How long do you keep a Smartphone?

How long do you keep a Smartphone? My first Smartphone was an iPhone 3. My wife inherited it as the 3Gs came out on the market. Earlier this year my iPhone 3Gs died. It was purchased in 2009 in the last quarter. It has been a wonderful piece of technology.

Here are some of the things I’ve been able to accomplish with my iPhone 3Gs:

  • Make Phone Calls (obviously)
  • Messaging
  • Email
  • Photography
  • Movie  filming, e.g. mounted on the Motorcycle
  • USB type storage
  • Integration to cloud services
  • Music media
  • Journal/Note Taking
  • Travel and trip updates
  • Health tracking
  • Weather Tracking

The interesting thing about a lot of this is that I’ve done  a number of these activities, Photos, Filming and Music when the Smart Phone was mounted on the handlebar on my Motorcycle. This is an environment with a lot of vibration.

So when my iPhone 3Gs died while being used on my Motorcycle trip to Tasmania earlier this year, I wasn’t surprised. I can’t say the timing was great, however, it happened, that’s life.

Growing up in a generation that questioned consumerism and working for a company in the 70s and 80s that reduced its product warranty from 10 years to 5 years to 1 year for one of its core products, I’ve always attempted to try and get the most out of any technology with effective asset management, in other words make it last as long as possible, thats my approach.

How long do you keep a Smartphone for?

Let’s look at it from this perspective, when do people most probably replace their smart phone?

People usually:

Replace the Smartphone when its been damaged

Did a cup of cold water tip on the desk where your phone was sitting and it penetrated the phone or you mishandled the phone and it fell out of your pocket, or did you drop it on the road as it fell out of your pocket while riding your motorcycle? Yes it happens. I witnessed this motorcycle event in Tasmania, we picked up the phone and it still worked, cracked gorilla glass, however still workable.

Tech Republic has an infograph and article  on how smartphone incidents occur.

Infograph on how Smart Phone Incidents occur

One point about regularly damaging and breaking your phone is it can be very expensive, especially if you are a repeat offender. Insurance can only cover so much damage, and if you do it often the insurance people will start questioning your motives.

Replace the Smartphone when it has a fault or it fails

Warranties and extra care plans can be handy. Usually the manufacturers will replace the phone within the warranty period. They are keen to make sure you have a pleasant customer experience with the device to ensure future purchases. We’ve had to do that a couple times and its been a question of “no problems”, however, we’ve have to wait a week or two for a replacement.

If its out of warranty, sometimes you can get someone to repair it, however, the inevitable will occur and the phone will most likely fail in the future. If it doesn’t then that’s a bonus.

If you’ve gotten more than two years out of your smart phone then you are on a roll. If you’re looking at 3-4 years, then you’ve done well.

Replace the Smartphone when the contract ends

Most smart phones are on a contract, if you work in an environment that uses the phone frequently, then its probably wise to change it around the time of contract. Replacing at the end of a contract also ensures you have the latest and greatest technology.

What to do with your old Smartphone

Apple have a tendency to want you to keep up with their wave of technology so expect to get 4 years max out of your iPhone. I guess that Android and Windows SmartPhones would be following something similar.

Give it away

You can give the phone away to someone you know or donate it to an organisation who will pass it on to someone else. In Australia, Mobile for Charity is one such organisation.

Repurpose it

Reuse it for some other purpose, e.g. in the case or an old smartphone, you could use it as an MP3 digital music player, an iPhone for instance can become an iPod.

Sell it

The best bang for buck is to try and sell it.

Sometimes that’s harder than expected. You can try eBay or the local selling site.

In the United States purchases old Smartphones and Tablet devices. In Australia “Cash a Phone” does something similar and in the UK there’s Sell My Mobile Phone.

Recycle it

There are lots of programs that recycle old smart phones, for instance, its my understanding Apple has a global recycling program.

In Australia, Apple collects old iPhones at their stores or you can print a label from their website, pack it and take it to Australia Post.

