How long does a smartphone last?



  • My smartphone is starting to behave more and more erratically (screen sometimes fails to turn on, some apps crash randomly and other symptoms), which I figure isn't too surprising given it's a cheap one that I bought more than 3 years ago. So I'm starting to think about getting a new one. The thing is, a phone for me is a convenience object, not a status symbol or peen-substitute. I don't care about having the most recent one, most powerful one, most shiny or expensive one or whatever. I want something that works. My current low-end-3-years-old phone would be perfect for me, if it wasn't broken.

    And therefore, I get to wonder which quality range I should target? I know that the cheap one I currently have is breaking down after roughly 3 years. Would a more expensive one, generally speaking, have any chance of lasting longer? Since all I see in ads, mobile phone shops etc. is about getting the latest model, changing your phone every 2 years max, I assume that even high-end models are simply not designed to last more than that?

    I'm not asking for specific brand/models suggestions (although if you have some, why not), but more a general idea of whether there is any chance to find a smartphone that would last more than 2-3 years and whether a high-end model is more likely to last more than a low-end one.

    (I had, and still have in some cupboard, some dumb phones like some much-revered Nokias, that worked for 5-10 years and probably still work, but here I'm talking something that can reasonably be used to read emails, get maps & directions and so on...)


  • SockDev

    in my esperience the chea ones last between 12 and 18 months, and the flagships last more or less as long as you want them to, though you're probably goung to upgrade every 24 months or so because you spent the cash for a flagship to have a flagship right? you're not going to let there be better phones than yours our there are you?

    😉


  • :belt_onion:

    How long does a smartphone last?

    Have you tried Yahoo Answers?


  • kills Dumbledore

    IME, it's the batteries that go. I've had my mid range phone about 18 months and the battery life isn't what it was although it's still plenty for my uses. Phones with a removable battery are therefore able to be eked out for longer.

    After that, it's charger ports that die. Mostly because Micro USB is an awful port that I can't wait to see die. I think my next phone upgrade will be once the non flagships start to adopt USB C

    I had a Galaxy S2 that I bought when it was top of the range brand new OMG your phone has TWO cores!, and that lasted about 3 years before getting dodgy. I then went to a first generation Moto G which was killed by being stuck for ages on that Android version that had a massive memory leak. After I bought my current phone, there was an update to the G and it now works fine running a white noise app in my daughter's bedroom. That must be 4 or 5 years old now



  • @remi said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Would a more expensive one, generally speaking, have any chance of lasting longer?

    From the ones I used, not really. The problems are the same for all: batteries getting bad, glass breaking, you losing the phone or getting robbed, etc. If it's in the extreme low-end some apps like waze may be "updated" to be to heavy for it. But a medium and a high-end would be the same.



  • @El_Heffe said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    How long does a smartphone last?

    Have you tried Yahoo Answers?

    @El_Heffe Why, is he looking to know if the smartphone has gotten him pregnant?



  • I kept mine for 6 years, before tiring of the broken glass (which happened less than a year after I bought it) and random need to restart it. I bought a low-end one last week.



  • Last time I managed to find some info on that, the absolute best Android phones received security updates for a whopping... 2 years.

    So that's what Google seems to assume.



  • @Khudzlin said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    I kept mine for 6 years

    Jeff Atwood would have a stroke if he read this.

    You sir are responsible for holding web forums back!


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Jaloopa said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    I think my next phone upgrade will be once the non flagships start to adopt USB C

    My (very much!) non-flagship phone has USB-C. The phone is nearly a year old. Why would you have to wait?



  • @anonymous234 I don't post on webforums from my phone. And there are only a handful of forums (this one is not among them) I will even consult from my phone.


  • kills Dumbledore

    @dkf said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Why would you have to wait?

    Because I don't keep up with phone news any more and I've only recently seen nexus/pixel phones have C as a selling point, so assumed it was still working its way down to the lower end.

    Also, my phone is still perfectly usable so I'll keep it until the uUSB port gets too annoying to carry on with it.



  • @thegoryone said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    @El_Heffe said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    How long does a smartphone last?

    Have you tried Yahoo Answers?

    @El_Heffe Why, is he looking to know if the smartphone has gotten him pregnant?


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    In any case, my previous phone lasted about 2.5 years or so, with the limiting factor being the (tiny) size of the application partition. I'm expecting my current phone to do a bit more than that; unless it has an accident, it'll probably be limited by the battery.


