at £419/US$499/AU$829, which is slightly cheaper or dearer than the phone we're reviewing here depending on how your local currency is ranking against the euro just now.

Catch up on our definitive review of the iPhone 5S from Apple

Moto G (2015)

Moto G (2015)

You're after a mid-range Android phone some way behind the well-known flagships, so what do you go for? The most recent Moto G has dazzled reviewers and users alike, packing some so-so specs in an appealing little handset that offers great value for money; it's more than the sum of its parts. The Fairphone 2 will cost you more, although as we've noted it's designed to last longer.

The Moto G is cheap though – really cheap when you match it up against the entry fee for the Fairphone 2. Plus, it has a better camera, is water-resistant, and can be customised with your choice of backing plates and colours. Looks-wise these two phones are pretty similar, but in most other categories the 2015 Moto G wins out.

The Fairphone 2 has more pixels in its 5-inch screen, and of course its two aces to call on as well: its ethical approach and its repairability. Ultimately, if these are your priorities then you're going to choose the Fairphone 2 over the rest of the phones out there, no matter what the head-to-head scores in terms of specs, price, power or the styling of the plastic shell attached to the back.

Take a look at our full review of last year's Motorola Moto G

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.