Best Sustainable and Repairable Phones Android Central 2021
Our planet is a beautiful thing, but we only have one to go around. As such, making smart choices about how we live our lives and the products we buy is key to ensuring it sticks around for generations to come. Some smartphones are created to be more sustainable and repairable than others — and if those are important factors to you when buying a new phone, the Teracube 2e is the one to buy. There are also a few other options worth talking about when it comes to the best modular phone, which we'll dive into in this article.
- Best Overall Sustainable and Repairable Phone: Teracube 2e
- Best Modular Sustainable and Repairable Phone: Fairphone 3/3+
- Best Alternative Sustainable and Repairable Phone: SHIFT6m
- Best Camera on a Sustainable and Repairable Phone: Google Pixel 5
- Best Budget Sustainable and Repairable Phone: Moto E6
Best Overall Sustainable and Repairable Phone: Teracube 2e
As you'll learn reading through this article, finding sustainable phones that are available in the U.S. can be quite tricky. Thankfully, we have the Teracube 2e. Initially part of an Indiegogo campaign and now being sold as a fully-funded product, the Teracube 2e is designed to be "the world's most reliable smartphone."
The big draw to the Teracube 2e is its warranty. You get an industry-leading four-year warranty with your purchase, and under that warranty, all repairs cost a flat rate. That includes water damage, a cracked display, aging batteries, you name it. Screen repairs are only $59, and new batteries are $29. Those prices include parts, labor, and two-way shipping. The company is also working with iFixit to make repair guides and parts available for those do-it-yourself-ers.
The Teracube 2e has solid specs for its price, with some of the highlights being a MediaTek Helio A25 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, 6.1-inch Full HD+ display, 13MP + 8MP dual rear cameras, and a 4,000 mAh battery. You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C charging, microSD expansion, dual SIM slots, and NFC for Google Pay. Android 10 is running on Teracube out of the box, but there's a planned update to Android 11 in mid-2021.
It's too bad Teracube doesn't work with Verizon, but if you rely on AT&T or T-Mobile for your cell service, it's an incredible purchase.
- Four-year warranty
- Low fee for all repairs
- Covers accidents, water damage, misuse, etc.
- Good specs for the price
- Planned update to Android 11
- Headphone jack
- Only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile
- Weak cameras
Best Modular Sustainable and Repairable Phone: Fairphone 3/3+
In the world of sustainable smartphones, the Fairphone 3 and 3+ are perhaps the most popular. Why? They're arguably the most repairable on the planet.
The Fairphone 3 drew a lot of attention to itself when it earned a 10/10 repairability score from iFixit, and it got that perfect rating for a reason. The majority of the Fairphone 3 is made out of user-replaceable modules, meaning you can swap parts in and out as you need to. There are modules for the display, battery, rear camera, selfie camera, headphone jack, USB-C port, speaker, and more. If something here breaks, chances are you can replace it in the blink of an eye. And, just for some extra peace of mind, Fairphone 3 comes with a two-year warranty.
Even better, easy repairability isn't where Fairphone stopped with the Fairphone 3. The handset is created with responsibly-sourced materials, not to mention that Fairphone is a huge advocate for better working conditions in the mobile tech industry.
On the specs front, the Fairphone 3 delivers a Snapdragon 632 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, a 5.65-inch Full HD+ display, and a 3,000 mAh battery. Android 10 is currently powering the phone, and while there's no set date on an Android 11 update quite yet, Fairphone does promise five years of "important" software updates. Users can also install alternative operating systems like /e/os on their Fairphone devices,
In late 2020, Fairphone introduced the Fairphone 3+, which was basically identical to the 3 but had an upgraded camera module and even more sustainably-sourced components. True to its mission, Fairphone 3 owners can purchase the module upgrades and turn their existing Fairphone 3 devices into Fairphone 3+ devices. Pretty cool!
As much as we love the Fairphone 3 and 3+, they do come with a big caveat. They're only available in Europe and the U.K., meaning if you live in the U.S., you're out of luck.
- Replaceable modules allow for easy DIY repairs
- Comes with a two-year warranty
- Five years of software updates
- Responsible material sourcing
- Fairphone advocates for good working conditions
- Only available in Europe and the U.K.
- No plans for Android 11 just yet
Best Alternative Sustainable and Repairable Phone: SHIFT6m
Sticking with phones that are sold in Europe, the SHIFT6m stands out as another easy recommendation. Just like Fairphone, SHIFT aims to create devices that are simple to repair and open to modifying.
