With smartphones being launched by nondescript, no-name companies every week, there is temptation around every corner to dump your existing smartphone for a newer model or buy your first smartphone for cheap. More often than not, these smartphones end up performing badly after a few weeks.
The smartphone explosion has also resulted in the average price for smartphones dropping drastically over the past year or so, making it easier for customers to move on from one smartphone to another. It's not difficult falling for the temptation of an upgrade instead of making the most of your current smartphone, given the plethora of options. But ideally speaking, how long should a smartphone last you?
Nexus devices are a somewhat safe bet when looking for a "future-proof" smartphone
This may sound like a sermon, but bear with me.
I think if you are not buying a smartphone with the intention of holding on to it for at least 15-18 months, you are doing things very badly. Sure, you are the king of the hill, top of the heap and can afford every iPhone or Samsung Galaxy flagship right on release date, but if you think about it, it's kind of irresponsible. Sure, it's always easy to fall for the temptation of buying a phone every 8 months or a year, but think about the fallout, the collateral damage along the way.
It's not getting any easier in parts of the world where conflict minerals used in smartphones (and many other electronic devices) have wrecked havoc on everyday life. Add to that the fact that recycling older smartphones is a challenge that has not yet fully emerged from the depths. Soon, we might have stockpiled enough discarded Samsung phones to call it a galaxy. Thirdly, why drop a wad (or even a smaller pile) of cash on a phone that might not be everything you want it to be, every few months? These aren't the most bullish times either for wanton spending and your technological craving will always be one step ahead of what's available in the market.
So the next time you are thinking about an upgrade or a new smartphone, ask yourself whether you really need it. Or if it's just a vanity purchase.
I totally agree with Nikhil S. The collateral damage is ridiculously high in terms of electronic waste and other hazards that come along with the manufacturing and disposal. However, the manufacturers of the devices should have a firsthand implementation on the very thought and the governing bodies should implement rules based on this factor. According to me, a smartphone if taken good care of, should and will suffice a person for at least two years if not more. For example, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc I bought in 2011 is still my primary phone. It fulfils my needs for making calls, sending text messages, browsing the Internet and working on emails. The display is large enough for my needs and the handset has given me no trouble till date. A faster phone is definitely my desire, but I still don’t find the need for something that is faster than what I presently have. The speed of the existing handset is still better than the Internet bandwidth available till date. As far as gaming is concerned, how long does a gamer use his device for—an hour or two at the most? And if he is rich enough to afford one, the price of a superfast flagship phone will be no object.
I know of two types of users who need a smartphone—one who wants to use his phone for daily work like documents, Internet surfing , calls, text and emails and the second one who just doesn’t want to be caught dead using an old phone. Well the second type may be rich, but foolish enough to help manufacturers milk them dry. What flagship models feature are barely used in everyday life. Features such as the second camera, NFC, GPS, full HD display and a few others are just gimmicks by the manufacturer to help people flaunt their new phones. Can one use the NFC for any productivity as of now? Do you actually enjoy full HD videos on a 5-inch display? Do you use your GPS to get around town every day? Do you connect your handset to your TV to watch videos that often? Then why opt for something that you “might” use someday? I believe, a single core phone can do 90 percent of the jobs an 8-core Galaxy S4 can do today. So why opt for a new phone when your older one can suffice? What makes a user opt for a new phone today is the feeble chassis that tends to get tarnished or even break easily, especially the display screen which is most expensive.
I strongly would like to urge smartphone companies to develop phones that can be upgraded like a desktop PC rather than make it obsolete within a few months. I know this is too much to ask, but why not make phones that can have easily replaceable chassis and display screens by which a user can simply change the look of the phone and make him feel that he has a new one.
Flagships stay relevant only for a few months till rumours leak about its successor in the works
I think a good smartphone should ideally last you a good 18-24 months at the very least. I feel that gives you enough time with the device and you are ready for the newer upgraded OS and the features which may come along with that ecosystem. If the device conks off (without any valid reason) before that, I would have serious doubts about getting a future device from that same brand.
The two-year duration may seem too over the top for a lot of you, specially considering the pace at which smartphones are coming out these days. The sheer number of options per brand, average price of the handsets coming down bundled with the option to buy a phone at interest free EMI options are motivating factors for quicker smartphone replacement. Another interesting trend which I have noticed for sometime now, is that a lot of mobile phone shops are willing to offer you heavy discounts on newer models provided you sell your current model - which may have more buyers looking for a great deal.
Any way you look at it, the market is set in such a way that a user will be quite tempted to replace his or her current smartphone much before it completely dies out. Whether to relent to that temptation is a call everyone will have to take for themselves. But before you go on a smartphone shopping spree every six months, spare a thought for the environment and disposing off your current cellphone in an eco-friendly way. If it's working, it's best to donate it to someone who could have use for the device that you consider useless.
I think it all depends on how long it serves your purpose. If you're not a heavy app user then even a phone running Froyo or WP7 is still relevant today and will be for you till it finally kicks the bucket. I feel a smartphone should give you at least two years of uncompromising service and by that I mean the ability to enjoy most (if not all) popular apps the way it was intended. Most people have specific criteria or needs in mind before taking the plunge so it's important to pick a phone that meets and possibly exceeds those needs so you don't feel shortchanged a year down the line.
It's been a little more than a year for my Galaxy Nexus and even though it's starting to show signs of aging, I wouldn't swap it for anything because it fulfills all my needs. At the rate at which OEMs are churning out smartphones, nothing is future-proof anymore and simply take what you can afford and stick with it for as long as you can.
Have your say: How long would you typically use your smartphone for before the urge kicks in to upgrade?