549: Cell Replacement

How often do you replace your cell phone?


Full episode script

When smartphones first came out, less than a decade ago, a two-year replacement cycle had already become a pretty normal thing for carriers, and that is a cycle that carried through to smartphones.

But how long do those phones actually last? In March, TechRepublic reported:

If a recent analysis from Asymco is to be believed, the average lifespan of all Apple products on the market between 2013 and today is four years and three months. Asymco mobile analyst Horace Dediu created a formula for device lifespan based on the number of devices sold versus the number of active devices in use.

And there’s that whole question of what you consider a “replacement-worthy” issue for a cell phone. Is it when it’s slow loading up an app? Or when it loses all battery life? Or how about if it refuses to turn on no matter what?

As the New York Times reported in 2014:

On average, Americans keep their smartphones for about two years before jumping to a new one, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm. Despite their small size, smartphones are expensive, resource-hungry goods, and they deserve a better life cycle than two years of use followed by an eternity in a forgotten desk drawer. The main points are: Use your phone for more than two years, ideally three; when you run into trouble, try to repair, not replace it; and when you’re done with it, trade it in. When you’re looking for a new phone, don’t just consider the latest high-end devices; many people will find last year’s best phone just as useful as the newest one. You might even consider buying a used phone instead of a new one.

The innovation plateau means that for most people, in most cases, the latest and greatest phone won’t be all that much better than the one you’re using now, so there’s less pressure to upgrade. Sure, phones’ microprocessor brains keep getting faster, but for ordinary uses — web browsing, email, Facebook — those gains are difficult to notice, especially when you’re on a spotty mobile network.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.