Every time a new iPhone or smartphone is released, it can make you consider whether you need to replace your own.
Smartphones are not inexpensive: The iPhone 12, the latest model, starts at $800. While the Samsung Galaxy is as low as $100 if you have a qualifying device to trade in, it can cost $800 if you don't. So it's understandable if you want to hold on to yours for as long as possible — and it can be a smart financial move if you do.
However, there are some signs you need to replace your smartphone, according to experts. Here's how long your smartphone should last, and the best time to buy a new one.
It depends on how well you take care of it, says Lisa Davis, shopping expert at Offers.com. If your screen isn't cracked, the phone hasn't suffered any water damage, and software updates continue to be compatible with the model, you don't need to replace it. Apple tends to support its iPhones with software upgrades for five years, while Android phones will receive security updates for a minimum of four years.
"So, theoretically, a phone can last as much as five years, with care," she says.
If you notice your phone needs to be charged more often, try replacing your battery instead of your entire phone, Kay-Kay Clapp, director of communications at iFixit, told Grow. The older a battery is, the less charge it can hold, which means it will die more frequently.
"Updating your software regularly keeps your phone running smoothly, but I tell people all the time and feel like this will be on my tombstone: You need to replace your battery," Clapp said.
Depending on which model you have, replacing the battery at Apple is either $69 or $49 if the phone is out of warranty. If it isn't out of warranty, replacing the battery is free. For Androids, replacing the battery usually costs less than $100. A new battery could buy your phone another year or two of life.
If your phone has experienced a decent amount of wear and tear and the software updates are no longer compatible with your model, replacing it is likely necessary.
"Your phone has probably reached the end of its life when it becomes buggy, meaning it randomly turns off or frequently crashes," Davis says.
Holding off on buying the newest model for as long as possible can save you real money. An $800 phone spread out over a 24-month carrier contract is about $33/month. If you go three more years without trading in, you'd have another $1,188 you could put toward other goals.
If you do want to buy a different phone, some times of year are better than others.
"The best time to buy a previous generation iPhone is after Apple releases its newest lineup in September," Davis says. "This is when older models will be discounted by $100 or more."
If you want a deal on a new model, it's smart to wait for a shopping holiday like Cyber Monday or Black Friday. "In 2020, Apple released the iPhone 12 in October, due to Covid-19," she says. "Those who waited a couple months were even able to get an iPhone 12 model for free from T-Mobile or up to $800 off at Best Buy."
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