Home electronics Fairphone to upgrade 5-year-old Fairphone 2 to Android 9

Fairphone to upgrade 5-year-old Fairphone 2 to Android 9

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The Fairphone 2 which was released in 2015 will be receiving a software upgrade to Android 9 as announced by Fairphone. Being almost five years old, it is one of the few smartphones to still receive software updates. The Fairphone began its journey with Android 5 and received upgrades for Android 6 and Android 7.1. Now, Fairphone has announced a beta version of Android 9 available on Fairphone 2. 

Many companies simply focus on releasing short-lived products every year without continuing support for them for long. Fairphone, on the other hand, is ambitious to make phones that last as long as possible. The company has been known to innovate to save valuable resources and emissions and through fairer material supply chains. The Fairphone 3, launched in 2019, was also based on the same design and fairness principles as the Fairphone 2. It is also expected to receive the same long term software support as the Fairphone 2.  Devices that do not receive long term software support tend to stop working properly after a while and put the users at a security risk. 

Fairphone is taking this big step for the public testing of Android 9 without chipset vendor support which makes it more difficult. Their next step will be the Google certification. 

The long and winding road to Android 9

Road to Android 9 for the Fairphone has been a bumpy one so far. The standard procedure for any smartphone to receive an Android software upgrade includes a release from Android Open Source Project (ASOP) which generates source codes for chipset vendors. Qualcomm in the case of Fairphone modifies the code sent by ASOP and sends it to Fairphone. However, for the Fairphone 2, Qualcomm stopped supporting the chipset after the release of Android 7. Nevertheless, Fairphone still successfully upgraded the Fairphone 2 to Android 7.1 without chipset vendor support. This made Fairphone 2 the only smartphone with a Snapdragon 801 chipset to receive this upgrade. It will also be the only one to receive an upgrade to Android 9. Now again Fairphone lacks Qualcomm support but is adamant about building the system itself from the ground up.  

Technology: Innovation at the expense of the environment

Fairphone 2 will become one of the few smartphones which were released in 2015 and are still receiving software upgrades which we don’t see often. The short life cycles combined with the difficulty to repair and limited software support lead to increasing e-waste worldwide. 

After just 5 years in service, this will make Fairphone 2 one of the few Android smartphones to still receive software support compared to any other Android device released in 2015.  As most emissions are caused during the production of a smartphone it also contributes to growing greenhouse gas emissions. Fairphone is working against this and trying to keep its phone in the consumer’s use for as long as possible.  

Miquel Ballester, Fairphone’s Design Lead comments: “The focus on releasing new products every year, which have a short lifespan, is common in the technology sector. There is a flip side to the way the electronics industry innovates. The focus on the yearly ‘disruption’ of technology does not just bring innovative ideas to the market, almost at the same speed ‘old’ technology is going obsolete. This has left a trail of e-waste and is bad for the planet and people.”

Fairphone has also started the development of Android 10 for its Fairphone 3, which it aims to release later this year.

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