We're specifically looking at the SHIFT6m, which is astonishingly easy to repair. It earned a 9/10 repairability score from iFixit, with some of its highlights being easy access to the battery and screen, only one type of screw head being used to hold the phone together, and a screwdriver being included in the box, so nothing is holding you back from making repairs as needed.
The SHIFT6m does have some overlapping components and short connection cables, meaning that it's not quite as easy to repair as the Fairphone 3. That said, it's still light years ahead of what most other companies are selling these days.
Unfortunately, this is another phone that you cannot buy if you live in the U.S. I know — sad trombone.
- Can be taken apart with just a screwdriver
- Modular design
- Easily removable battery
- SHIFT offers free repair guides
- Natively supports custom ROMs
- Only sold in Europe
Best Camera on a Sustainable and Repairable Phone: Google Pixel 5
Moving back to phones that you can actually purchase if you live in the U.S., we'd like to shine a light on the Pixel 4a. No, it's not on the same repairability level as the other Teracube 2e, Fairphone 3/3+, or SHIFT6m, but it is one of the better options from a mainstream manufacturer.
If you want to do any DIY repairs on the Pixel 5, doing so is relatively straightforward. The majority of Google's components are modular and easy to replace, and we also appreciate the easy-to-remove adhesive that holds the screen in place. The YouTube channel JerryRigEverything rated the Pixel 5 as the most repairable phone of 2020, with the easiest screen to remove and replace.
Regarding the rest of the Pixel 5 experience, it's one of the best value flagship phones money can buy. There's an OLED display, a 12.2MP rear camera that takes gorgeous photos, and software updates/security patches are guaranteed through May 2023. You can also use the phone on whichever carrier you'd like, which is a huge plus. The Pixel 5 isn't the highest-end Android phone you can buy these days, but it is one that we're happy to recommend.
- Most components are easily replaceable
- No screws
- Guaranteed updates through May 2023
- Incredible rear camera
- Works on all U.S. carriers
- More expensive than others on this list
- Not as repairable as others on this list
Best Budget Sustainable and Repairable Phone: Moto E6
Another repair-friendly phone we'd like to bring your attention to is the Moto E6. The E6 is designed to be a low-end phone, meaning it's not as powerful or interesting as some others on this list. However, it's just as repairable — and even more so to a certain extent.
Like some of the other phones mentioned here, you can buy replacement displays and batteries for the Moto E6 straight from iFixit. These are official Motorola parts, meaning you can rest assured that you're buying legit hardware. Where the E6 has the edge over the newer Moto E (2020) is the fact that you can pop off its back with just your fingernail and remove the battery without any tools. Yep, phones with user-removable batteries still exist in 2020. How cool is that?
The Moto E6 is the cheapest phone on this list, making it that much more impressive than it's touting a water-repellent design. It also works with every U.S. carrier, offers expandable storage up to 256GB, and powers your day with an octa-core Qualcomm processor paired with 2GB of RAM.
- Removable back cover
- Battery is dead-simple to replace
- iFixit sells official screen and battery replacements
- Water-repellent design
- Unlocked for all U.S. carriers
- Low-end specs
- Device is a few years old
- Motorola isn't good with software updates
Sustainable/repairable smartphones aren't quite as prominent as we wish they were among the best Android phones. Still, as long as you're willing to do a bit of digging, it's possible to find plenty of hidden gems that excel in these regards. Overall, we think the Teracube 2e is the best of the best.
One look at Teracube's warranty is enough to make it a compelling purchase — regardless of whether or not you're concerned about your impact on the planet. After you buy the Teracube, you have four years of unmatched coverage. If you drop the Teracube in your pool, accidentally shatter its screen on the sidewalk, or for virtually any other reason, you can get a replacement battery or screen for under $60.
The warranty is the big selling point of the Teracube 2e, but the phone itself is also designed to be enjoyable to use. Between its octa-core MediaTek Helio A25 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and planned update to Android 11 later this year, the Teracube 2e has it all. Factor all of that together with the low price and compatibility with GSM carriers in the U.S., and it's a stellar package.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joe Maring loves talking about all things tech, especially when it comes to Android phones. He has a drawer full of them that continues to grow and spends way too much time at Starbucks.
Jeramy Johnson is proud to help Keep Austin Weird and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.
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