  • Fake News

    @remi Many of the pricier smartphones can last quite a long time, especially if you can replace the battery (some soldering experience may be required). The big problem nowadays is the phase-out of mobile radio frequency bands; as mobile networks bring new frequency bands online that support higher throughput, they're gradually shutting off older ones that don't. And, of course, it's difficult if not impossible to switch out your phone's radio chip(s). So, at some point, as "healthy" as your phone might be, it'll turn into a paperweight. The trick is to get one that has all the features you want and will last a long time with a bit of TLC, but isn't so expensive that you regret the purchase when it won't connect to any mobile networks anymore and you need to buy a new one.



  • @lolwhat I'm not quite convinced by frequency bands argument, since I've got some old Nokias or similar that have been built more than 10 years ago and still work. OK, it's not 3/4/5/42/... G, but still, I would be surprised if a phone bought today would really become unusable before at least 7 to 10 years?

    Anyway, the comments until now don't convince me that forking out up to 3-4x more money will get me something that will (probably) last significantly longer. It looks like having the same phone for more than 3 years is undefined and nobody really cares about that. So I'll probably go for as cheap as the one I currently have, it'll already be miles better (not that I need it, but it's never a bad thing!) and may or may not last longer.


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @Jaloopa said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Phones with a removable battery are therefore able to be eked out for longer.

    I somewhat doubt that statement. As soon as the company stops producing the phone, it will also stop producing new batteries. So when your battery then dies a year later, the battery you'll buy from Amazon has been lying in a warehouse for at least a whole year, or even since the original release. Good luck actually getting a battery that is close to the original capacity by then.


  • kills Dumbledore

    @asdf there's a reason my replacement batteries were always additional capacity but didn't give any longer battery life than the original when it was new


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @Jaloopa My personal experience with replacement batteries for old devices is that they're way worse than the original, and sometimes borderline unusable. Which is why I've stopped caring about whether the battery is replaceable.





  • @Jaloopa said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    After that, it's charger ports that die.

    It's one of the arguments that's (IMO) in favour of wireless charging. Doesn't really fix the limited battery life-time, though.


  • :belt_onion:

    @anonymous234 said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Last time I managed to find some info on that, the absolute best Android phones received security updates for a whopping... 2 years.

    So that's what Google seems to assume.

    My Nexus 5 received updates from October 2013 to August 2016 (now I do security updates manually, but am considering new phones since no security updates == dead as far as I'm concerned).



  • Weirdly (given that's something that almost everyone mentions), in my case the battery life is not an issue. As far as I can tell, the 3 years-old battery performs more or less like when it was new, maybe a bit less but not drastically (i.e. then as now, I can go 2-3 days of light use with a full charge, more or less).

    Also, I've never had a case on my phone and didn't treat it particularly cautiously and dropped it a few times, but I never broke the glass, so that also isn't really a concern for me.


  • Dupa

    @Jaloopa said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    IME, it's the batteries that go. I've had my mid range phone about 18 months and the battery life isn't what it was although it's still plenty for my uses. Phones with a removable battery are therefore able to be eked out for longer.

    You can replace a battery in a phone that doesn't make this easy. It's just more expensive, so probably a no-go for the OP.


  • Dupa

    @heterodox said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    @anonymous234 said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Last time I managed to find some info on that, the absolute best Android phones received security updates for a whopping... 2 years.

    So that's what Google seems to assume.

    My Nexus 5 received updates from October 2013 to August 2016 (now I do security updates manually, but am considering new phones since no security updates == dead as far as I'm concerned).

    Nexus? Well, that's different.

    IIRC, google is the company that provides updates for their phones the longest. Buying a Nexus/Pixel is probably a no-go for the OP, since these are all flagships.


  • :belt_onion:

    @kt_ said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    IIRC, google is the company that provides updates for their phones the longest.

    Right. So my point to @anonymous234 was that that's not what Google seems to assume, it's what the other manufacturers seem to assume. It's not different since @anonymous234 said "The absolute best Android phones".



  • @kt_ said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Buying a Nexus/Pixel is probably a no-go for the OP, since these are all flagships.

    Well, not necessarily. I mean, I don't want to buy a flagship product, but if the consensus was that this was likely to last significantly longer than another one, I am not opposed to doing so.

