A greener future: the best environmentally friendly phones of 2024

Phones built responsibly: brilliant environmentally friendly smartphones are the future...

The best environmentally friendly phones of the year

by Ryan Houghton |
Updated on

For the environmentally conscious, this might just be the year for you. Amongst the very best smartphones of the year, we've seen environmentally friendly phones appear more and more within the ranks. Companies are taking action against climate change, setting plans to reduce carbon footprints, reduce waste and even offer incentives to those looking to recycle their phones.

These powerful phones aren't just designed for a year of use: they're designed to be repaired, kept up-to-date with the latest software and even recycled safely, the best environmentally friendly smartphones of the year use sustainable manufacturing and have brilliantly made hardware to ensure that whatever happens to your phone, you've got options.

The best environmentally friendly smartphones of 2024 at a glance:

• Best overall: Fairphone 5 256GB - View on Amazon
• Best budget: Nokia G22 - View on Amazon
Best performance: Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max (256 GB) - View on Amazon
• Best modular: Fairphone 4- View on Laptops Direct

Taking your pricey Android phone for a painfully expensive repair is a thing of the past: repair your phone's modular components with cheap kits and even upgrade to get the most out of your smartphone, all the while protecting the environment from excess waste of precious materials.

We've found the very best environmentally friendly smartphones of the year, discovering some truly excellent deals on top-tier sustainable smartphones, and people are switching in droves.

The best environmentally friendly smartphones of 2024:

Best overall environmentally friendly smartphone

Fairphone 5 256GB 5G SIM Free SmartphoneFairphone
Price: $810.00

Topping countless lists across the eco-friendly internet, the Fairphone 5 is easily one of the most responsibly manufactured environmentally friendly phones on the market. Made out of 70 per cent fairly sourced materials by factory workers paid a living wage, the Fairphone 5 is a great choice for shoppers searching for an ethical smartphone.

Assembled with modular components, the Fairphone 5 is designed to be repaired time and time again. Accidents happen, and smartphones tend to take the brunt of these accidents in our daily lives. Fairphone has made a phone for those of us who don't want to upgrade or visit a pricey phone repair shop when you crack your phone screen. Instead, you can fix it yourself. Each main component of the Fairphone 5 can be purchased online and is designed to be easy to replace without the worry of destroying the Fairphone 5 in the process.

Equipped with 256GB of storage, but upgradeable to a whopping 2TB, along with its other impressive components such as its 8GB of RAM and 50MP dual real camera, it's not surprising that eco-friendly buyers revere this sustainably sourced smartphone. With a huge idle battery life, great processing power, and more - the Fairphone 5 is sure to last you countless years of gaming, browsing and photography, it's a great value game-changer of a smartphone.

Pros

  • Made of excellent sustainable materials
  • Completely modular and fully replaceable
  • Brilliant battery life and performance

Cons

  • Cameras aren't exceptional

Best budget environmentally friendly smartphone

Nokia G22 6.52 Inch HD+ Dual SIM Android 12 SmartphoneNokia
Price: $123.57

At around £100, the Nokia G22 is easily one of the cheaper sustainably sourced smartphones on the market, but it still surprises with its solid performance, and typical Nokia hardiness. Nicely designed with an impressive battery life and eye-catching 6.5-inch HD+ display, Nokia never seems to fail at dazzling us with spectacular value, and the G22 is no exception.

Perhaps the shining feature of the Nokia G22 is its QuickFix design: designed to reduce electronic waste and avoid visits to repair shops, each component of the G22 is available online and can easily be repaired from home, so you're not paying a fortune to fix a fairly cheap phone.

Of course, at a fraction of the price of competing high-end environmentally friendly smartphones on the market, there are some cutbacks here and there, and it largely chalks up to performance. A fairly middling 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a weaker processor doesn't leave much room for intensive tasks on the G22, but it's ideal for those who aren't particularly tech-savvy nonetheless.

That being said, the Nokia G22 is a perfect phone for great longevity, with three years of software support and a 100 per cent recycled plastic backing, this brilliant budget phone is perfect for those who keep sustainability at heart.

Pros

  • Fantastic value
  • Made sustainably
  • QuickFix features for easy repairs

Cons

  • Fairly low performance compared to other smartphones

Best environmentally friendly smartphone for performance

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max (256 GB) - Black TitaniumiPhone 15 Pro Max

One of the best sustainably sourced phones on the market, you might be surprised to learn that Apple's iPhone 15 Pro Max is produced with 20 per cent recycled materials and is manufactured without the use of harmful chemicals such as mercury and arsenic - making them safer to recycle in the future.

