Fairphone, which focuses on building repairable smartphones, has announced the support of a whole 7 years of Android operating system updates by its the Fairphone 3 model released in 2019, surpassing all other manufacturers, including Google, reports ArsTechnica.

Although Fairphone is a small manufacturer and depends on the will of component suppliers such as Qualcomm, which often end support for their components early, the company plans to support the Fairphone 3 until 2026. It is worth noting that the manufacturer also recently released the Android 13 update for the Fairphone 3, while Google ended support for the Pixel 4 in October 2022. Although both models were released in 2019.

Despite the small production and limited number of models, Fairphone tries to distinguish itself by the repairability of its models and the availability of spare parts that can be purchased online.

As part of its sustainability mission, Fairphone went to great lengths to provide Android updates, even when Qualcomm dropped critical software support for the Snapdragon 632 processor used in the Fairphone 3. Fairphone explains that the chip only supported Android 11, so the next update smartphone required independent efforts to support Android 13 and later versions of the system.

Typically, the update process involves Google releasing new builds to the Android open source repository, which chipmakers like Qualcomm use to create a “Board Support Package (BSP)” for each processor.
This package includes updated drivers, proprietary blocks and other important code components that ensure the functioning of the hardware.

Android smartphone manufacturers usually build firmware on these supported processor builds, only adding support for their additional hardware. However, since Qualcomm no longer supports the chip in the Fairphone 3, the company has taken it upon itself to update the BSP. Fairphone is the only Android smartphone maker to take on the challenge, as others usually drop support along with the processor manufacturer.

While the seven-year update commitment is impressive, Fairphone has been criticized for its irregular update schedule. Due to the extensive work on BSP, the company skipped Android 12 and went straight to Android 13. Also, monthly security updates may arrive at irregular intervals.

All that said, Fairphone’s ability to achieve this level of support on a much smaller budget than the big companies defies the common excuses given by other Android manufacturers for not being able to update. This demonstrates that any company can offer longer-term support if they want to, instead of forcing customers to upgrade and increasing e-waste.