Technology, Tips

How long do you keep a Smartphone?

How long do you keep a Smartphone? My first Smartphone was an iPhone 3. My wife inherited it as the 3Gs came out on the market. Earlier this year my iPhone 3Gs died. I bought it in 2009 in the last quarter. It has been a wonderful piece of technology.

Here are some of the things I’ve been able to do with my iPhone 3Gs:

  • Make Phone Calls (obviously)
  • Messaging
  • Email
  • Photography
  • Movie  filming, e.g. mounted on the Motorcycle
  • USB type storage
  • Integration to cloud services
  • Music media
  • Journal/Note Taking
  • Travel and trip updates
  • Health tracking
  • Weather Tracking

The interesting thing about a lot of this is that I’ve done  a number of these activities, Photos, Filming and Music when the Smart Phone was mounted on the handlebar on my Motorcycle. This is an environment with a lot of vibration.

So when my iPhone 3Gs died while being used on my Motorcycle trip to Tasmania earlier this year, I wasn’t surprised. I can’t say the timing was great, however, it happened, that’s life.

Growing up in a generation that questioned consumerism and working for a company in the 70s and 80s that reduced its product warranty from 10 years to 5 years to 1 year for one of its core products, I’ve always attempted to try to get the most out of any technology with effective asset management, in other words make it last as long as possible, that’s my approach.

Image of Mobile Phones

How long do you keep a Smartphone for?

Let’s look at it from this perspective, when do people most probably replace their smart phone?

People usually:

Replace the Smartphone when its been damaged

Did a cup of cold water tip on the desk where your phone was sitting and it penetrated the phone or you mishandled the phone and it fell out of your pocket, or did you drop it on the road as it fell out of your pocket while riding your motorcycle? Yes it happens. I saw this in Tasmania following another rider; we picked up the phone and it still worked, cracked gorilla glass, however still workable.

Tech Republic has an infographic and article  on how smart phone incidents occur.

Infograph on how Smart Phone Incidents occur

One point about regularly damaging and breaking your phone is it can be very expensive, especially if you are a repeat offender. Insurance can only cover so much damage, and if you do it often the insurance people will start questioning your motives.

Replace the Smartphone when it has a fault or it fails

Warranties and extra care plans can be handy. Usually the manufacturers will replace the phone within the warranty period. They are keen to make sure you have a pleasant customer experience with the device to ensure future purchases. We’ve had to do that a couple of times and its been a question of  “no problems”, however, we have to wait a week or two for a replacement.

If its out of warranty, sometimes you can get someone to repair it, however, the inevitable will occur and the phone will most likely fail in the future. If it doesn’t then that’s a bonus.

If you’ve gotten more than two years out of your smart phone then you are on a roll. If you’re looking at 3-4 years, then you’ve done well.

Replace the Smartphone when the contract ends

Most smart phones are on a contract, if you work in an environment that uses the phone often, then it’s probably wise to change it around the time of contract. Replacing at the end of a contract also ensures you have the latest and greatest technology.

What to do with your old Smartphone

Apple have a tendency to want you to keep up with their wave of technology so expect to get 4 years max out of your iPhone. I guess that Android and Windows SmartPhones would be following something similar.

Give it away

You can give the phone away to someone you know or give it to an organisation who will pass it on to someone else. In Australia, Mobile for Charity is one such organisation.

Repurpose it

Reuse it for some other purpose, e.g. in the case or an old smart phone, you could use it as an MP3 digital music player, an iPhone for instance can become an iPod.

Sell it

The best bang for buck is to try to sell it.

Sometimes that’s harder than expected. You can try eBay or the local selling site.

In the United States purchases old Smartphones and Tablet devices. In Australia “Cash a Phone” does something similar and in the UK there’s Sell My Mobile Phone.

Recycle it

There are lots of programs that recycle old smart phones, for instance, its my understanding Apple has a global recycling program.

In Australia, Apple collects old iPhones at their stores or you can print a label from their website, pack it and take it to Australia Post.

Purchasing the replacement Smartphone

Did you know the typical Smartphone has 16,000 times more processing memory than Apollo 11 had when it landed on the moon in 1969. You’re not purchasing a phone but you’re purchasing a mini computer!

Am I buying into an eco-system?

For me its the eco-system, the Apple eco-system for me provides continuity between my devices; I go from my iMac personal computer to my iPad to my iPhone and can look and use the same documents, contacts and calendars seamlessly.

Google likewise take the same approach between their Android platform and their smart phones and Google Accounts and applications.

All these manufacturers are wanting your commitment and buy-in for the long-term.

So something to consider is, what eco-system am I buying into?

What will I use it for?

This is an important question as it determines how much memory you will need.

My usage works out to be this:

  1. Email
  2. Calendar
  3. Podcasts
  4. Audiobooks
  5. Music
  6. Photos
  7. Videos

The best bang for buck for me is to have 32 gigabytes of memory, that seems to work well. As I work in the Apple realm, the next step up is 64 gigabytes of memory that means more cost in the purchase and contract.

For me, less memory means more management of music and audiobooks, more memory means less management, I don’t have to manage how much music, photos or  audiobooks are on my device.

