Our readers keep their Android phones for longer than we expected

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Vs S21 Plus
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Vs S21 Plus (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Over the weekend, we asked AC readers how long they kept a smartphone before upgrading.
  • The majority of respondents said they held onto a device for 1-3 years.
  • Nearly as many kept their phones until they no longer worked.

It seems like there's a shiny new device coming out every few weeks, and while it's very tempting to immediately upgrade to the latest and best Android phones, that's not necessarily the most practical or financially sound decision.

Here at AC, we've read the industry trends and surveys about upgrade cycles and phone sales, but we wanted to know what real Android users like yourselves were doing. So this past Saturday, we asked you how long you typically keep a phone before upgrading, and the answers were a little surprising if we're honest. As Android enthusiasts, we expected more than 2.28% to say that they upgraded their devices every 12 months or less, but that simply wasn't the case. In fact, over 50% said they waited from one to three years to upgrade, and nearly as many (47%) said they used their phones until they literally stopped working. That's pretty impressive!

Whether you keep your phone longer to save money, or to save the environment, or just because you like it, it's probably a good thing that you're maximizing your return on investment. Our readers had a lot to say about this topic, so we thought we'd share some of their comments below for your enlightenment and entertainment.

Reader wilson_smyth said they keep their phone:

As long as it keeps going. Buying a new phone is the least satisfying experience as they rarely do much more than the previous phone. Had my galaxy S7 for 5 years until it stopped working. Got an s20FE to replace it and it does literally nothing new the old s7 couldn't already do. Sure the camera is a bit better but the S7 camera was quite good. Screen doesn't seem any better and I've actually lost a headphone jack. Also, the longer a phone lasts, the lower its total cost of ownership. Besides a phone breaking or a desire to have the latest to try and impress people, there is no need to upgrade a phone more than every 5 years minimum.

On Twitter, @iSaisarma90 said:

See more

While on Facebook, Emma Layton raised a great point about the phone's build, components, and purchase price.

Emma Layton Facebook comment

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

What about you? Our poll is now closed, but you can still tell us in the comments below how long you keep your Android phones and why you make the choices you do. We'd love to hear from you!

Jeramy Johnson

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.

