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How Often Should You Change Your Phone?

profileJoel Koh

Should I Change My Phone After 3 Years?

In December last year, I was faced with a dilemma.

I saw the news that OnePlus would no longer be supporting my three-year-old OnePlus 7T Android phone, with the company announcing ‘that this would be the final software update for the devices, meaning that the 2019 flagships won’t receive any security or feature updates in the future.’

Source: XDA Developed

This was the push factor for me to change my phone, but I still deliberated for a month or so before deciding to get a new phone because I was unsure whether this was a want or a need.

Ultimately, I sold my old OnePlus 7T and bought a new phone in February this year.

Here’s how I came to a decision.

TL;DR: How Often Should a Phone Be Changed? / How Often Should You Get a New Phone?


How Often Does the Average Person Replace Cell Phone?

Unfortunately, there is no available study about how often the average person in Singapore changes their phone, but we do have a poll of 631 respondents from the United States on SlashGear done in August 2022 that might prove helpful:

Source: SlashGear | Author

The numbers are not at all surprising.

I reckon that most upgrade their phone every two to three years as phone contracts are often two years long.

In Singapore, I reckon this would be rather similar.

But with the advent of SIM-Only plans in Singapore, I think most of us would have broken free of the 12- or 24-month upgrade cycle associated with contract plans.

This is because upgrading before the contract period ends results in a penalty and delaying the upgrade means not being able to take full advantage of the plan. With SIM-Only plans, there is more flexibility in choosing the upgrade timeline, which allows us to extend the period between upgrades to two to four years.

What You Need To Know About Telco Contracts and the Value of Your Phone Over Time

However, it is important to note that you will generally pay more when you subscribe to a 24-month telco plan with a phone than just buying it outright and using a SIM-Only plan, as seen with this comparison I did below:

Upfront Price Monthly Plan Cost & Benefits Total Cost After 24 Months
24-Month Singtel XO Plus 52 Contract (4G)
+ iPhone 14 128GB
$655 $56.32/month
(10GB + 100 Mins + 100 SMS | Caller ID at $4.32 a month)
GOMO 10GB Plan (4G)
+ iPhone 14 128GB (Direct from Apple)
$1,311.10 $10.09/month
(10GB + 100 Mins + 100 SMS + Free Caller ID)
Cost Difference: $453.40

As you can see, you’ll be able to save a little over $450 if you buy your phone direct from Apple and get a SIM-Only plan.

So if you are trying to convince yourself that you are only paying a bit to upgrade with a telco contract, think again.

Phones Are a Depreciating Asset

Another important point to note is that your phone is a depreciating asset. The moment that you buy your phone, its value drops.

Even if you keep your phone in tip-top condition and sell it after the three-year mark, its value will drop quite substantially, as seen in the table below:

Phone Model Retail Price at Launch in 2020 Used Phone Trade in Value in 2023
iPhone SE 64GB (2020) $649 $190 -70.70%
iPhone 12 64GB $1,299 $540 -58.40%
iPhone 12 Pro Max 128GB $1,799 $740 -58.90%
Pixel 4a 128GB $499 $120 -76.00%
Samsung Galaxy S20 128GB $1,298 $120 -90.80%
Samsung Galxy S20 Ultra 128GB $1,898 $220 -88.40%

At What Point Should I Replace My Phone?

Now that we have established that getting a 24-month contract to upgrade your phone is not really worth it and that your phones are a depreciating asset, it makes sense to change your phone as infrequently as possible.

Also, smartphone technology has plateaued. If you look at it from a functionality perspective, most people just use their phones for messaging, making calls, social media and watching videos. A new phone might do these things better but it won’t be a game changer.

With that, let’s explore some good and not-so-good reasons to change your phone.

Good Reasons to Change Your Phone

1. When the Phone Stops Receiving Software Support and Security Updates

So here’s the thing.

You have been using your phone for more than four years and realise that your phone has stopped receiving security updates or is no longer compatible with certain apps.

Source: MK Tech | YouTube

I think its high time to change your phone, considering that we use many apps with sensitive information on our phones. Think payments, banking, SingPass etc.

And as MakeUseOf has stated:

In simple terms, security updates are software updates primarily focused on patching existing bugs or flaws to improve software security. So if a hacker discovers a way to take over your device remotely, this is a bug and a security update can help fix it. This is unlike regular software updates, which enhance the software experience by polishing things further or adding new features.

So why is it a bad idea to use a smartphone that doesn’t receive these updates? Does it really matter?

Security experts advise against using smartphones and any smart devices and software with a lack of support. This is for a good reason, as doing so has profound security implications.

The essential reason is that using an outdated phone leaves your data vulnerable to hackers. As stated above, the main reason behind security updates is to patch existing bugs. In the real world, there’s no such thing as bug-free software—every software has flaws. If it doesn’t, then existing ones simply haven’t been discovered yet. That’s an important thing to keep in mind.

Because malicious hackers dig into software to discover flaws, and when they do, they start leveraging the flaws to carry out crimes. Additionally, cybercriminals share all vulnerabilities that they come across in the software, which makes things worse. Since outdated phones have no chance of being patched, they are often an easy target for criminals.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using an Android or iOS device. Security updates are a must-have. It’s one of the ways to ensure that your smartphone is secure.

So if your phone is no longer receiving updates, it’s high time to change your device.

2. When Your Phone Slows Down Considerably

Technology, unlike wine, doesn’t typically improve with age and instead tends to decline in performance over time (Read: planned obsolescence).

When a mobile phone is heavily used and subjected to a lot of data, it will eventually start to work less efficiently. If this does not bother you at all, you can continue using your phone.

But for something that we use every day, this time and frustration add up.

3. When the Phone is Damaged Beyond Repair

Another reason to change your phone would when you break or crack your screen to the point that it becomes unusable. But often times fixing a screen that has been cracked or broken can be almost as expensive as buying a new smartphone, and that is why it may be better to get a new phone instead.

Reasons Not to Change Your Phone

In contrast, here are some reasons why I think you should not change your phone.

1. Battery Deteriorate

Even if you are careful, your phone’s battery will wear out. You might find that at the three or four-year mark, your phone, which could go all day without charging, might need a charge at noon.

This may not be the best reason to change your phone, as your can easily change your battery to extend the phone’s longevity.

2. Keeping Up to Date and Wanting a Prettier Smartphone

And if you need to get a new phone every year as soon as a new, more attractive model is released, you might want to reconsider, as new phones cost as much as laptops nowadays.

About Joel Koh
History student turned writer at Seedly. Before you ask, not a teacher. I hope to help people make better financial decisions and not let money control them.
You can contribute your thoughts like Joel Koh here.

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