The longevity of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is better than ever before thanks to its IP68 water resistance and Ceramic Shield, so your iPhone isn't irreparable after taking some damage. One of Apple's most eco-friendly features that gets you the most out of your smartphone is Apple Trade In.

If you're upgrading you can trade your old iPhone to reduce the price of your next one - so you save the difference, and you're not only saving some money, you're also contributing to the phone's life cycle, helping the environment a little at a time.

Where hardware is concerned, needless to say, Apple's iPhone 15 Pro Max is one of the best on the market. Stunning photography, and a powerhouse in terms of performance thanks to its A17 processor, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is probably one of the best iPhones ever made.

Pros

  • One of the most powerful smartphones on the market
  • Excellent cameras
  • Free of harmful substances, Apple Trade optionality

Cons

  • Not the most sustainably manufactured

Best modular environmentally friendly phone

Fairphone 4Fairphone

Brilliantly designed for those who enjoy the reassurance of a modular smartphone, the Fairphone 4 is a great choice for those looking to save money, whilst also getting the best performance possible on an environmentally friendly phone.

Out of the box, the Fairphone 4 is crammed with great performance: a sensational 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a solid Snapdragon 750G with 5G support. The Fairphone 4 has a second-to-none battery life, with roughly 200 hours of idle use, giving you the most energy efficiency at its price.

If you happen to break the Fairphone 4, it happens to all of us, you can purchase most of its essential hardware online, and then it's a simple matter of fixing it at home. And you don't need to be a tech expert to get stuck in - these simple kits are designed to be handled by amateurs, saving you hundreds in phone repairs.

Sustainably made, fairly sourced and ethically produced without undercutting factory workers, the Fairphone 4 is one of the best environmentally friendly smartphones on the market and is unquestionably one of the best phones for battery life.

Pros

  • Impressive modular design
  • Solid battery life
  • Performance is fantastic

Cons

  • Slightly older model

Best renewed environmentally friendly phone

Samsung Galaxy S21Samsung

Buying a renewed phone is one of the best ways of reducing waste when shopping online, and you can get some really excellent phones for a fraction of their original price. Samsung's S21 smartphone is a brilliant budget phone without budget performance at around £200.

Repaired and refurbished to top working condition, buying a renewed phone might come with concerns over potential defects or wear and tear, but this isn't the case. Renewed phones are carefully repaired to deliver fantastic performance, and Samsung's S21 is no different.

Out of the gate, the S21's Snapdragon 888 processor is sublime, and when paired with 8GB of RAM - you've got yourself brilliant performance for any tasks you need. A brilliant 64MP triple camera, along with plenty of storage for a library of memories, the S21 delivers as a renewed phone, and its recycled construction is great for the planet. A top-tier phone under £300, this is certainly a deal you should consider in your search for an upgrade.

Pros

  • Powerful camera
  • Great battery life
  • High-end phone at a value price

Cons

  • Some may dislike the idea of a pre-owned smartphone

Best environmentally friendly Samsung phone

Samsung Galaxy S23Samsung

Another surprising addition to our environmentally friendly phone roundup, the Samsung Galaxy S23 is manufactured from a large amount of recycled materials, including 20 per cent recycled plastic, 28 per cent recycled aluminium, and 22 per cent recycled glass. Samsung's strict Control of Substances Used in Products standards also means that there are no harmful chemicals used in the process of manufacturing the Samsung Galaxy S23, so eco-friendly recycling is more effective than ever before.

And then, there's the hardware of the Samsung S23, which is tougher and longer lasting than ever before. With IP68 water and dust resistance, a tough screen and a design that's better suited to repairability, the S23 is a phone that gives you the most out of its life cycle.

Samsung's promise of five years of security and operating system updates also lessens the need t upgrade the phone for a much longer time, so budget buyers and environmental enthusiasts can get the most out of the S23.

As for its performance - this practically brand-new phone tackles gaming and heavy software tasks in its stride, which is in large parts thanks to its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Take fantastic photos with its 50MP triple camera, equipped with plenty of post-editing tools to create the perfect images.