    Let's say that among my criterion, the actual features that I need are in almost all smartphones (except the really, really cheap ones), so based on that, I don't need a fancy one. But I also want longevity, and if that means going to top-of-the-range, I would be ready to pay for it.



  • @anonymous234 said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Last time I managed to find some info on that, the absolute best Android phones received security updates for a whopping... 2 years.

    The one I currently have never got any update at all, so that couldn't be worse than that...



  • I got the LG G4 when it was the flagship in 8/2015. Had to send it back to LG for repairs in December.

    When Pokemon Go came out heat became an issue and I stopped using it the case. By November I dropped it enough that it broke.

    I bought a refurbished model (because I had spare batteries and chargers) that bootlooped in a little over 3 months. Bought a second refurbished one in March so I wouldn't be out a phone while LG repaired the other one.

    I'm hoping I can leapfrog the two refurbished ones for at least 18 months. I guess that is only if LG is still will to repair.

    TLDR: Between 3 and 11 months. undefined



  • @remi In my experience, it's the battery that goes first. (Not "goes" as in "dies completely", but as in "loses enough capacity that your smartphone can't go through a normal day without charging anymore.) You're also likely to drop the phone at some point and crack the screen.

    So whatever you get, get something with a replaceable battery and screen. My current phone is a Nokia Lumia 1020, it has an easily replaceable battery and screen. (I've already replaced the screen myself-- very easy, very affordable.) Obviously that's not an option if you're buying a new phone today, but just putting it out there.


  • Impossible Mission Players - A

    @Jaloopa said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    After that, it's charger ports that die. Mostly because Micro USB is an awful port that I can't wait to see die. I think my next phone upgrade will be once the non flagships start to adopt USB C

    This. So much this!

    I actually hacked in wireless charging for my phone at one point because WTF how can this be so wrong.



  • @wharrgarbl said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    If it's in the extreme low-end some apps like waze may be "updated" to be to heavy for it.

    That's a good point.

    I bought the dirt-cheap $40 Amazon Fire Android tablet specifically to play a single video game during my commute. A few months later, the video game got updated (to add integration with some horrible Google Games library/achievements system thing) and the game became virtually unplayable on the hardware I'd bought to play it.

    Still annoyed by that.


  • Impossible Mission Players - A

    @dkf said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    with the limiting factor being the (tiny) size of the application partition. I

    Also this. One of these days I'm going to flash over to llvm compatible ROM.



  • @heterodox said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    @kt_ said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    IIRC, google is the company that provides updates for their phones the longest.

    Right. So my point to @anonymous234 was that that's not what Google seems to assume, it's what the other manufacturers seem to assume. It's not different since @anonymous234 said "The absolute best Android phones".

    Nexus ones were the ones I meant by "the best Android phones" (since I meant in terms of updates).

    October 2013 to August 2016 is 2 years 10 months... that's just 10 months longer than I said, which I admit is a difference in relative terms (41% longer), but barely nothing in absolute terms.



  • I don't plan on upgrading my >4 years old Blackberry Curve any time soon. But I don't use it as a mini-tablet, it's a phone that I can receive emails on when I want to and, in a pinch, google something.

    The battery's not what it used to be, but it still lasts the best part of a week if I only turn data on when I want to check my email. No other signs of age besides some scuff marks on the case - none on the screen even with no protector - from the numerous times I've dropped it hard. This thing could go toe to toe with an old Nokia for durability.

    However, I suspect you all have different use cases to me. You could fairly argue this isn't really a smartphone, more a hybrid of sorts.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    I get about a year before they start misbehaving, and to about the 2 year mark before I get fed up and replace it.



  • @anonymous234 🤣 " Best Answer: where do u think teletubbies came from? "



  • @remi said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Weirdly (given that's something that almost everyone mentions), in my case the battery life is not an issue.

    Nope. It's the shitty components. Over those 3 years, enough solder and heat gook has dried up and died that your phone is overheating. Engineering for long term use? 😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆 fuck you give us money


  • SockDev

    @Lorne-Kates said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    @remi said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Weirdly (given that's something that almost everyone mentions), in my case the battery life is not an issue.

