How to buy a smartphone the smart way for long term usage

When a friend of mine showed me the first Fairphone I didn't quite realize what she was showing me. I actually did know what the Fairphone was, the media I'm reading were covered with stories about it. They actually made pretty huge hype out of it. But the question was: What does it mean to me. So, some month later I realized what it meant to me: It was a status symbol, like a organic fair trade t-shirt. Putting money into a more long lasting approach, creating a phone whose materials where traded fair. 

Some month later there was another big hype. The Fairphone 2 was announced. But that hype was different. As far as I remember it they announced it with Android 5, which is from November 2014. So when it then actually became available it still had Android 5 on it. A software that was already 2 years old. In that market this is pretty outdated. The latest version when I wrote this article was 7.1. 

Then I came across a post of a friend of mine. She actually got a early Fairphone2, price about 500,- €. There was one sentence which annoyed me: "So the next time you think of a smartphone, think twice what *smart* actually means.". 

Points to consider when buying long term

When I bought my smartphone back in 2014 I looked for the following points:

  • Is there a Cyanogenmod or other after market rom available of the latest Android
  • Is the camera resolution big enough to be competitive in about 4 years from now
  • Can I get the battery replaced
  • Can I extend the storage using cards

I ended up with a Motorola Moto G2. The battery can't be replaced easily as you can't flip it in and out - but you can replace it with the help of Ifixit. When I got the phone delivered it had Android 5. After a year or so I flashed it with Cyanogenmod 13, which is based on Android 6. Until last week I was on Cyanogenmod 14, which is Android 7. Unfortunately the Cyanogenmod ecosystem closed. Luckily it is still or again around under the name LineageOS. So, I sitegraded from Cyanogen to Lineage and I'm again on Android 7. 

After 3 years I'm still pretty happy with my smartphone and I hope that there will be another LineageOS upgrade to next Android version. This could go on for years. 

Checking for out of the usual roms

My old Sony Xperia Arc S, which is from November 2011, so 5 years old, is still in use. It is actually running with Android 6. When I got it it had Android 2.3.4. It was just a matter of time until the Xperia Legacy project started. Basically many old Xperia phones can run a nearly up2date Android. It is perhaps not that trivial to install and sometimes the guidance lacks some points, but it is doable. 

The Future

Those after market roms do the economy a real favour. Instead of buying new phones every other year because of outdated software they help us keeping our phone up2date and by that extending its livecycle. This is pricless and I hope that the LineageOS gets a lot of contributors. They currently don't accept donations but hopefully soon they will. While the Fairphone focues mainly on the supply chain they let the software slip away. The best smartphone would be probably a phone that comes with fair materials AND an alternative rom favoured by the OpenSource community and not by the company. 


You might also want to read