Common wisdom says that you should avoid replacing your phone until it’s broken or unusable. But common wisdom isn’t always right. Due to the poor support cycles offered by manufacturers, most Android phones should be replaced after two years of their launch date.
It’s an upsetting reality that some manufacturers (and customers) hope to change. But until that change comes, Android users should seriously consider replacing their phone every two years.
Replacing your Android phone every two years isn’t some exercise in vanity; it’s a matter of security and personal privacy. Your phone contains a ton of private information, like logins, text messages, and location data. Hackers can sell this information if they break into your phone, and generally speaking, it’s easier to hack an old phone than a new phone.
I’m not talking out of my rear—this is a real thing. Google rolls out important Android security updates every month, and phone manufacturers are responsible for delivering these updates to their respective products. But manufacturers rarely send out a security patch every month, and more often than not, they stop sending updates to a phone within two years of its release.
That’s a big problem, as the average person isn’t waiting in line to buy a new phone on its launch day. Most people go to their carrier when they need a new device and buy something that’s already a few months old, meaning that they experience less than two years of security updates. (And if you’re budget-minded and buy a year-old phone, you may only get a few months of updates.)
Some phone manufacturers offer a much longer support window for their flagship devices. For example, Google, Samsung, and OnePlus all commit to at least three years of updates for high-end phones. And Fairphone, a sustainable brand, still supports phones that are nearly a decade old.
That said, if you grab the latest Samsung Galaxy device on launch day, you’ll be set for at least three years. But used or affordable devices from Samsung and other brands, such as Motorola or TCL, won’t be secure for all that long.
To check when your phone launched, look up its name with the words “release date” on Google. You can also look up your phone’s name with the words “update cycle” to see if the manufacturer has announced the phone’s end-of-support date. (Can’t find the name of your phone? Open Settings and head to About My Phone.)
If you’ve never traded in an old phone, you’re missing out on serious discounts. Carriers and retailers offer hundreds off new phones when you offer a device for trade-in, though naturally, your discount often depends on the age and quality of whatever phone you’re giving up.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a demand for old Android devices. In order to get a decent amount of money back, you need to trade in your old phone before it’s considered “too old.” And because of the aforementioned security update SNAFU, that means trading in your old phone around the two-year mark.
Flagship devices from Google and Samsung retain their value for a lot longer than other Android phones, of course. And if you own an ultra-budget device, the winnings from a trade-in may be marginal at best.
That said, maximizing your phone’s trade-in value can help you save money, and it ensures that you always own a device that actively receives security updates.
Privacy and security should be the motivating factors for regularly replacing your phone. But hey, getting new features every few years is also a plus.
Not only will your new smartphone pack better cameras than its predecessor, but it may support features that you’re missing, like 5G. Not to mention, smartphone batteries age pretty quickly! Replacing your smartphone relatively often will help you maintain an all-day battery life without any weird battery-saving apps or workarounds. (Replacing your phone’s battery is a much more sustainable option, of course.)
And because the average Android device only gets two years of updates, you may quickly find yourself with an outdated version of the Android operating system. The OnePlus Nord N10 5G, for example, is stuck with Android 11 despite its January 2021 launch date. (At the time of writing, Android 12 is the current OS release. Android 13 launches near the tail end of 2022.)
Using an old version of Android isn’t that big of a deal, as most apps support multiple Android releases. But if you’re stuck on Android 10 or 11, then you’re missing out on all the cool features offered with Android 12, including new theming controls, a quick smart home dashboard, faster performance, and a one-handed mode.