There are those who rush out to buy the hot new phone every 6 to 12 months, and there are the rest of us who are perfectly happy to keep soldiering on with an aging device because, well, it still works.
But does it really? Today’s phones aren’t about making phone calls anymore (although of course you can still do that). We use them for so much more: they’re our cameras, maps, photo albums, music players, and our connection to the social media world. When you think about all the functions they offer and conveniences they bring, it’s easier to consider “upgrading” when they’re not working so well anymore, or when they’re simply not providing the latest and greatest features.
While a shiny new device can help a host of problems, you may also have other solutions to try before making the investment. Here are five signs that you may need a new phone… or not.
Sign #1: Your screen is cracked
A tiny chip is tolerable, but a giant spider web of splintering cracks all the way across your screen is not only deeply annoying but also potentially dangerous. The splintered glass may well get into your fingers or your ears.
Solution: Upgrade ASAP, or, if the phone is only a few months old, take it to the manufacturer or a smartphone repair shop and get a new screen. The fix should cost between $100 and $200.
Sign #2: Your pictures are unclear
Smartphones have largely replaced regular cameras when it comes to capturing life’s everyday moments (or taking a snap of that business card someone just handed you). If your photos are blurry, dark, or just downright bad, it’s time for a new phone with a better camera. Today’s top models boast some impressive camera specs, but even a mid-range phone can offer you a decent lens to help keep those memories clear and crisp.
Solution: Upgrade to a newer model with a highly-rated camera. Or, if your phone is on the newer side and should be taking better pictures, have it checked out by the manufacturer. It may have a defect.
Signs #3: Your battery barely gets you through the day
Batteries are the smartphone’s Achilles heel. Compared to all the cutting-edge tech crammed into these palm-sized super computers, the battery is pretty ancient technology. This means it’s likely to stop functioning long before anything else in your phone starts to give up the ghost.
Solution: If your phone is more than two years old and it can’t get through the morning without charging, it’s probably time for a new phone with a new battery. If the battery is the only issue and all the other systems are working fine, see if you can get a new battery installed. Apple will replace batteries in iPhones for $79. Most Android manufacturers offer a battery replacement service, too. You can also take it to a smartphone repair shop.
Sign #4: You can’t upgrade to the newest operating system
A smartphone’s “OS” is what powers all the neat things your phone can do. About once a year, Apple and Android update their systems, bringing new features, enhanced security, and often significant performance improvements.
Because of advances in technology, often older phones can’t support these new operating systems. If your phone can’t update to Apple’s iOS 11 or Android’s Nougat (Android O is coming soon), it’s time for a new phone.
Solution: The only viable option is to get a new phone. Running an outdated OS on your phone poses significant security threats, not to mention the potential for frustration (it can be really slow). Bite the bullet and get a new one. You don’t have to go for the newest model, just look for one that is compatible with the current OS. Keep in mind that the newer the model, the longer you may be able to keep it.
Sign #5: You get low storage warnings frequently
When your phone is “full,” it just doesn’t work properly. You can’t take pictures, record videos, or download new apps, and sometimes you can’t update your OS. This is not only annoying, but it’s also potentially unsafe, because you aren’t getting needed security updates.
Solution: You don’t necessarily need a new device (although if it’s only got 16 GB or 32 GB, you will be much happier with more space). If your phone has an SD slot, you can buy an SD card to get more storage. Photos take up the majority of a phone’s storage, so you can also look into uploading your photos to a cloud service (such as Apple’s iCloud or Google Photos). Some of these will come with a monthly fee if you have a large number of photos or want to keep images in the highest resolution. The advantage of these services is that you can still access the photos on your phone, but they’re not taking up space.
What to do with your old phone
Now that you know whether you’re ready for a new phone, don’t forget to think about what you could do with the old one. You can sell it or trade it in to get some money towards the new one, but there are some other options.
While it will no longer work as a cell phone once you disconnect the service, if it’s still functional it can be used on WiFi. So, if you have “smart home” devices in your house, you could use your phone as a remote control for those, or you could turn it into a toy for your child by putting some fun games and educational apps on it (as long as the screen isn’t cracked). Another good option is to keep it as a backup in case something happens to your new phone. Remember, these devices are super computers, and they have a lot of uses beyond life as our phones.
For more information on the features of specific devices, please visit our devices page.