Fairphone 2
With just a small screwdriver, most major parts of the Fairphone 2 can be removed and replaced IBTimes UK

It only takes a short ride on the London Underground to realise how many people are soldiering on with smartphones covered in broken glass, their screens smashed into a thousand pieces. Months away from contract renewal day, and with tiny shards of glass lodged into their fingers, these people can't face a three figure repair bill.

But it doesn't have to be this way, and a new company called Fairphone knows it. The Fairphone 2 has a screen which can be replaced by the user (without causing damage to themselves or the warranty) in a couple of minutes.

What's more, some internal components like the front and rear cameras, speaker and microphone can all be replaced with newer, better versions for a fraction of the cost of a new phone. Clearly, as I reach for the screwdriver, you will have worked out this review will be unlike any other.

Fairphone 2
The screen of a Fairphone 2 costs £18 and can be replaced (without the screwdriver) in two minutes. IBTimes UK

Is it really that easy to replace the screen?

Yes. In fact, the trickiest bit is getting the rubberised plastic cover off the back. There's no real mechanism here, it's just a very tight fit with quite sharp edges. However, once you've prised it off the modularity of the Fairphone 2 comes to the fore. Each component is clearly labelled with an icon and an arrow, and it is clear which parts are supposed to be removed (screwed) and which are not (riveted into place).

Pop out the battery, slide two blue locking tabs, then slide the screen off. It really is as easy as that, and at no point did I worry I might break something. A replacement screen then slots into place and it's a simple a case of sliding the blue tabs, putting the battery back in and reattaching the back cover.

To show just how easy it is to dismantle the Fairphone 2, here is a video of me doing exactly that:

And here is me putting it back together again, with that same Christmas cracker screwdriver:

I have a screwdriver, what else can I do?

Replacing the screen requires nothing but your eyes and fingers. Grab yourself a screwdriver – I literally used one from a Christmas cracker – and you can do a whole lot more. Once you have slid the screen off, a further three components can be taken off; these are the front camera, rear camera and a part which includes the speaker, microphone and microUSB port.

In the near future, Fairphone hopes, these modules will all be replaceable with upgraded versions. Improving the phone's camera, battery life, screen or sound quality could take just a few minutes.

For now, the idea of upgrading your phone in a few minutes is a concept Fairphone is still working on. But repairing a broken or worn out part is now possible, with the company's online store selling the battery for €21 (£16) and replacement screens for €85.70.

Fairphone 2
Once assembled, the Fairphone 2 looks and acts much like any other Android smartphone IBTimes UK

What is the Fairphone 2 like at just being a phone?

Fix all the pieces back together, put the screwdriver into that draw full of cables and flat batteries, and switch the Fairphone 2 on. What's it like?

It looks, feels and performs much like any other Android you have ever used. There are a couple of user interface design quirks to set it apart, but it runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and will therefore be familiar to many. The phone has a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage, and 4G internet. The camera resolutions are eight megapixels on the back and 2MP on the front, while the 5in screen is 1080 x 1920 and has a pixel density of 446 pixels per inch.

Fairphone 2
It isn't the most attractive or compact phone on sale. but it is by far the cheapest and easiest to fix IBTimes UK

This all adds up to a phone which is fairly decent. It won't blow you away by any means, but it doesn't feel like a product which has been crippled in order to make its unique selling point work properly. The ability to disassemble is the most important feature, but nailing this hasn't led to too many shortcuts elsewhere.

A phone costing €525 (£400) should perform a little better than the Fairphone 2 does, but it doesn't cost as much as the Galaxy S6 did when that was new, so you shouldn't expect it to impress in the same way.

The Verdict

Fairphone 2 (6/10)

I suspect few people know or care where parts of their phone come from, so the ethical positives of the Fairphone 2 are going to be a tough sell at £400. A year-old or second-hand iPhone or Samsung Galaxy would be a better buy. But, for those who are more passionate about ethics and the environment than the iPhone-buying masses, there is no better way to show you care than buying this phone.

On a practical note, Fairphone has demonstrated how smartphones can have easily replaceable screens. No, it isn't as thin as an iPhone and no, it isn't curved and pretty like a Galaxy S6 Edge, but it costs just a few pounds to buy a new screen and two minutes to fit it yourself. If this isn't a lesson for other manufacturers to learn from, then I don't know what is.