People tend to handle phone upgrades differently. Some line up overnight to pick up the latest iPhone at release, while others prefer to hold onto their old racket for as long as possible. But nothing lasts forever, so when is the time to ditch your old phone and go for a new one?
It is clear that a modern smartphone should last more than a year, and there is not much jump between generations. So you will never need to buy a new version of your device every time one is released. But there will come a point where you should consider getting something new. Not doing so could annoy you, make you miss the latest apps, and even leave you vulnerable to security risks.
Security is your main concern
While the other points in this article may lead to some inconvenience, or even involve a situation where you essentially don’t own a phone, security is the most important issue when it comes to phone upgrades. After your phone is released, its operating system will receive updates for a few years, and those updates tend to come with a lot of notable features.
It will stop eventually, and that may be because the newer OS is too demanding for your phone to handle, but Security Updates may stick around for much longer. These updates patch vulnerabilities and eliminate bugs in your phone’s code that hackers can exploit.
Smartphones are used for more than just calling and texting these days. If you use your phone to shop, bank, or transfer money, a security flaw can lead to your accounts being compromised. So if your phone is no longer receiving security updates, you either need to change the way you use it or buy something new.
Battery life can cause problems
Batteries degrade over time. While you may have been out for a day or two from your device, a few years of use may leave it unable to last more than a few hours. Many factors cause a battery to deteriorate, but the most common factor is simply charging and draining the battery frequently.
Your phone will likely be in constant use, so it will go through more charge cycles than other devices. It’s also something people tend to take with them, which increases their chances of being exposed to extreme temperatures. To top it all off, it’s something you look at and use a lot, so battery degradation will be more noticeable. Battery degradation issue and its solutions overlap with another common problem.
If your phone is damaged, consider dumping it
Like batteries, something like a cracked screen is a huge problem. A nasty drop or scratch can basically leave you writing on a glass cheese grater — so something needs to be done about it.
With broken or degraded parts, such as screens and batteries, repair is an option. You can pay to have the phone’s battery or screen replaced, and if you’re working more actively, you can even replace it yourself. The right to reform the legislation, if it is reached, will only make things easier. Companies like Samsung are also ahead of the curve and offer home repair software.
This makes sense on a newer phone, where the screen or battery is much cheaper than the device itself. However, if your phone is getting old, you’re splurging to keep the borderline-outdated device longer. It might be best to treat the repair costs as a kind of discount on a new device and put the money toward a new phone. If your phone was working fine before the fall or the battery deteriorated, and it’s still receiving updates, consider getting it repaired. But it frustrated you before you even broke it, and actually stopped getting security updates; It’s time to replace it.
Your operating system is outdated, and nothing works with it anymore
Before security issues start to show up, you will likely be cut off from general operating systems updates. While at first this means you’ll miss out on some new features – as the OS version you’re stuck with progresses, you’ll start to notice more issues.
Application developers tend to target their products at the majority of phone users, and the majority of users keep up to date with the latest versions of operating systems. Developing versions of the application that are compatible with older operating systems requires resources and brings few rewards. So eventually, your favorite apps may stop working or not allow you to update, and many new apps will be out of bounds.
Likewise, accessories such as earphones, hearing aids, smart devices, and even electric toothbrushes are designed to work with newer devices. So your phone may not be able to interact with new physical objects either. An old smartphone gets less “smart” over time.
Modern materials are much better
We may have reached a point where year-to-year upgrades are minimal, and even the two-year smartphone upgrade cycle of many carriers is excessive. But we are still in a period of rapid technological advancement, and this technology is already leaking.
If you bought a flagship phone a few years ago, today’s mid-range devices may be much better. Even low-end devices are arguably better in terms of computing power than the flagships from three or four years ago. So if your phone seems sluggish after four years, you’re not looking for a four-figure sum for something modern. You can upgrade to something more powerful for a few hundred dollars.
You are on an old level
Standards change every few years, and this leads to issues for devices that are left behind. The majority of Android phones used to charge via a Micro USB cable, and older iPhones used a 30-pin connector to charge and interact with other devices. Android devices now tend to use USB-C, and Apple devices rely on the lightning cable (at least for a little while longer).
This causes problems if you are using an older device and vital parts like charging cables are getting old. It becomes more difficult and more expensive to replace them; You can’t just head to a gas station to buy one. Instead, they are very slowly becoming specialized in online orders. If you’re out and about with a low battery, you have a reasonable chance of being able to borrow an iPhone charger, but the chances of you talking to someone with a 30-pin connector on their person are slim.
It’s not just phones either. I’ve really considered replacing a perfectly working Xbox console and several power banks because Micro USB cables are on the endangered list in my house. I got to about four, and things get damaged/lost all the time. I don’t even know how many USB-C cables I have. But they come with everything, so I’m pretty sure I can tie my kit together and moon rope it at this point.
There is another way
Modular smartphones are based on ideas of repairability and upgradeability. broke your screen? Just buy a new one and exchange it. Need a better camera? You can buy one of those and stick it in there, too. Is everyone using a new cable to charge their phone? Just get a new charging port. Parts are available cheaply, and the phones are designed to make at-home repair as easy as possible.
Fairphone is the leading brand of modular phones, and they have a subscription plan that will send you new parts that you can upgrade your phone with and replacement parts for the ones that break. The subscription plan is based on keeping your phone for as long as possible, and its price drops over time. Unfortunately, Fairphone isn’t widely available in the US yet. We hope that changes.
If you want to keep a phone for many years, a modular system is the way forward. You don’t have to worry about any of the things I mentioned in this article. If a modular system doesn’t seem right to you, traditional upgrades are still an option. Just make sure you’re not using a jailbroken phone with an outdated operating system and 30 minutes of battery life.
Several factors come into play in determining whether or not to upgrade. If your phone is only three years old, you’re better off having a screen or battery replaced than buying a new phone. But if the screen is smashed, the battery is failing, and it’s not powerful enough to run the latest version of iOS or Android, you’d better put that repair money into a new phone.
Your current financial circumstances and what you actually need the phone for also play a role. If pulling a few hundred dollars out of your pocket is important, you might be able to get a $20 power bank and use it as a way to preserve an old phone with a failing battery until you can upgrade. If you only use your phone for calling and texting, not being able to download new apps won’t be a big deal and you can keep that phone running longer. Finally, if you’re looking for a middle ground, a used smartphone can be a great way to get plenty on a tight budget.