For years now, we’ve been conditioned to buying a new cell phone every two years. Why? More features, longer battery life, cooler design, status, etc. And mobile companies have sure made it easy for us to do this. In return in for agreeing to a another two-year contract, we get a state-of-the-art shiny brand-new smartphone for a relatively low price. The service carriers subsidize the price of new phones by having us subscribe to contracts that promote high-margin services.

With the above in mind, let’s consider a rather radical idea espoused by Farhad Manjoo, writing for the New York Times. If Manjoo’s ideas are accepted, there will be a substantial impact on our smartphone purchase behavior — and on service providers’ bottom lines.

Here’s Manjoo’s perspective: “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.” So, “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.”

Manjoo’s tips are to

  1. hold on to your smartphone for a longer time.
  2. sell or trade in your old phone to a company such as Gazelle (there is a growing aftermarket).
  3. buy a used phone (there are many great choices out there).

Click the Gazelle image to read more from Manjoo.


23 Replies to “How About This Radical Idea? Hold on to Your Smartphone”

  1. Revolutionary indeed. It’s strange that people replace their smartphones every two years for virtually the same phone. If your current phone is still functional, why get rid of it? Holding on to your phone can cause you to pay less for a new one, if you need a new one. Manjoo’s first two tips seem solid; however, you won’t know how long a used phone might last, or what condition it’s in until you buy it. I’d stay away from that one.

  2. I think you have a point here. The two year upgrade was more appropriate when the flip phones were popular and companies were adding new and improved features. There really isn’t much difference between iPhone 4 and IPhone 5.

  3. People could hold their smartphones to 3 years, but the reasons Manjoo point are not convinced. People are conditioned to changing a new phone after 2 years using since the contract ends and people have access to gain a new one with low price in contract. What is the incentive for them to wait one year for? If the idea featured with the points of eco-friendly,cheaper service fee or something closely associated with consumer’s benefits would work maybe.

  4. I found that overall it is cheaper to buy your phone out of contract and then look for the cheapest plan. AIO for example is an AT&T pay as you go company that can charge at little as 40$ with unlimited talk and text and 3 GB of data and no contract. It is cheaper than AT&T plans and Verizon plans and you actually own your phone which means you can sell it at any time. If I buy a phone at $350 (which is what I spent on mine on Cyber Monday) in 10 months I “break even”, compared to how much I would have paid, with switching my plan and buying a new phone. Overall, in two years I save $280 over my previous plan and I get some residual value on my phone. Keeping in mind I take good care of my phone and my last one lasted 3 years, owning my phone is paying off for me. It is a larger initial investment, but well worth it if you ask me.

  5. I found that overall it is cheaper to buy your phone out of contract and then look for the cheapest plan. AIO for example is an AT&T pay as you go company that can charge at little as 40$ with unlimited talk and text and 3 GB of data and no contract. It is cheaper than AT&T plans and Verizon plans and you actually own your phone which means you can sell it at any time. If I buy a phone at $350 (which is what I spent on mine on Cyber Monday) in 10 months I “break even”, compared to how much I would have paid, with switching my plan and buying a new phone. Overall, in two years I save $280 over my previous plan and I get some residual value on my phone. Keeping in mind I take good care of my phone and my last one lasted 3 years, owning my phone is paying off for me. It is a larger initial investment than buying with contract, but well worth it if you ask me.

  6. I completely agree with this post. I currently have an iPhone 4s which I have had for several years now but I’ve realized there is no reason for me to upgrade or replace my current phone. Sure the iPhone 5 would be great but I would use the same things on that phone that I currently use on my 4s. I think it can be a waste of money and resources to continue upgrading and replacing unless its necessary.

  7. I’ve always been a much bigger fan of the Phoneblocks idea (see video for explainaiton) Instead of replacing a phone when the newer version comes out, you just buy the upgrade itself and add it to your old phone. When a part of the hone greats, you just replace the part that is broken. It would get us out of the two year cycle, as well as the cycle of ‘planned obsolescence.’ On top of that, since different parts can be made by different companies, you can make sure to get parts from companies who’s products are known for their durability.

  8. Coming from a country which does not have such contract plans where you get phones for cheap, I am used to holding on to my phone for as long as it serves my purpose. I guess it makes more sense to use your phone for more than 2 years here in the US only if you are not enrolling in a contract and are going for the pre-paid/no-contract plans offered, where you bring your own phone. I myself bought a smartphone here in the US for its full price and took up T-mobile’s cheaper no-contract plan, and I plan on using this phone till it kicks the bucket.

  9. I think that Manjoo offers very helpful tips when it comes to holding on to your smartphone as long as you can and selling your old phones. Sure it seems appealing to get a new phone every two years, but it is not always necessary. Newer phones or versions are many times only slightly different anyways. Of course each person has their preferences and I don’t think there is anything wrong with upgrading your phone, but it is also good to sell your old phones especially if they are still in good conditions.

  10. Manjoo makes a very good point for why people should hold onto their phones for longer and trade in their phones for used ones, but I don’t see anyone actually doing it. Yes, the new phones are not incredibly different from the old ones, but they do have different features. People live for new things and it’s always said that we should be “out with the old and in with the new.” Also, many people don’t like used phones, and would rather just get a brand new one, especially because it’s cheap if you buy it in the two year intervals.

  11. The price difference between last year’s phone and a brand new phone is not big enough to justify the downgrade. Also with technology always moving, your mobile device is outdated the minute you buy it so why would you not buy the latest outdated device so that it could last you longer especially given that it is probably only 70-100$ more expensive and the marginal benefit far exceeds that price.