By determining your usage patterns will help you discover how much memory you will need and of course decide how much you will need to spend.

Will I buy it on contract or will I buy it outright?

Cash flow seems to be the determining factor to this. Most people prefer to buy a smart phone on a contract from 1 to 2 years. One thing to consider when you buy on a contract  is insurance. In the first 12 months, warranty will cover phone failure, however, if you are on a two-year contact and the phone fails in the second half of the contract, be prepared to pay for repairs, that can be a bit of a “gotcha”. Alternatively you can buy an extended warranty to cover your bases in the second half of the contract.

My current iPhone 5, I purchased outright. I also purchased the Apple Care that extends the service and support coverage to two years from the date I purchased the iPhone. This also meant I only needed a 12 month contract with the telco for usage.

My phone has gone missing!

Back in the 90s I found high-end Nokia Phone in an English Taxi Cab in London. I imagine the pain the owner went through looking for the phone, hopefully the cab driver was able to hand it in after his shift.

Consider the value of insuring the phone. Before you purchase the telco’s insurance, you may find that your home insurance may have provision for loss of mobile devices, you could save yourself some money.

So in closing, how long do you keep a Smartphone for?

There is no definitive answer or approach to this question as it is different for everyone and how they use the Smartphone. The main point is to decide what best suits your usage requirements and from there how long you need to keep the phone.

What I can say from my experience is, look after your phone and it will look after you.

My iPhone 3Gs still looks good considering it has ridden many a mile on the motorcycle handlebar, the only issue is the pin inside has collapsed, rendering the phone unusable.

I hope these tips help you before buying a new Smartphone.

Chris Mundy

6 thoughts on “How long do you keep a Smartphone?”

  1. The Apple environment is not an ecosystem. An ecosystem is a community and a network of interacting organisms. Apple, especially iOS, is a biosphere – closed and self-regulated. Doesn’t mean I don’t use it but I don’t kid myself about the level of control.

  2. I currently use a galaxy note 2 its still running great but the longest I kept a phone was a nokia 3310 even when I had a htc and xperias for some reason I kept the nokia. I think it was just because it lasted so long on one charge

  3. Hi Richard, thanks for your comments. I still have a couple of old Nokia’s floating around. I usually take one on an OS trip as a fallback in case something fails, gets stolen or someone needs a spare phone. They still manage to keep their charge.

  4. Hello Chris, all I can say is WOW!!! I’ve been reading quite a bit of your comments and quite honestly, I thought I was alone out there… then I actually tripped across your BLOG looking for a comm unit for my GoldWing.
    My wife and I have iPhone4’s and we both ride our own Honda GoldWing’s (2002 & 2012) respectively. Quite honestly in a motorcycling context – our iPhone 4’s work great as GPS & Music for long distance rides. We just talked about upgrading after our major his/her iPhone4 64gb RAM investment in Fall 2010. 3.5 years later they’re still “working fine”. However, the cascading changes in wiring, power cables, mounting (RAM-Mount), and other misc. changes are also costs to factor in – so far we’ve decided to KEEP what we have. In addition to Apple apps of GPS (Waze), Google Maps, and MUSIC, I am now looking for a way to “answer” phone calls and have them pipe through the good ole Goldwing communication system (2012 w/USB connector in the trunk). I read your article(s) on iPhone answering calls. Of note, I’m an I/T guy 32 years in the game, love gadgets but like to spend money “wisely” on gadgetry… I plan on keeping the iPhone4 one more season… can you advise me on any addition communication devices that would fully integrate the use of Goldwing onboard wired communication so I could ALSO answer calls. Unfortunately I purposely avoided any calls truly enjoying the open road, but I have a lot of business now I need to at least receive A) receive a short call for a confirmation (versus no longer text messaging as I used to do while riding against the RAM-Mount) and B) stop, dial-in to long teleconference listen only calls. I am truly a lucky guy to find your BLOG sir!!!

  5. Hey Big Easy, thanks for your comments. Most comms units have a voice operated answering system(VOX) in their kit. I can say with confidence that the SENA kit that I use can do that, however, on my SMH10 I prefer to tap the “jog button” on the side. It has really great sound for a telephone across the intercom. When people who ring me, ask me where I am, I get the “no-way, it doesn’t sound like you’re on a bike”. Other contributing factors that assists is my motorcycle screen which reduces wind noise as well. Another truly funky thing that hangs together well is the Sena unit and Siri on my iPhone. All I say is “Siri, read SMS”. Siri goes and reads the text messages; more interestingly I have responded with dictating the SMS to Siri, and she sends the the message, all hands free, very cool indeed. You can do it with emails, however I have not tried it.

    In relation to your Goldwing system, I would check out Sena first, Starcom have a Goldwing Module, Baehr, I would also check out some of the reviews that Anthony and the team do at Revzilla on Comms Units. It’s buyers market out there in this area I’m sure someone has a product that will fit your needs. Also check out Web Bike World on their reviews. Also, you may not be aware I did some articles over at on using an iPhone for riding. I plan to update those in the near future.

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Chris Mundy