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Poll: How long do you keep your Android smartphone before upgrading?

Recycle your tech
Recycle your tech (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Smartphones are beneficial devices but can often be fickle little things. Like any piece of tech, there's always the possibility that something will glitch out, or perhaps you end up dropping it and shattering your screen. However, there are many reasons that someone may want to swap out their smartphone for a new one, and fortunately, there are plenty of options to choose from among the best Android phones.

OEMs aren't helping much either, since they've gotten into the habit of launching more flagships per year, such as Samsung, for example, with the Galaxy S21 series earlier this year and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 that's expected to arrive in August. So with that in mind, we want to know how long you usually keep your smartphone before upgrading to a new one.

Android phones were known for not having very long lifespans due to the way Android updates were handled. This would cause smartphone buyers to miss out on important security updates enticing new features, forcing them to buy a newer phone. Google Pixel smartphones would often receive the most updates, and fast, but that was hardly ever the case for other OEMs, especially if you owned an LG phone. Fortunately, that has been changing with companies pledging longer software support for their smartphones. And that's good because frankly, not everyone can fork out $1,000 whenever a new model is released.

Samsung has pledged that its recent phones will receive at least four years of software support, while other companies like OPPO are promising three years. Even LG has committed to three years of support for its devices, despite the company exiting the smartphone business. The rumored Pixel 6 is even said to offer five years of software support, which is pushing iPhone territory.

Thanks to initiatives like Project Mainline, it's become increasingly easier to hold onto your smartphone for a longer period of time, especially for anyone not particularly interested in having the latest and greatest hardware.

And for those of you that often get new phones, you might want to consider donating or recycling your old Android phone.

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.