    Nope. It's the shitty components. Over those 3 years, enough solder and heat gook has dried up and died that your phone is overheating. Engineering for long term use? 😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆😆 fuck you give us money

    sad, but true.

    there once was a time we built to last, but then someone figured out that it's more lucrative to build for "long enough" so that next year they can sell you the same tool again.

    generations of people, vulpune and anthropoid alike grew up and were gifted the gift of their parents tools, and could rightly expect to hand those self same tools to their children in the fullness of time, but alas, no more. now you're lucky if a tool is still fit for its purpose a year after you bought it. and forget about making your own like your grandfather did, you don't have nearly the upper body strength to be swinging that hammer about for as long as that would take, not to mention there isn't a forge within fifty miles of you in any case so you'd have ot make your own first, and to that you need to make tools, and to that you need tools to make those tools, and.... well the list of requirements goes on for a while but right at the beginning it starts with "you need to find the right kind of rocks"


  • :belt_onion:

    though i've only recently bought one of these smartphone things, i did buy 7" tablets and use them as phone-like devices.... phablets, if you will. I did not own a cellphone or portable internet device until 2011... i held out for so damn long too.

    The first was a Galaxy Tab 7 in early 2011 ($199 + $30 monthly for 2GB data i think, used free VoIP for calling) or so, and I replaced it with a Galaxy Tab 3 7.0" around August 2013 ($0 plus $17.00 monthly for 3GB data, used free VoIP for calling), which I replaced with a 6" ZTE Z-max Pro in October 2016 ($99 + $45 monthly for 4GB plus unlimited talk/text).

    So.... long story short, I guess about 2 - 3 years. Though they were really long in the tooth by 3 years and I was itching for a new one by then. The OSes have moved so fast up till now that it's hard to stay on old hardware.

    and yes, i am a cheap bastard.... in 6 years I've paid a grand total of $300 for phone-like hardware.


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @blakeyrat said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    @remi In my experience, it's the battery that goes first. (Not "goes" as in "dies completely", but as in "loses enough capacity that your smartphone can't go through a normal day without charging anymore.)

    QFT. Usually happens after about 1-3 years IME. Depends on initial capacity, battery quality, stuff like that.

    Also, @remi, you didn't mention it but I assume Android because cheap. Factory resets can fix a lot of software problems and give you an almost-new device experience (assuming no internal hardware failure). It's a pain to do, especially on older Android versions because you've gotta reinstall all your stuff, but before throwing a phone away I always recommend a reset just to see if it fixes stuff.

    Also, (WARNING: anecdotes), IME, what falls when depends heavily on your manufacturer and their build quality. While the battery will bite everyone, if it's a super cheap phone, other things may fail far before the battery. As long as you're not buying absolutely bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, you'll probably hit that battery wall before anything else. If, on the other hand, you're buying Samsung Galaxy Desire 4G Charge Ultra-Subsidized Carrier Edition with ad-supported lock screen... Other stuff might die first. Flash chips in particular can degrade and make the entire phone hopelessly slow, even after getting wiped.

    I usually buy a slightly older flagship (Nexus/Pixel now, used to be Motorola before Lenovo...) and I use it for 2-3 years as my daily. After then it usually starts to become a little too slow and battery doesn't last near a day, so it's retired into backup duty. It only starts being totally unusable after about 5-6 years, usually because the OS is so hilariously out of date that nothing works on it.


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @remi said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    @kt_ said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Buying a Nexus/Pixel is probably a no-go for the OP, since these are all flagships.

    Well, not necessarily. I mean, I don't want to buy a flagship product, but if the consensus was that this was likely to last significantly longer than another one, I am not opposed to doing so.

    Let's say that among my criterion, the actual features that I need are in almost all smartphones (except the really, really cheap ones), so based on that, I don't need a fancy one. But I also want longevity, and if that means going to top-of-the-range, I would be ready to pay for it.

    You can probably get a Nexus to last 4-5 years. Maybe the same with the Pixel, but tbh I have to downgrade it a little due to that overheating sound board failure thing. That's bitten my mom's phone twice now, waiting on the RMA for it now, and just the other day mine started acting up... My nexxii have been solid though, and assuming nothing drastic happens, they should last you a while.


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @remi said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    Also, I've never had a case on my phone and didn't treat it particularly cautiously and dropped it a few times, but I never broke the glass, so that also isn't really a concern for me.

    Also, fwiw, going caseless can be a gamble with fate. Cases cause the phone to run warmer, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the case is the cause for the failure I mentioned above. Especially if you're getting cheaper phones with bad build quality, you've gotta watch the temps.