This mighty smartphone might be pricey, but its great performance and environmentally safe manufacturing make it a great pick for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Pros

  • Great performance
  • ECOLOGO certified
  • Beautifully designed

Cons

  • Not the most sustainable smartphone

Best environmentally friendly Google phone

A great phone for longevity, and manufactured using sustainable practices, the Google Pixel 8 phone is excellent for years of great performance thanks to its fantastic eight-year lifecycle. The Pixel 8 is beautifully designed with a glossy backing and iconic metal camera band, it's one of the most aesthetically pleasing phones on the market.

What's more, the Pixel 8 is equipped with Google's Tensor G3 chipset which is brought to new heights with AI. Paired with 8GB of RAM, the performance of the Google Pixel 8 is exceptional and is made more efficient thanks to the Pixel 8's AI, which dramatically improves hardware performance.

The Pixel 8 is constructed of 100 per cent recycled aluminium and is made free of PVC and BFR, so recycling is easier and the production process has a significantly less impact on the environment. Google's practices are great for reducing environmental waste, but it still has a long way to go before it reaches exceptional levels of sustainability - only 18 per cent of the phone overall is made of recycled materials, which is good, but not brilliant.

Perhaps the best feature of the Google Pixel 8 for reducing waste is its eight-year security and software update support. With a dedication to improving the lifecycle of their smartphones, Google's Pixel 8 gets the most out of its hardware, and for the environmentally friendly shopper, it's exactly what you need. Our Google Pixel 8 review details the ins and outs of this massive pledge to keep the Pixel 8 running well into the future.

Pros

  • Powerful AI software
  • Excellent design and build quality
  • Sustainably made and supported for up to eight years

Cons

  • Not the most sustainably made

Best environmentally friendly phone under £200

A fantastic budget phone under £200, the Nokia X30 is perfect for those looking for an affordable, sustainable phone. Well-designed, sturdy and with an impressive battery life - the Nokia X30 has a 100 per cent recycled aluminium frame, alongside a 65 per cent recycled plastic back, which is fairly uncommon amongst budget phones.

The Nokia X30's performance is particularly strong amongst phones in its price range, with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and an impressive Snapdragon 695 processor, making it one of the leading phones under £200 in terms of performance.

Where its photography potential is concerned, the X30 doesn't perform as well as you might expect, with photos appearing slightly dull or grainy, but it's nonetheless incredible for the price.

Perhaps its boldest move in reducing waste and boosting sustainability, the Nokia X30 has an impressive four-year update pledge from Nokia, so you're not missing out on speed-improving updates and security for a considerable amount of time.

Pros

  • Up to three years of software support
  • Sustainably manufactured and built to last
  • Fantastic performance overall for the price

Cons

  • Camera performance is fairly standard for a low-budget phone

Best rugged environmentally friendly phone

Nokia XR21Nokia

Rrp: $644.00

Price: $599.00

Certainly one of the most durable phones on the market, the Nokia XR21 smartphone exceeds in sustainability thanks to its hardy design, components made of recycled materials and fantastic performance overall.

What makes the Nokia XR21 one of the best environmentally friendly smartphones, however, is its durability. Made to last, this spectacular smartphone is capable of operating from -20°C to 55°C, and it can be submerged in 1.8 metres of water for up to an hour without breaking.

This sheer longevity means there's less need for repairs and replacement in the long run, leaving less waste and a longer life cycle for those who need it. In our Nokia XR21 review, we experienced its durability and solid design hands-on, and it's truly impressive.

If you're looking for a phone with a great camera, however, the Nokia XR21 may disappoint. There's some oversharpening present, giving photos an unnatural look, but in brighter environments, the XR21 provides good-looking photos that are perfect for capturing memories.

A fantastic durable phone, the Nokia XR21 is a superb choice for smartphone shoppers, and its long-lasting eco-friendly design is bound to please.

Pros

  • Tough design
  • 100 per cent recycled chassis
  • Great battery life and long-term update support

Cons

  • Fairly weak camera for its price

Best refurbished iPhone

Apple 12 MiniApple
Price: £289 (was £729)

loop-mobile.co.uk

Ideal for those in dire need of an upgrade, but don't fancy forking over hundreds - the iPhone 12 mini is the perfect, environmentally friendly option for you. Perfectly refurbished to ensure excellent performance without any signs of wear and tear, Loop Mobile provides users with a terrific 12-month warranty on purchased devices, so should any faults occur, they've got you covered.

Brilliantly designed to fit comfortably in the hand, in large part thanks to its 5.4-inch design which fits well in hand compared to larger flagship models, the iPhone 12 mini packs a lot of power into its smallish design.

