You may have noticed we spend a lot of time talking about the shrinking lifespans of our electronics. As devices get increasingly short-lived and repair options disappear, these goods are piling up in landfills in their billions.
Perhaps nothing encapsulates the issue more infamously than the smartphone. Many of us are familiar with the experience of your device slowing as soon as the warranty is up - if it makes it that far. Smartphones can be infuriatingly fragile, and repairs hair-raisingly expensive. Combined with shiny new devices being presented to us every year, it feels like we’re being strong-armed into upgrading at uncannily regular intervals.
At best, phones aren’t made to last - and there’s a strong case to say they’re designed to fail. With mobile phone owners changing up their devices about every two years on average, it’s no wonder that e-waste is fast becoming an environmental issue of staggering proportions. Globally, 350,000 phones are thrown away every day.
A new approach
Last year, we stumbled upon a snappy crowdfunding campaign offering an alternative to this madness. Enter Teracube.
Pitched as ‘the world's most reliable smartphone’, the Teracube 2e is covered by an unheard-of four year warranty. Not only is this way longer than most manufacturers will offer (usually just one year), Teracube’s smartphone warranty really goes overboard when it comes to great service. It includes free two-way shipping and an express replacement option, and repairs outside the warranty are cheap too.
Facilitating these repairs is the Teracube’s design - it’s made for disassembly, with replaceable components held together using screws instead of reams of glue (a hallmark of today’s flagship phones). A battery change is as simple as popping the back off. You can even repair the Teracube yourself, using just a screwdriver and the accessible repair guides provided.
The Teracube 2e next to its replaceable battery.
What’s more, the Teracube aims to lessen its environmental impact, and is made of 25% recycled polycarbonate. It arrives in minimal cardboard packaging, with all the extras you need and none you don’t. That means a sturdy biodegradable case and pre-fitted screen protector are included - but it doesn’t come with yet another charger for your collection.
The Teracube project, now on its second smartphone, was born from a frustration with the wastefully short life cycle of modern devices. For most manufacturers, repair is just an afterthought in a phone’s design. But the Teracube, from its build down to the warranty, is all about staying in service for as long as possible.
The Teracube comes with a super-tough biodegradable case included. Don't worry, it won't compost in your hand.
Having smashed its crowdfunding goal in just four hours, this elegant Android device is now a fully funded product and available to buy. And how much is it going to set you back? Incredibly, it costs just $199.
If that low price is making you a little cautious, we don’t blame you. With new mid-range phones setting you back around twice that amount (and flagship devices costing well over $1000), you’ll be wondering exactly where the Teracube phone cuts corners. It stands to reason that if you’re going to keep using a phone for four years and beyond, you’ll want it to be good. Never fear.
It looks just like those regular phones you throw away every 2 years.
The Teracube 2e has the sleek look and feel of a contemporary smartphone, with all the features you’d expect from a great mid-range model - plus a little more. Thanks to its Octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM, it has no trouble keeping up with heavy use, breezing through demanding multitasking and games. Its 6.1" HD+ display looks beautifully crisp even in bright sunlight, and the 4000 mAh battery can last up to two days.
It keeps all the little extras we’ve become accustomed to, such as a fingerprint sensor and facial unlocking. Oh, and Teracube love to gleefully point out that their phone has an actual headphone jack (looking at you, Apple). If you’re someone who uses their phone heavily for photography, the dual rear cameras (13 and 8 megapixels) and front camera (8) may not cut it. But if you’re just taking occasional photos and selfies to view on a phone screen, it’s very decent.
A couple of real, unedited photos taken with the Teracube 2e.
If you want a closer look, here’s the full lowdown on the Teracube 2e’s specs:
Operating system - Stock Android 10.0, no bloatware and at least 3 years’ software updates guaranteed
Processor - MediaTek Helio A25, Octa-core processor 1.8Ghz
RAM - 4GB
Memory - 64GB internal storage, with microSD/dual SIM tray
Screen - 6.1" HD+ IPS Display (720 x 1560)
Cameras - 13 and 8 megapixel dual rear cameras, 8 megapixel front camera
Battery - 4000mAh replaceable lithium-ion battery
Security - PIN, pattern, fingerprint, face unlock
Connectivity - WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, FM, NFC
Ports - Headphone jack, USB-C port, Hybrid Dual SIM and Micro SD slots. Please note: USB-C PD chargers cannot be used with this device. Charge the Teracube 2e with a USB-C to USB-A charger.
Size - 155.2mm x 73.3mm x 10.1mm
Weight - 190g
Network - Dual SIM, 4G (LTE)
USA Carriers - T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile, AT&T, Simple Mobile, Speedtalk Mobile, Ultra Mobile, Red Pocket Mobile, Ting, Tempo, Walmart Family Mobile, Pure TalkUSA, Straight Talk.
Overall, the Teracube punches far above its price point. Having used it for several weeks, we can confidently say that most will find it an outstanding mid-range device. If you’re accustomed to having the latest iPhone, Google or Samsung models, you’re likely to miss things like wireless charging or a cutting-edge camera. But if you’re a casual phone user looking for incredible value for money and a more environmentally responsible choice, the Teracube is a real standout option.
4 year warranty, DIY repairable and made with sustainable materials. And it's just a really good phone.
The Teracube community
One of the great unexpected benefits we found from using the Teracube was the community of other users, in the form of an online forum. Here you can get swift technical support, as well as give feedback and suggestions straight to Teracube’s founders (who are actually active posters). What other smartphone can give you a direct line to the person who developed it?
The future of sustainable phones
When people talk about a ‘sustainable smartphone’, or any eco friendly product, usually what comes to mind is green materials and production. What Teracube acknowledges is that the best step forward towards a truly sustainable smartphone industry is to actually extend the life of devices.
Nathan Proctor, director of the U.S. PIRG's Campaign for the Right to Repair, has pointed out the benefits of simply keeping our phones in use. "The rate at which we're replacing those phones [...] is a really urgent environmental concern, so the most important thing that we can do is use our phones for a lot longer," Proctor says. "That has not been a real, principal objective of some of the major cell phone manufacturers."
If just a small proportion of consumers start looking for reliability, this plucky tech startup is on a strong path towards rocking the boat of the entire smartphone industry. This is why Teracube’s incredibly attractive price - for both the device and future repairs - is no accident. They want to provide an accessible offering that’s open to as many people as possible, and grow a community who are in it for the long term.
A long-lasting phone is better for your pocket, and better for the planet. It’s a practical choice for practical people. Teracube is daring to do things differently to the big tech companies, by putting customers and the planet first - and we reckon that’s worth buying into.