Sustainable and Repairable Phones
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/repairable than others, and if those are important factors you consider when buying a new phone, the Teracube is the one to buy. There are also a few other options worth talking about, which we’ll dive into in this article.
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. Initially part of a Kickstarter campaign and now being sold as a fully-funded product, the Teracube is designed to be “the world’s most reliable smartphone.”
The big draw to the Teracube is its warranty. You get an industry-leading four-year warranty with your purchase, and under that warranty, all repairs cost a flat rate of $39. That includes water damage, a cracked display, aging batteries, you name it. If anything goes wrong with your Teracube for whatever reason, you can get it repaired for $39. That price includes parts, labor, and two-way shipping. Teracube also advertises a free battery change and an option for express replacement to ensure you’re never without a phone.
Teracube has solid specs for its price, with some of the highlights being a MediaTek Helio P60 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, 6.2-inch Full HD+ display, 12MP + 5MP dual rear cameras, and a 3,400 mAh battery. You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C charging, microSD expansion, dual SIM slots, and NFC for Google Pay. Android 9 Pie is running on Teracube out of the box, but there’s a planned update to Android 10 in Spring 2020.
It’s too bad Teracube doesn’t work with Sprint or Verizon, but if you rely on AT&T or T-Mobile for your cell service, it’s an incredible purchase.
- Four-year warranty
- $39 fee for all repairs
- Covers accidents, water damage, misuse, etc.
- Good specs for the price
- Planned update to Android 10
- Headphone jack
- Only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile
- Battery could be better
Sustainable done right
Teracube comes with one of the best warranties in the business, offering easy and affordable repairs for a cleaner Earth.
Best Modular: Fairphone 3
In the world of sustainable smartphones, the Fairphone 3 is perhaps the most popular. Why? It’s arguably the most repairable on the planet.
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 9 Pie is currently powering the phone, and while there’s no set date on an Android 10 update quite yet, Fairphone does promise five years of “important” software updates.
As much as we love the Fairphone 3, it does come with a big caveat. It’s 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 10 just yet
Replace parts whenever you need to
Assuming you can buy it, the Fairphone 3 is one of the best repairable phones out there — all thanks to the modular components.
Best Alternative: 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
If you need powerful specs
The SHIFT6m is another strong choice for our readers in Europe, offering an easily-repairable design and decent specs.
Best Camera: Google Pixel 3a
Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central
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 3a. No, it’s not on the same repairability level as the other Teracube, Fairphone 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 3a, 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 battery in place. Even better, only one type of screw is used throughout the entire construction. There are some downsides, however, such as a tricky-to-replace display and sea of ribbon cables that could cause issues for less-experienced users. The 6/10 score from iFixit may not look impressive on the surface, but it’s a huge improvement compared to most other devices from companies like Apple and Samsung.
In regards to the rest of the Pixel 3a experience, it’s one of the best mid-range phones money can buy. There’s an AMOLED display, a 12MP rear camera that takes gorgeous photos, and software updates/security patches are guaranteed through May 2022. You can also use the phone on whichever carrier you’d like, which is a huge plus. The Pixel 3a isn’t the highest-end Pixel phone you can buy these days, but it is the one we’re most likely to recommend.
- Most components are easily replaceable
- Standard screws keep the phone shut
- Guaranteed updates through May 2022
- Incredible rear camera
- Works on all U.S. carriers
- Ribbon cables can be difficult to work with
- Not as repairable as others on this list
Keep your memories looking as good as can be
The Pixel 3a’s camera is its big selling point, but we also appreciate the easy-to-repair design Google went with.
Best Mid-Ranger: Moto G7
Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central
Do you know who else makes easy-to-repair Android phones? Motorola. If you’re shopping for a repairable/sustainable phone in 2020 and want something that’ll offer a solid user experience from top to bottom, you can’t go wrong with the Moto G7.
What makes Motorola phones so great from a repairability standpoint is how accessible spare parts are. iFixit is an official supplier of Motorola components, selling legit screen and battery replacements at a great price. Extra phone components are sometimes hard to come by, but thanks to its partnership with iFixit, Motorola makes doing so a breeze.
When you aren’t patching up the Moto G7, the phone itself is about as good as mid-rangers come. It has a 6.2-inch Full HD+ display, dual rear cameras, expandable storage up to 512GB, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and ample performance for all of your apps and games. Just like the Pixel 3a, you can use the Moto G7 on any carrier in the U.S. — including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
- Extra screens and batteries sold by iFixit
- IP54 dust/water resistance
- Great specs-to-price ratio
- Hands-free Alexa
- Compatible with all U.S. carriers
- Motorola has a poor track record for software updates
- Components sometimes tough to come by
One of the best mid-tier phones out there
With easily-replaceable parts, solid specs across the board, and support for all U.S. carriers, the Moto G7 is a strong purchase.
Best Budget Pick: Moto E6
Source: Android Central
In addition to the Moto G7, another repair-friendly Motorola 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 the G7. However, it’s just as repairable — and even more so to a certain extent.
Just like the G7, 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 an edge over the G7 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
- Motorola isn’t good with software updates
Best Budget Pick
Keep costs low
If you’re on a tight budget, the Moto E6 offers a great user experience and a very sustainable design.
Sustainable/repairable smartphones aren’t quite as prominent as we wish they were, but 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 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 for a flat fee of $39. And, if your battery starts to degrade, you can get it replaced for free.
The warranty is the big selling point of the Teracube, but the phone itself is also designed to be enjoyable to use. Between its octa-core MediaTek Helio P60 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage, and planned update to Android 10 later this year, the Teracube 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 is Android Central’s News Editor. He 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. Have a tip? Send an email to email@example.com or hit him up on Twitter @JoeMaring1
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