Where performance is concerned, the iPhone mini 12 has an A14 Bionic Chip alongside 256GB of storage, making it an excellent choice for speedy navigation, solid gaming and plenty of room to store a library's worth of photos.

Speaking of photography, while it might not sound particularly impressive looking at its specifications, the iPhone 12 mini's camera is solid and is well-enhanced with Apple's brilliant lenses and post-processing technology.

Ideal for those in dire need of an upgrade, but don't fancy forking over hundreds - the iPhone 12 mini is the perfect, environmentally friendly option for you. Perfectly refurbished to ensure excellent performance without any signs of wear and tear, Loop Mobile provides users with a terrific 12-month warranty on purchased devices, so should any faults occur, they've got you covered.

Brilliantly designed to fit comfortably in the hand, in large part thanks to its 5.4-inch design which fits well in hand compared to larger flagship models, the iPhone 12 mini packs a lot of power into its smallish design.

Where performance is concerned, the iPhone mini 12 has an A14 Bionic Chip alongside 256GB of storage, making it an excellent choice for speedy navigation, solid gaming and plenty of room to store a library's worth of photos.

Speaking of photography, while it might not sound particularly impressive looking at its specifications, the iPhone 12 mini's camera is solid and is well-enhanced with Apple's brilliant lenses and post-processing technology.

Paired with Loop Mobile's excellent refurbishment, its small carbon footprint, and overall excellent performance, the iPhone 12 mini is a sincerely brilliant choice for those looking for a cheap upgrade that'll last you a long time.

Pros

  • Excellent value iPhone
  • Great refurbished quality with a 12-month guarantee
  • Beautifully designed and powerful

Cons

  • Performance isn't as exceptional as higher-end Apple iPhones

The best environmentally friendly phones: buyer's guide

Best environmentally friendly phones
©George Dolgikh/Pexels

Why choose an environmentally friendly phone?

Choosing an environmentally friendly phone is beneficial in several ways, not only to the environment but also to your user experience.

The modern smartphone industry is populated with metals and materials that are made cheaply and unsustainably, the toll of extracting these rare materials on the environment is catastrophic.

OpenMind BBVA estimates that a staggering 3.5 billion people own a smartphone, and with their manufacturing process requiring countless precious metals that are in low supply, there's a huge amount of environmental damage produced, not only from excavation but also from the production of greenhouse gases.

Choosing an environmentally friendly phone means you've picked a phone made of sustainably resourced materials at a significantly lower cost to the environment than your typical phone.

What's more, environmentally friendly phones are built with longevity in mind: their designs are tougher, their battery life is more efficient, and they can be repaired more easily, so you get more out of your money.

Main features of environmentally friendly phones:

Sustainability:

The sustainability of a smartphone largely revolves around the usage of recycled or environmentally safe materials that are suitable for disposal in the future. Many modern phones use recycled aluminium to create a phone chassis, as well as plastics that are used for backing.

Energy efficiency:

A phone's energy efficiency leaves a large long-term impact on the environment and saves users from repeatedly charging their phones throughout the day. An energy-efficient smartphone uses less power to perform its functions, leading to longer battery life - which is great for both you and the environment.

Longevity and repairability:

Two crucial aspects of environmentally friendly phones, yet often overlooked: longevity refers to the build quality of the phone itself, how well it can survive damage, as well as its tested resistances against water and dust. A phone with great longevity ensures that it's less likely to need repairs or disposal whatsoever.

Repairability is how well an item can be repaired, and it's a growing market in the smartphone industry. Many pricier phones have curved screens, patented technologies and other such practices that make it impossible to repair without ordering components from the manufacturer themselves. With phones beginning to use home repair designs, users can buy and replace broken components with ease, reducing waste and the need to upgrade massively.

Recyclability:

Recyclability refers to how well a phone can be recycled when disposed of at the end of its lifecycle. If a phone has great recyclability, its components can be taken, refurbished and used in repaired phones, thus boosting the phone's lifecycle.

If its components aren't salvageable, a great environmentally friendly smartphone should have plenty of components to recycle, where the metals can be used to create new phones.

Certifications:

Many phones are environmentally certified, that is they are recognised as having a minimal impact on the environment, here are a few examples you'd expect to find on environmentally friendly phones:

ECOLOGO - ECOLOGO are a certification program that certifies phones with excellent technological lifestyle standards.