  • I go about 2-3 years, but I tend to keep the old phones around for other uses. I use a Pixel 5 now as my day-to-day workhorse. My OnePus 6T is currently used as my cycling Strave/Ride With GPS computer, my Moto Z Play with its speaker mod is my office radio/music player. These old phones also make for good travel "Google Home" type assistants.
  • Two to three years these days. There isn't much in the way of a reason to upgrade frequently anymore
  • I average around 2 years, years ago was once a year
  • This phone life issue is crazy! Most everyone would not think of trading out their washing machine or refrigerator for the newest model after two years, let alone every year. Heck, most people don't trade out their lumpy worn mattress within a reasonable time, and this item has more impact on our lives than the cell phone! Cell phones should be considered a durable good, as they are priced that way. The main reason they don't last is due to neglect or artificial throttling by manufacturers (like not keeping the OS updated).
  • I want to keep my next Android phone for 2 years until I'm eligible to upgrade again because I know I'll be happy with the next Android phone I've chosen. I know there's doubting Tom's on here who think I can't keep a phone for and yeah I don't have a great track record for holding on to phones, well it'll be a year next month since I've had my iPhone (secondary device) and my S20 FE for almost 6 months but I won't see out the year with my S20 FE and the brand I'm switching to for my next Android phone is one that's well known and hatred by Samsung fanboys on this stie, but I don't care I know what I want and will be sticking with this brand because they have what I want and their Android software is the most optimised with no dupicate bloatware apps with the cleanest Android experience and this phone has what I value most, clean software, fast day 1 updates and a great camera that's easy to use with no complicated bs manual modes.
  • You don't care for doing yourself any favors, do you? Also, people are totally capable of liking both phones. It doesn't have to be an either or scenario.
  • I usually keep mine for about 3-4 years, around the amount of time that Nokia phones get updates
  • How much would you have to use a phone for it to no longer work?
    Don't you mean the battery has stopped taking a long enough charge?
    I have bought new phones before, but never because they no longer work.
    I also 'keep' my old phones, but don't 'use' them because I have a newer phone and don't like to throw away things that still work, even if there was a 'good' way to throw away something with toxic chemicals in them.
  • Why not sell them on Swappa if you don't use them? Some extra cash back is better than NO cash back. Besides, there's always someone who's willing to buy because they either want what you have for sale, or they need what you have for sale.
  • I think this poll would have been different years ago. 8-12 years ago when you upgraded your phone - it was usually a massive update in display quality, processing speed, camera quality, storage, etc. Now, most phones are good enough and you don't need to upgrade if you have a 2018 or later flagship/high mid range phone unless your phone has a hardware problem.
  • I thought the same thing. Years ago they had new features, truly faster experience, far better cameras in each upgrade. I mean there were real quality reasons to upgrade. Then it seems in 2017-2018 they started removing functionality. Processing speed/camera performance feels like a 5-10% improvement where it used to feel like a 120% improvement. To upgrade to a new phone now means you have to give up something in exchange for a minor, almost imperceptible bump in performance. No phone really thrills the masses anymore. They've just become less feature filled and more expensive.
  • I agree with both of you. I recently (recently as in 5 days ago) upgraded my Moto g 2015 to an unlocked, new Moto g7 plus I happened to see at like $120. I spent around 5, close to 6 years with that Moto g 2015 phone and it still works good enough for my needs. I just bought this because after so long I decided I was due for an actual upgrade, so I went for the cheapest goodish phone I could find. Ngl, I'm loving it a lot, but that's partly because I waited for so long to upgrade, if I were to be, say, a Moto g6 plus owner, I would see no reason to upgrade to a g7 or a g8 or the newers ones. Being stuck in Android 10 is "lamentable" but uh, I was more than happy with Android 6. The only feature I envied of other users was dark theme, which I now have. And after reading what Android 12 can do it honestly doesn't catch my attention either. You could argue software itself is no longer thrilling nor big in terms of upgrades anymore. But overall I'm kinda ok with that too because it means any phone you get will probably be solid, right?
  • As many here, I keep my device (daily driver) for about two years (always keep the one I'm replacing as back-up for a few more years). The device I currently own I plan to keep for longer, at least three years. Better OS and security patch updates as well as 5G can help future proof a lot of these smartphones. That is of course if they actually survive for that long through all the trials and tribulations of daily usage.
  • I'm keeping mine until they give us back consumer replaceable batteries. A lot of people won't willingly replace a phone anymore than they would replace a car, just because the battery failed. It's just common sense, versus a "planned obsolescence" business model. The OEMs depend on the phones breaking within an average of 1-3 years for SOME reason or another. Once upon a time they knew they could depend on the customer breaking the screen or the internals or both within that time frame. But when people started putting cases on their phones en masse, the cases (particularly Otterbox) broke that business model. So then they started locking the batteries inside figuring we would cook the batteries to death with the case on it, and NOT generally know there were services that could replace the batteries for us...for a fee. It's an arms race between the customer and the corrupt OEMs right now. I guarantee that once enough people start dropping the nearly pure profit warranties, and taking their phones to a 3rd party repair shop to get the (cooked) battery replaced, the OEMs will figure out how to cause something ELSE to break within the 1-3 years that they need the phone to break within. Change my mind!