Purchasing the replacement Smartphone

Did you know the typical Smartphone has 16,000 times more processing memory than Apollo 11 had when it landed on the moon in 1969. You’re not purchasing a phone but you’re purchasing a mini computer!

Am I buying into an eco-system?

For me its the eco-system, the whole Apple eco-system for me provides continuity between my devices; I go from my iMac personal computer to my iPad to my iPhone and and can look and use the same documents, contacts and calendars seamlessly.

Google likewise take the same approach between their Android platform and their smart phones and Google Accounts and applications.

All these manufacturers are wanting your commitment and buy-in for the long-term.

So something to consider is, what eco-system am I buying into?

What will I use it for?

This is an important question as it determines how much memory you will need.

I have found that my usage works out to be this in this order:

  1. Email
  2. Calendar
  3. Podcasts
  4. Audiobooks
  5. Music
  6. Photos
  7. Videos

The best bang for buck for me is to have 32 gigabytes of memory, that seems to work well. As I work in the Apple realm, the next step up is 64 gigabytes of memory that means more cost in the purchase and contract.

For me, less memory means more management of music and audiobooks, more memory means less management, I don’t have to manage how much music, photos or  audiobooks are on my device.

By determining your usage patterns will help you discover how much memory you will need and of course determine how much you will need to spend.

Will I buy it on contract or will I buy it outright?

Cash flow seems to be the determining factor to this. Most people prefer to purchase a smart phone on a contract from 1 to 2 years. One thing to consider when you purchase on a contract  is insurance. In the first 12 months, warranty will cover phone failure, however, if you are on a two-year contact and the phone fails in the second half of the contract, be prepared to pay for repairs, that can be a bit of a “gotcha”. Alternatively you can purchase an extended warranty to cover your bases in the second half of the contract.

My current iPhone 5, I purchased outright. I also purchased the Apple Care that extends the service and support coverage to two years from the date I purchased the iPhone. This also meant I only needed a 12 month contract with the telco for usage.

My phone has gone missing!

Back in the 90s I found high-end Nokia Phone in an English Taxi Cab in London. I imagine the pain the owner went through looking for the phone, hopefully the cab driver was able to hand it in after his shift.

Consider the value of insuring the phone. Before you purchase the telco’s insurance, you may find that your home insurance may have provision for loss of mobile devices, you could save yourself some money.

So in closing, how long do you keep a Smartphone for?

There is no definitive answer or approach to this question as it is different for everyone and how they use the Smartphone. The main point is to determine what best suits your usage requirements and from there how long you need to keep the phone.

What I can say from my experience is, look after your phone and it will look after you.

My iPhone 3Gs still looks good considering it has ridden many a mile on the motorcycle handlebar, the only issue is the pin inside has collapsed, rendering the phone unusable.

I hope these tips assist you before buying a new Smartphone.

Chris Mundy

Keeping the cats off the front garden – Automatic NERF Sentry Gun

Ever wondered how to keep the cats off the front garden? Well here’s the answer,  Paul Boag ‏@boagworld found this link to a working Automatic NERF sentry gun.

YouTube Preview Image

It’s a proper sentry gun, like one you’d see in a video game or movie, which can automatically track you then start firing rounds until it runs out of nerf bullets.  It was built by Instructables user BrittLiv, and comprises a NERF Vulcan gun, a stand, a motor and a laptop.

Using recognition software, the laptop’s camera can track someone walking in front of it, the gun moving to follow the person’s movements. Perfect for those visiting cats.

It can be fired manually, as you’ll see in the video below, it can also be programmed to shoot automatically at targets (and even programmed to not fire at certain people).

This is an autonomous motion-detecting. Where was this in the early 80s when I lived in a group house and all we had were spud guns. I would have been king!

I will have to get my son-in-law to see if he can attach one of these to his radio controlled copter.

I imagine these will start appearing in toy stores of the future, however, I think a few countries will probably not allow them in on the grounds of being harmful to children. Maybe a 3D printer could replicate it. :-)

Kudos to BrittLiv for her technical creativity.






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