EPEAT - Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, indicates a variety of excellent sustainable criteria, including longevity, energy conservation, material selection, and more.

Energy Star - Energy Star is typically used with appliances but often appears amongst smartphones also. A certification from Energy Star ensures that a product is indeed energy-efficient, and remains energy-efficient throughout its lifecycle.

Are environmentally friendly smartphones worse than normal phones?

A common misconception, but entirely false: environmentally friendly smartphones are designed to lessen carbon footprint and the overall damage to our environment, and by doing so - performance in many ways is improved.

A good environmentally friendly phone has longevity in mind: it's rugged and can handle a fall well enough without needing total disposal. Best of all, however, is energy efficiency: battery life lasts longer, giving you a longer-lasting phone with equal performance.

FAQs: your questions answered

The best environmentally friendly phones
©Tyler Lastovich/Pexels

Is Apple or Samsung more environmentally friendly?

Right now, the definitive winner of who is more environmentally friendly goes to Apple: its corporate operations are entirely carbon neutral, as of 2020, and it aims to be completely carbon neutral by 2030, which is a lot closer than Samsung's projected goals of 2050.

Apple's also pledged to use only recycled materials in their phones in future, whereas Samsung has pledged to begin using more recycled materials by 2025, which doesn't quite compete.

Apple phones are also considered to be more durable than Samsung phones generally, though Samsung does have the edge on battery life in general.

Which smartphone is the most environmentally friendly?

Though there's no clear winner as to which smartphone is the most environmentally friendly, the Fairphone 5 is the closest to being the very best on the market.

With excellent battery efficiency, tough components with great longevity, and a DIY repairable design, the Fairphone 5 is sustainably made, and massively reduces the waste of smartphones with its excellent modular design, and we couldn't recommend it enough.

How do I extend the life of my phone?

When purchasing a new phone, it can be easy to be blindsided by the shiny new features and technologies that you otherwise forget that, much like any technology, smartphones need to be cared for to last.

Here are just a few tips to improve the life of your phone and get the most out of it:

Maintenance and repair:

Choosing an environmentally friendly phone means that maintenance and repair is considerably easier. If you happen to have a phone with an easy-repair design, simply visit a spare parts website such as Replace Base, and find the missing parts you need.

Using repair shops is also a great option for reducing waste and the eventual need to dispose of your phone, giving you more usage in general.

Software updates:

Updating your phone's software is a crucial way of boosting performance and improving component efficiency, which can also reduce the stress on the hardware itself. To check whether your phone is up to date, go to Settings, then System, and finally Software Update, this may differ between operating systems.

Battery health:

There are several methods of improving battery health, from reducing brightness to using battery-saving modes and switching off background apps. There are many tips for improving battery life, many of which can massively improve your smartphone experience,

Responsible recycling:

When you upgrade your phone, it's ever so easy to leave it in a drawer for years upon years, where it never sees the light of day again. Don't let these precious materials go to waste, and don't bin them either.

According to Recycle Now, one of the best ways to recycle your phone is to take it to a charity shop where they can pass it on to recycling centres, where the charity can earn money and the phone can be recycled.

Our thoughts: are environmentally friendly phones worth it?

Without question, environmentally friendly phones are worth investing in for a long-lasting, high-performance smartphone experience with excellent sustainability in mind.

Our favourite environmentally friendly phones are tough, built to be repaired and manufactured using low-carbon methods, all the while paying workers a fair wage.

Affordable, durable, and powerful, there's no reason not to get an environmentally friendly phone, they're just that good.

When shopping for your future smartphone, consider looking at whether it's made using sustainable practices, designed to be repaired, or can be traded in future for an extended lifecycle.

Ryan Houghton is a commercial content writer for What’s The Best, known best for his expertise in gaming, with a particular soft spot for PC gaming, audio tech, televisions and smartphones.

Diligently writing for What’s The Best for almost two years, there are very few tech products Ryan hasn’t had his hands on to review; televisions, headphones, folding phones and even LEGO, if it’s nerdy, he’ll be there.

His well-versed history as one of the resident techies at What’s The Best has kept him keen to uncover the very best deals, savings and offers for those in need of a cracking deal to upgrade their setup.

In his downtime, Ryan most likely has his nose buried in a fantasy book, or his eyes glued to a screen whilst playing a tough-as-nails Soulslike or leisurely RPG, indulging in most forms of escapism where possible.

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