  • If they don't sell phones they don't eat! Simple.
    The only way I see any of them going back to replaceable batteries (thereby making their phones last indefinitely) is if they charge a fee for software upgrades/updates. Then they can still make money off of "old" phones.
  • The fact is, that the OEMs who give us what we want, will sell a lot more phones than those that won't. All it will take for the OEM stubbornness to break, will be for ONE, just one, OEM to break with the others on the consumer replaceable/upgradable battery issue, and we will flock to them over this issue. As long as everything else is acceptable about the phone. Then just like with unlimited data, the consumer will have won, and phones won't have to be replaced at the speed of the battery going bad. Look for one of the "used to be popular brands" to do it first. Such as HTC, Nokia, Palm or Blackberry. Or even LG if/when they decide to get back in the smartphone business. Giving the customer what they want is an unbeatable way to have an automatic sales hit.
  • I guarantee that all it will take for the OEMs to stop fighting their own customers and give us back the customer replaceable battery, is for ONE of the "desperate for customers" lesser OEMs, such as HTC or Nokia, to make a good phone that has that feature...a consumer replaceable battery. And millions of people will beat a path to their door, if the phone is a good one. Millions of people are desperately holding on to their aging "replaceable battery" phones, in expectation that the feature will be brought back. And once it is, these people (including myself) will replace their phones all at once, and that OEM will have a massive hit on their hands. And just like Unlimited Data, the consumer replaceable battery will make an instant comeback. The OEMs don't want it, but the customers DO. And ultimately, we WILL win! Just like with Unlimited Data. It HTC, Nokia or another "formerly big" smartphone OEM wants to have a BIG monster sales hit. Bringing back the replaceable battery is the best way to do it...quickly. And then the other OEMs will grudgingly have to give in on this issue.
  • I couldn't care less about removable batteries and neither to most people, you're in a minority that does, iPhone sales have proven that customers don't care either, the same with Samsung.
  • You're wrong in every respect. 1) The majority of people, in fact, very much DO want to be able to replace their own batteries. It is a hugely popular feature. We are in the majority. You are the minority, by far. 2) iPhone users are, largely, non-technically oriented sheep. They buy iPhones because they are not confident in their own ability to make choices about their own phones. Also, they are not generally aware of the fact that they are being deprived of these choices. 3) Phones are not a Democracy. Even if you were correct, which you are not, regarding the popularity of consumer control over the replacement of batteries, your choice is irrelevant regarding the ability of others to avail themselves of the choice to replace their batteries, as opposed to throwing away their phone every time the battery goes bad. 4) If you choose to not avail yourself of the option to replace your battery, and instead choose to throw away your phone, that is your business. But it is not your business nor is it your choice to make that decision for others. Nor to pretend you have ANY say in limiting our ability to make other choices that involve removing our batteries. Such as upgrading to an extended battery, or keeping additional, fully charged batteries available to swap out when our battery goes down. If you choose to not avail yourself of those, and other features of a consumer replaceable battery, then you have that perfect right. But owning a phone, and availing oneself of ALL of the ownership features of a phone, is NOT a Democracy. You are free to own a phone and dispose of it, instead of simply replacing the battery, every single time the battery goes bad. You are free to never upgrade your battery to a better one, despite having the option. You are free to never swap out an exhausted battery, and instead can wait for it to recharge, or do without it if you are not in a situation where it can be recharged. But you have ZERO rights to impose those limitations on others!
  • And furthermore, I have explained to you already the SPECIFIC reason why the evil OEMs have deprived us of the replaceable battery feature. And why this disappearance happened RIGHT AFTER the protective cases became popular. It is strictly down to reestablishing their Planned Obsolescence business model. Which is WHY I refer to them as "evil". Planned Obsolescence is EVIL! Once the cases, especially Otterbox, made the phones last longer, and once the cases became sufficiently popular that they were making a serious dent in sales; the batteries were locked in. This, along with the fact that the cases have the unfortunate side effect of holding in the heat; caused the battery to become the new Planned Obsolescence "phone breaking point". If Otterbox were to develop a way to get the heat out of the phones, which their cases, unfortunately, hold inside, which currently cooks the battery; I absolutely GUARANTEE you that the OEMs will develop something ELSE that breaks the phone. And within 1-3 years. Which is approximately the average time during which they NEED you to replace your phone. Prove me wrong!
