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Unlock the Secrets: Maximize Your Smartphone Lifespan Now!

Substituting a smartphone every two years contributes partially to why billions of phones are deposited into landfills annually. If they were arranged horizontally on each other, that quantity of handsets would surpass the ISS’s length. However, we’ve grown accustomed to this 24-month timeframe because wireless carriers frequently encourage upgrades through biennial contracts, and numerous smaller phone manufacturers only provide software support for two years. Nevertheless, with major manufacturers now offering longer software commitments, coupled with the increasing implementation of right-to-repair legislation, many newer phones can remain in our possession for nearly seven orbits around the sun. Below are ways to prolong the lifespan of your smartphone and avoid spending hundreds until necessary.

How to prolong the lifespan of your smartphone

Utilize a protective case

Carrying a phone without any covering may seem stylish, but the likelihood of the device surviving a fall significantly increases when you utilize additional protection. We suggest several options in our guide to iPhone cases and our environmentally friendly phone cases guide. Within my family, we have found satisfaction with Mous cases. While we haven’t subjected our phones to the harsh conditions depicted in the company’s advertisements, I can attest that these cases have shielded my partner’s aging Samsung Galaxy and my elderly iPhone from some severe spills, preventing them from getting scratched or worse.

Utilize a protective case

Maintain the integrated battery (or employ a power bank)

Given that a phone’s battery often displays the initial signs of aging, it’s advisable to adhere to guidelines aimed at extending its longevity. Lithium-ion batteries do not function optimally under high temperatures, so it’s prudent to avoid charging them in temperatures exceeding 95 degrees Fahrenheit — such actions can lead to rapid battery degradation and potential malfunctions. These batteries perform better in colder conditions, although they may become sluggish in excessively cold environments.

When storing a phone for an extended period, it’s preferable to keep the battery at around 50% charge, rather than fully charged or completely discharged. Li-ion cells endure longer periods when they spend less time at either extreme — which is why battery optimization features in iPhones and Pixel phones delay charging to 100% until approximately an hour before the typical usage time. Although rapid charging may sometimes be necessary, a slower charging method, especially when speed is not essential, will exert less stress on the ionic components and assist in prolonging the battery’s lifespan.

However, with time, all batteries will inevitably degrade. The battery in my iPhone 11 can typically last throughout a standard day, but during travels, heavy reliance on navigation, or using the phone as a hotspot, it may require a recharge before bedtime. This is easily manageable at home, but when on the go, a battery pack becomes indispensable. Following testing for our best power banks guide, I keep a variety of them handy, with the Otterbox Fast Charge being my preferred choice due to its sleek appearance and ample capacity, and the Nimble Champ Pro for its remarkable charging speed.

A replacement internal battery might be the solution for those seeking to significantly extend their phone’s lifespan. Pixel phone users can either utilize Google’s official repair services via walk-in or mail-in options or opt for the do-it-yourself route with iFixit’s Pixel repair kits and instructions. iPhone users can explore options through Apple’s official channels, Best Buy, or other third-party providers, or follow iFixit’s recommendations. Samsung also offers in-house repair services, or you can consider Best Buy or iFixit. Depending on the chosen method and your phone model, the cost for a new battery and installation typically ranges between $45 and $150 — considerably less than replacing your entire handset with a brand-new one.

Tidy up your phone’s storage

The majority of guidance on how to streamline your phone and enhance its speed revolves around one core principle: creating more space. Your phone’s operating system will likely provide recommendations for managing storage, such as automatically removing unused apps or deleting messages that are a year old. Alternatively, you can manually perform tasks by eliminating any apps you don’t utilize. Then, evaluate the locally stored photos and videos, and decide whether to invest in cloud storage or transfer the files to a computer or an external backup device. Additionally, contemplate removing any music and movies you’ve downloaded for offline use, and erase old messages and large attachments. A general rule of thumb is to maintain your storage at approximately 80 percent capacity. After deleting and transferring what you can, reboot your phone to allow it to clear its temporary memory.

Why you can and you should prolong the lifespan of your smartphone.

Why you can and you should prolong the lifespan of your smartphone

The electronic waste stream increases annually and has negative implications for both human and planetary health. Smartphone companies are presenting improved and more consistent trade-in offers, but even some electronic recycling processes have deficiencies. Simply retaining a device instead of opting for a new one is the most effective means of reducing a phone’s environmental impact — and it will also result in monetary savings.

While every major phone manufacturer would like you to believe that annual upgrades are essential, it’s worth highlighting that new generations of phones often closely resemble the previous year’s model. We labeled both the latest iPhone and Google Pixel as the most significant updates in years, but before that, upgrading seemed less justified. The latest Samsung Galaxy phone introduces a plethora of new AI features, but physically, it differs little from its predecessor.

With only minor hardware upgrades, the more exciting new features are delivered through over-the-air software updates. For instance, when Google launched the Pixel 8 last October, the company committed to providing security and software updates for a full seven years. Samsung introduced the Galaxy S24 in January of this year and pledged similar support for its handsets. While Apple hasn’t made the same assurance, the launch of iOS 17 last year discontinued support for the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, both of which had received updates for around six years since their release.

What Apple did announce is that the batteries in all four models of the iPhone 15 endure twice as long as the company initially claimed. Initially, battery capacity was stated to reach 80 percent of the original full charge after 500 cycles. Now, that same capacity rate applies to 1,000 cycles. The enhancement, according to Apple, stems from advanced battery technology and improved power management from the operating system. Although battery technology has advanced in terms of capacity over the years, overall longevity hasn’t uniformly increased, as evidenced by a study conducted by PhoneArena.

Further advancements in battery lifespan may be imminent, especially as the electric vehicle industry expands, which also relies on lithium-ion cells. For now, diminishing battery health is typically the most noticeable issue affecting older phones. This year, the European Parliament voted on regulations concerning battery-powered devices, including a mandate to enable consumers to “easily remove and replace” batteries. However, this won’t take effect until 2027, and there will likely be various interpretations of what “easily” entails. However, EU mandates influenced Apple’s decision to ultimately transition from Lightning ports on iPhones to USB-C, indicating a potential return to smartphones with interchangeable batteries.

Even in the US, impending legislation will require companies to prioritize repair as a better option. Right-to-repair bills were approved last year in New York, Minnesota, and other states. California has the most stringent regulation, even securing Apple’s endorsement. Once the law becomes effective in July, companies will be mandated to supply repair tools and documentation, and to offer components for seven years after the last new model is manufactured for any device costing over $100. Nevertheless, the law doesn’t address the prohibition of “parts pairing,” a practice where a device functions properly only when repaired with official parts by a manufacturer-authorized repair center.

Currently, several phones receive favorable repairability scores, as reported by the online repair community iFixit (the FairPhone 5 attains the highest marks). After California’s law takes effect, more models may become user-repairable, considering few manufacturers are likely to overlook the state’s nearly 40 million customers. In the meantime, authorized repair remains an option, as does self-repair for the more industrious.

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