  12. Buying a 600 plus dollar phone every two years doesn’t seem like a sound investment too me. I don’t own a smart phone and I have no desire too. I don’t belief all the hype. when these things get released people actually camp out online for days at a time to be the first online to pay top dollar for a new phone with more bells and whistles. I have a feeling these people haven’t spent enough time in nature camping. smart phones are marketed very well. seems like you cant get through a commercial break with out seeing a cell phone commercial. The phone is for texting and calling, not facebook and instantgram, especially in class or behind the wheel. I have had the same old phone for years, after the contract expired. “if its not broke why fix it ?”

  13. While many people find Majoo’s comments revolutionary, I find them to be a new ushering of a new consumer that is technologically informed. For instance, the differences between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 is not big at all. The S5’s screen is only .1 inches larger than the S4. The S5 can hold a 128 Gb SD Card while the S4 has a capacity of 64 Gbs (and who uses SD Cards on a regular basis?) The S5 has a camera that supports videos in 1080p with 60 frames per second while also supporting videos at 2160p (the technical name for 4K) at 30 frames per second. The S4 only supports video capture at 1080p with 30 frames per second but that is the standard rate for videos on Youtube. The features that the S5 produce are not uploadable under regular circumstances at this time (although that will certainly chage for the future). Many of the other features of the S5 are identical to those of the S4 with the difference in power being 600 mHz which is larger but nothing abnormal with a year’s passage and no app will require the Snapdragon 801 (found on the S5) rather than the Snapdragon 600 (found on the S4) for a number of years.

    In summary, the S5 may be the phone for the future but is not the phone for the present. Majoo’s comments are particularly well placed now due to the fact that Apple will most certainly announce a successor to the iPhone 5. The smart consumer is the one that looks at the information of the phone and how they will use it. People have definitely learned the hard way over the years that a new number doesn’t always mean something special is coming.

    For my own sake, I am content with my Samsung Galaxy S3 and I do not think I will upgrading for another several years.

    Specifications were found:

  14. Although I do have the newest iPhone i would have been just as happy with my old one. There is not much difference from the new to the old one. I personally think that its about what other people think that pushes the consumer to go out and buy the next best thing. Or fear of missing out.

  15. I agree that sometimes older models of phones are sometimes better and rather the same. On the other hand, I feel that when I upgrade my phone I have to get the newest phone especially since I’m committing for two years more. I do not think I can buy an older model of a phone when there is one after that. Today, I can go to best buy and if I was eligible for an upgrade an Iphone 5 will still be 100, when the 5s is 150. I would not take the older phone for 50 dollars but rather just pay it. I think it just matters on the person it is, but in all reality why upgrade to a downgraded phone for, no matter what the perks are. Also, if I am getting a new phone and paying for a phone, I would not buy it used but rather be the first to use it.

  16. I’d say people whether purchase a new smartphone within 2-yr period or not mostly depends on their demand of this device rather than the expected life cycle of the device. Toward some people that use their smartphone to finish the basic daily tasks – making phone calls, check emails, and search on the internet – a suitable smartphone can be used for a longer period of time. However, some people is fever to the powerful processor speed, more features or fashionable designing, they may purchase a new phone frequently, as the new model coming out as the same pace. Besides, as mobile carriers and smart phone manufactures providing plenty of promotion methods to sell their product, the price to but a new phone is not much higher then buy an pre-used phone or repair an old one. That is another reason account for the shorter life cycle of an smart phone.

  17. It is not necessary to purchase a new phone every two years, however I find it very convenient to have this type of a contract because of the new amenities smart phones have to offer. Technology is always advancing and it is nice to have new features. I do agree with the article when it says that is may be cheaper to hold onto your phone, sell it, or buy if through other manufacturers. However, some people find that it is worth it to purchase the new design.

    1. As most people have already stated and agreed with, it is not necessary to purchase a phone every two years. This does not mean that people have the desire to do so, though. With technology advancing as quickly as it is, there is always a new version, of whatever device you may own, being created and introduced to the market. Cell phone users in the 2-year contract are always eager for their contract to be up so they can get the latest and greatest phone. Even if the person’s phone is in perfect condition at the end of his/her contract, knowing that there is a newer and better phone out there, they will go ahead and buy that new phone. Even though it will be cheaper to hold onto their existing phone, most people will purchase a new device and start another 2-year contract to meet their wants and to have the new phone.

  18. Everybody would love to get the latest model Iphone as soon as it is released but the phone prices are pretty expensive, especially if you buy them without a contract deal. An iphone 5s can cost hundreds of dollars if purchased by itself without a contract. I always wait for my upgrade and if the offer and price is right i will switch to the newer model, otherwise I still with my current phone because I am used to it and if nothing is wrong I do not feel the need to switch. I agree with this article and agree that people should hang onto their smartphones longer instead of maybe two years.

  19. We live in a technology driven civilization centered on smartphones. Companies are fully aware of this high demand situation and working to take advantage of this opportunity to maximize their profits. Some companies, like AT&T, are even promoting their next all new marketing ploy, which allows consumers to trade phones after ONE year (AT&T NEXT). Be smart people…

  20. When smartphones first came out, updating them every 2 years actually made a difference. New and helpful technology was constantly coming out which enabled our phones to work better and they weren’t necessarily just popular design features. Today, I would agree with Manjoo because many of the new models have limited new features. Most phones also are being put out so fast that they haven’t been tested well and are worse than older models. For the first time in a long time I’ve had my smart phone for over two years and it has just began to run a little slower than normal.

  21. I think Apple is a good example. I am a big fan of Apple so that I always keep watching the new product introduced from Apple announcement. The product life cycle of Iphone has becoming longer than before because of the deceleration of Apple innovation, from one year to two year. Even though they named their new products like Iphone4s or Iphone5s, Ipad or Ipad air, and launched these very similar goods per year, customers realize that Apple attempt to extend their product life to two years.

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