  • Would anyone here buy a car with a "locked in battery"? A battery that, to extend the analogy, even a 3rd party shop could not replace. I know 3rd party cell phone repair shops can replace batteries...usually. But consumers usually do not know that. And the OEMs depend on, and prey on that innocent ignorance. They sell you your NEXT phone in the cost of the warranty, which they depend on the carriers to sell to you. It is a financially incestuous arrangement, which only benefits the OEMs and the carriers. And materially harms the consumer financially. Would you buy a new car designed that way? What about buying a house that had to be REPLACED if the central heat and air went out? You are the CUSTOMER! You have rights! Were you EVER ASKED about whether you wanted your phone to fail at the speed of the battery going bad? Don't you think it is extremely strange that there are essentially ZERO new phones, and certainly no flagship phones, nor any at ALL that work across all carriers, which have this extremely popular and VERY consumer friendly feature? Think about it!
  • bought at Pixel 3a at launch. i used to buy used Galaxy phones on eBay every 18 months or so, but this 3a has done so well after 2 years that i will probably keep it for 3, then see how well it does. i can keep something from breaking, and i'm handy enough to replace batteries if need be. i'll keep the updates going, remove apps i don't use, delete crusty data and back up screenshots every so often.
  • I upgraded every time the contract came up because there were material improvements. 5ish years ago, good enough became good enough. I traded in a new S7 for a Moto Z Play because the cameras were decent, the functionality was OK but the screen was so much bigger & the battery life twice as good. Since then I went to a MotoX & then an A50. These days I buy a new one the month after the last security update.
  • I'm still using my galaxy S9. My battery doesn't hold a charge for very long, so I'm going to get a new battery installed. I'll keep using it for a few more years if it will hold up. Phones are an investment and I'd like to get my money's worth.
  • Back when we had contracts, you got an upgrade every two years or so, and I try not to replace my phone sooner than two years after the last one even now. The last phone I got on a contract, I specifically went for the latest and greatest on the intention of stretching it to a third year on a BYOP service plan (don't think I quite made it to a full extra year because not only did I shatter the screen the same month I switched, but I was never able to get the mobile data access point swapped so I had to hobble along on wifi alone). My current phone has been painfully slow for months, but it serves well enough and has fantastic battery life, so I'm sticking it out until the two year mark.
  • I try to keep my phone as long as it continues to get regular security updates. Then I hop on the next Pixel that GrapheneOS supports and use the older one as a "burner" for when I travel through sketchy areas. The only really I've held out on my current Pixel 2 XL is because the Pixel 6 with the Whitechapel SoC hasn't released yet. I fully anticipate 3+ years of firmware/driver support from that platform.
  • I want to keep my next Android phone (Pixel) for at least 2 years and stick with the brand that suits my needs best and I feel that's Google. Yeah I'm a Google and Pixel sheep and I make no apologies for that. I know what I want after 3 years of figuring it out. I've noticed that nearly everyone on here jumps on the Samsung bandwagon, well I don't want to do that. I have both iPhone and Android and will continue to have both platforms (for now) but I will always prefer Android and I will eventually just have Android (Pixel) phones as I'm tired of changing phones so frequently as I've built myself an unwanted reputation on this site because of that.
  • I always upgrade between 12 to 24 months.
  • I have been using my phone for 4 years and it was already at least a year old when I got it because I was looking for a small phone that still had an earphone jack. I am using a Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact. When I was looking for a new phone I looked at size first, and then only considered phones that also had the earphone jack. What kept me from getting the newer XZ2 Compact was the lack of earphone jack. How long will I continue to use this phone? Until it completely dies OR until I can find one that is small (my current phone is about 5 and 1/8inches long by 2 and 1/2 inches wide) that also has an earphone jack. I really hate larger phones, I hate that so many don't have an earphone jack and my other wish list item would be a replaceable battery, but, that one is not a deal breaker but the size and earphone jack are.
  • I can respect your dislike of larger phones, and I understand how a larger phone can be aggravating, although personally I like them. There SHOULD be smaller screen phones, but without any other compromises under the (false) notion that people who are opting for a smaller screen are doing so because they simply want a lower price. Topnotch specs should be available to all! At all screen sizes! Personally, I am not hung up on a headset jack. But I agree with you that it should remain available, and be returned to the phones it has been removed from. It's a relevant feature, not a bug. And just like the consumer replaceable battery, its use is not mandatory. I've had MANY cellphones which, over several years of use, I've not ONCE used the headset jack, nor even had a wired headset to even potentially use in it. But its PRESENCE has never burdened or offended me. And if I thought of it at all, I was glad it was there, under the principle of, "it's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it." The same principle applies to the consumer replaceable battery...and always having a spare (fully charged) battery around. Tis better to have it...and not need it. 😊