Do you really need to upgrade your smartphone every year?

According to Apple, Samsung and many other brands, this year’s smartphones are exponentially better than their predecessors. But what would we really miss by not upgrading?

Do you really need to upgrade your smartphone every year?
upgrade your smartphone 010

Time for an upgrade?

There is no denying that mobile devices have come a long way in the past decade. Ten years ago, we were marveling at the newly launched App Store. Back then, reviewers were going wild for the iPhone 3G. When you consider that device had only 128MB of memory and a 2MP camera, it’s easy to see how far smartphones have progressed. But has that rate of progress slowed over time? Does 2018’s Samsung Galaxy provide an extraordinary improvement over the 2017 version? We decided to weigh up the pros and cons of upgrading your phone.

upgrade your smartphone 07

Love at first sight

The backstory

It’s easy to forget that this yearly upgrade cycle is still a new idea. Until smartphones burst onto the scene, manufacturers would take their time in designing new devices. It was only when Apple discovered an insatiable appetite for brand new mobile technology that the restlessness began.

upgrade your smartphone 09

RIP 2017 phone

Initially, there seemed some sense in upgrading every year. The first few iPhones were priced at $300 or less, and each new model provided a raft of new features. But as time has passed, the cycle has become habitual rather than necessary. In addition, the prices have tripled.

Notable improvements

Of course, there are some reasons why you might want to upgrade. Many of the improvements we see in phones nowadays come through software updates. To run the latest software, you need a phone with sufficient computing power. While most manufacturers will support older handsets for a few years, swishy graphics and multitasking features may slow down.

upgrade your smartphone 03

The latest software

It was only a few months ago that Apple got into trouble for reducing the speed of older devices. While many people suggested this was a cynical marketing ploy, there is a sound technical basis for the policy.

As your battery grows old, the only way to keep your phone going is by reducing the CPU speed. As older devices have less power to start with, the downward spiral can take hold at alarming speed.

upgrade your smartphone 08

Rapid decline

So, should you upgrade your smartphone?

Let’s assume that, at some point in the future, you will want to replace your current phone. When should you make the change? If you want the latest features, obviously you will need to keep upgrading every year. However, this comes at an eye-watering price when you’re switching from one flagship device to the next.

upgrade your smartphone 01

Beautiful…but expensive

In some ways, it might make more sense to upgrade between mid-range models. These phones offer the same software features and much of the same processing power at a more affordable price. Many folks are also now turning to refurbished phones for better value.

upgrade your smartphone 06

Refurbished phones are selling well

There has been some suggestion that modular, upgradable phones may provide an alternative to the constant upgrade cycle. Phonebloks led the way back in 2013 — but after the project was first subsumed and then canceled by Google, the modular idea has somewhat slipped away.

Market research suggests that a growing number of people don’t want to upgrade at all. While half of iPhone owners plan to upgrade at the end of their contract, only 40% of Android users will follow suit. Just 2–3% of smartphone owners actually want to upgrade every year.

upgrade your smartphone 02

Your phone, your decision

Ultimately, the choice is yours. But ask yourself this question: would you replace your $1,000 laptop, games console, or camera every year? Probably not.

Mark is best known for writing about apps, but he also loves the tactile, hardware side of technology. Being a professional photographer, he's pretty handy with a camera, and he's a self-confessed tweetaholic.
Join the Discussion

You Might Also Like

The best new tech gadgets you can buy right now

The best new tech gadgets you can buy right now

Keeping up with the latest tech developments isn’t easy. With constant innovation, there’s just so much happening. But that’s where the Gadget Flow editorial team can help. It’s our job to find the coolest new products and introduce them to..
Everything we know about Google’s Project Astra so far

Everything we know about Google’s Project Astra so far

Google’s gone all in on AI assistance. At yesterday’s Google I/O event, the tech giant unveiled Project Astra, its new multi-modal AI assistant. Demis Hassabis, the head of Google’s AI development, hopes it will become a universal assistant, helpful in..
Best productivity gadgets of 2024

Best productivity gadgets of 2024

Multitasking doesn’t work. Experts say that humans are hardwired to focus on one thing at a time—probably for the better. But that doesn’t mean we can’t strategize our workday (and desk space) to get more done in our 8-hour stint..
Smart home accessories that won’t break the bank (for $50 or less)

Smart home accessories that won’t break the bank (for $50 or less)

No, you’re not imagining it; everyday items are getting more expensive again (thanks, inflation). So, if rising prices are stopping you from buying gadgets that could make your home safer and more convenient, keep reading. The Gadget Flow editorial team..
Could we survive a day without internet? Exploring life offline in 2024

Could we survive a day without internet? Exploring life offline in 2024

You wake up every morning and start your routine, which, for most of us, includes catching up on the news. Whether this is about your friends, celebrities, sports, or current events, it usually begins on your smartphone or tablet. Even..
This wearable air purifier gives instant allergy relief in any indoor space

This wearable air purifier gives instant allergy relief in any indoor space

Do you struggle with airborne allergies like pet fur, pollen, mold, or dust mites? If you do, there’s good news on the way because there’s a brand-new product to make your life easier. Respiray Wear A+ is an allergen-filtering wearable..