    On the other hand, cases make it much more likely that you'll shatter the screen. So it's a fun gamble... Do ya feel lucky, punk?



  • My Nexus 4 has Android 5. I still use it whenever I'm in a situation where it has a higher risk of breaking, as the touchscreen is already partially broken. My Nexus 7 (2013) has Android 6 but still mostly serviceable. Both of those received official updates for ~3 years after release, and if I want both of them updated to Android 7 I just need to install CyanogenModLineage on them. So at least the N7 could be used for a couple more years running latest Android. So it really ends up getting to the point where they are too slow and/or too broken to keep using really.



  • @blakeyrat said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    @remi In my experience, it's the battery that goes first. (Not "goes" as in "dies completely", but as in "loses enough capacity that your smartphone can't go through a normal day without charging anymore.) You're also likely to drop the phone at some point and crack the screen.

    Yet my own personal experience with my current phone is that the battery still performs OK after 3 years, and I didn't break the screen either (nor did I break any of the phones I had in the years before). Sure, tomorrow might be the day I will drop it once too many and it will shatter, but still, that doesn't really makes me put these issues at the top of my list.

    So whatever you get, get something with a replaceable battery and screen.

    If I go for something slightly expensive, that is a very good remark, thanks! If I go for a cheap model, I'm not sure it would really be worth worrying about that.

    @wharrgarbl said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    some apps like waze may be "updated" to be to heavy for it.

    That might be an issue in the long term, yes, since even apps that start light (I'm not playing 3D games on my phone) might end up dragging useless stuff or rely on newer OS features for convenience. I would say that this is a good reason to go for something a bit beefy (like I tend to do with desktop computers, and for that exact reason), although I wonder if at some point the limiting factor might not be the OS version rather than the phone hardware? (i.e. will an app be incompatible with the last OS update I can get before or after the app becomes too heavy for the hardware?)

    @accalia said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    there once was a time we built to last, but then someone figured out that it's more lucrative to build for "long enough" so that next year they can sell you the same tool again.

    To be honest, there is such a speed of change in this market (i.e. models from today are so much better in terms of hardware than models of 5 years ago) that a device-maker would have no chance of selling a given device for more than 2-3 years anyway. So they have little to no incentive in making sure that the device will last longer. People like me, who value durability above almost everything else (including features) and are ready to pay a significant premium for it, are probably such a tiny sliver of the market that they're not really worth considering.

    OK, to summarize, everyone seems to agree that 3 years is a reasonable average life expectancy for a phone, whatever the model, price etc. and there is no surefire way of getting a significantly longer life (you might extend it by changing the battery as it's likely to be the first thing to fail, but other bits (including OS/app updates or such) are about as likely to fail around that age as well).



  • @karla said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    I got the LG G4 when it was the flagship in 8/2015. Had to send it back to LG for repairs in December.

    When Pokemon Go came out heat became an issue and I stopped using it the case. By November I dropped it enough that it broke.

    I bought a refurbished model (because I had spare batteries and chargers) that bootlooped in a little over 3 months. Bought a second refurbished one in March so I wouldn't be out a phone while LG repaired the other one.

    I'm hoping I can leapfrog the two refurbished ones for at least 18 months. I guess that is only if LG is still will to repair.

    TLDR: Between 3 and 11 months. undefined

    My third LG G4 just bootlooped. A little over 4 months. The second one was repaired by LG so now I go back to that.



  • My Lumia Icon is still going strong after at least 3 years. The only problem is that the power cord doesnt stay in well, but since Microsoft won't release a new phone and Verizon hates Windows, I'll just deal with it for probably another year.



  • @magus said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    My Lumia Icon is still going strong after at least 3 years. The only problem is that the power cord doesnt stay in well, but since Microsoft won't release a new phone and Verizon hates Windows, I'll just deal with it for probably another year.

    My husband's LG Curve has lasted that long. And doesn't seem to have the heat problems I have.



  • @karla This one heats up a lot, but heat output is directly proportional to battery drain rate, so never for long.



  • @karla said in How long does a smartphone last?:

    My third LG G4 just bootlooped. A little over 4 months. The second one was repaired by LG so now I go back to that.

    I'm sensing a pattern...
    As much as we love to riff on Samsung, I haven't had any issues with my (old) S4mini and (current) S7. (I replace after 2 yrs - because that's what our company will pay for)


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