68 Comments
  • On average I notice that I tend to keep my phones on average for 4-5 years. I had a couple of Droid phones from Motorola, then an LG, and then a Samsung Galaxy S5, which I kept for 5 years. I had dropped it and broke the glass face, so I got a Samsung Galaxy S8+ Mother's Day Weekend 2017 and it is the one I currently use. I was considering the Samsung Galaxy S21 line but it doesn't allow you to use memory or SD cards to extend your storage space, and that is non-negotiable for me. I am an app hoarder and I need the storage space. It is also great for holding downloaded pictures, documents, etc. from the internet. I don't know why Samsung decided to end external storage on the Galaxy line, so I will consider the S20.
  • The S21 literally comes with up to 1TB of storage. There is no way you need more storage then that. SD cards suck and are slow and are terrible for storing anything other than photos or music. But who the hell needs that with the cloud and streaming.
  • Video & still photographers need large amounts of fast memory. Especially if editing on the unit.
  • That no SD card storage is a no-no for me as well. No reason to remove yet another feature that no one asked to be removed.
  • I agree. That's one of the reasons I left apple. If they do away with the SD card, my Note 20 ultra 5G will be the last Samsung I buy.
  • I used to think I needed sd storage, but I found I never actually filled the 512gb model with stuff I genuinely needed on my phone. Paying extra for increased internal storage is only marginally more expensive than buying a separate sdcard, and the internal storage has significantly better performance than the sdcard.
  • Most people don't use SD cards and you 1 are a minority. I don't care about SD cards either. I prefer fast internal storage always have and always will.
  • It's pretty clear that Samsung chose income over customer service with this decision. To many people were buying the low storage cheaper phones and using SD cards to expand the storage and now it's either buy a more expensive phone or go without your apps and other files. Yeah, they have people buying more expensive devices but then they hold onto them longer in order to get a better ROI. These device companies need to stop expecting people to waste money when they produce products that don't really improve much over time.
  • Three years minimum
  • An average for me would be 18 months. I'm presently at 16 months on my LG G8 but if I get a new phone anytime soon it will have to be something drastically less expensive. I'm talking something in the $200 to $300 range. I should have got that green OnePlus 8 on Prime day.
  • 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 it's 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.
  • With Android phones you should be upgrading when the security patches stop, but I'll be upgrading at least every 2 years when my phone contract allows me to and I'm fine with that.
  • Who the hell is still on a phone contract in 2021.
  • I live in the UK where phone contracts are still very much a thing.
  • Yep, UK too. I don't know anyone who buys a phone for cash (unless it's for less than £100). Also, why would I pay £900 up front, when I can spread the cost?
  • You only really need to upgrade after security patches stop if there is a report of a serious vulnerability affecting microcode or blobs. Google is constantly updating its core apps.
    In fact it is now known that neither Spectre nor Meltdown really got anywhere with phones.
    I skipped a Sony upgrade because the 865 was a kludge, but will probably get the 5 III because the 888 is pretty future proof, and that's probably the most important thing.
  • Very true. I upgraded to a OnePlus 6 from a OnePlus 3 a few years ago and I was so excited for the OnePlus 6 only to find out it was almost similar. Only a couple of things got better like camera and maybe display but the overall experience was almost similar. I don't think I going to be excited for my next smartphone upgrade. Nothing has evolved over the years in smartphone tech.
  • Maximum two years because I get bored
  • My Android phone is mostly a backup to my iPhone. I just changed Android phones because the old one stopped receiving updates.
  • That's ironic because my iphone is my backup to my Android because of iphones unreliability.
  • I've also heard that iPhones are not reliable.
  • My iPhone is now my secondary device that I use as a media player because I'm really into Android as my preferred OS with all the flexibility and freedom to customise my phone how I like.
  • I always expect to change every year but with my last two Pixels I've ended up keeping them for 2 years because the one year refresh didn't have enough difference. Beyond that, battery life begins to suffer.
  • I tend to keep my phones between 2 to 2 1/2 years. Three years maximum.
  • I keep mine until something significantly better comes along, or until the phone begins having problems. I'm kinda stuck right now because a couple phones can match or better the camera, but everything on the market right now is a downgrade in audio.
  • I'll be keeping my Note 9 for 4 years, too far past Samsung considering me an 'asset', and then moving on to iPhone, where I've noticed from very close relations you are not considered a 'liability' immediately after you purchase the phone. IOW, Value, not Shiny Thing.
  • Maybe you are not up to date with iPhone news. Lately it was found that Apple done the same game of throttling the performance on ios updates. So, good luck with iPhones!
  • Keep mine until the security patches stop...
  • My present smartphone (& my first) I have had for 2 years next month & the only reason I did buy it was because the hinges on my old LG VX8300 flip phone were broken. The only way it will be replaced is if it stops working. I guess I'm an old fuddy-duddy because I use it as a phone (imagine that). I very rarely use it for other things. I will use it to check transit arrivals, to check my emails if I don't want to turn on the computer, to check the time when I'm away from home, to take an occasional photo., that's about it.
  • You're right, you are an old fuddy duddy, and shouldn't be using a smartphone. Period!
  • That was rude, judgemental, and uncalled for. I see you are returning to your troll behavior once again. You should apologize.
  • Thanks, jimmy & bigsmoke, But I expected that reaction but was surprised there weren't more. If I didn't have to have a phone for emergencies, etc. it would be the first tech item I would give up. But it would have to be over my dead body before I would give up my computer! So it's not the tech I don't like, it's that the phone makes me too accessible to others, I don't even answer my phone most of the time. Leave a message & I might get back to you.
  • You do you and ignore the trolls. Technology is supposed to enhance our lives as tools, not be the defining factor of who we are. I had BlackBerry for awhile and the amount of flak I got, even when it ran Android OS, was ridiculous. But it only exposed people who were ignorant.
  • You're right my comment was uncalled for and I'm sorry, I just don't like it when people don't make use of their smartphones like using it for internet. I'm like that with my mother for what it's worth.
  • Uncalled for that Beno, especially considering you change your mind on what manufacturer you like from one week to the next be it Apple, Google, Samsung etc I'm surprised your not changing handsets every day never mind years.
  • I tend to keep my devices until the wheels begin to fall off, metaphorically speaking. Just this past Christmas I upgraded to a Moto G Stylus 2020 from a Moto G5 Plus that I had since launch day of the Moto G5 series. I won't deny that new features and such are nice sure, but are they necessary. I didn't upgrade because I wanted new features, I was more than satisfied with what I had. I upgraded because the battery was finally giving it up. Obviously taking care of your device can extend its life. But also a good launcher on an older phone can dress it up as a good launcher can allow you to mimic many of the software tweaks you'd see in new versions of Android OS or a manufacturers phone...
  • The longest I've kept an Android phone before upgrading was 14 months and that was my OnePlus 7T, which I got back when it come out in 2019 and upgraded to an S20 FE but I won't see out the year with it as it just isn't for me, soft wise and prefer a clean build of Android with the focus on the Google experience, with fast updates day 1 and early access to the latest version of Android. I already know what my next Android phone will be and I'll be sticking with this brand for hear on out. And I know that with my next Android phone, I'll hold on to it for at least 2 years as I get my Android phones on contract. Security updates and software updates matter to me and there's only one OEM who delivers updates faster than Samsung, and that's the standard I expect from the company that builds Android, if you guessed correctly that it was Google then you earned yourself a stake dinner paid for by the nearest person sitting next to you LOL.
  • Until it no longer supports the latest version of Android.
  • I keep my phones as long as the manufacturer releases monthly security patches. And I only buy phones from manufacturers who commit to at least 3 years of patches.
  • Usually, every year, but that was to keep up with custom rom/kernel devs. But since purchasing the P4XL limited edition, there hasn't been a need for anything custom, Google knows better than a bunch of hobbyist's. And since the 5 nor 6 seem to have facial recognition or soli, I'm not interested in downgrading just to have the latest device. So, while I am with #teampixel, the answer would probably be, when it loses support.
  • I did upgrade to a Samsung s21+. However I still have my four older phone for backup. Thanks to LineageOS and crDroid, my OnePlus One, OnePlus Two, Nexus 5, and Moto G5+ are all running custom roms based on Android 11 and getting periodic security and bug-fix updates. Some of these might even get Android 12 before the Sammy...
  • Still running VZ Note 9, on third extended warranty Sammy battery, phone running very well, love the 3.5mm Jack, just got another monthly security update today, looking at Note 20 Ultra unlocked $799 with 9 trade, however only two years plus left on OS Updates, will continue to keep my options open. Next phone has got to have 3-4 years plus Android OS Updates, additional years security updates, these are non negotiable. The choice will be between Sammy, Pixel and iOS. We'll keep options open.
  • I have the Galaxy Note 10 Plus as my current daily driver since launch. But my previous phone was the Galaxy Note Edge, which was my daily for 4 1/2 years. The way that today's phones are made, as long as the carrier still supports the phone, and the OEM updates it, there is no reason why you have to upgrade to a new phone every year. It will depend on the user's needs. But I can see me with this phone for as long as I owned the previous one. And Apple supports their phones with OS updates for 5 years. No reason that Android can't do the same.
  • I used my phones til they died or stopped getting updates. But after my Blackberry Keyone, got an S10e and started relying on Samsung Dex.
    Upgraded to S21 just for the better Dex experience with better chipset and more Ram.
    Am guessing I'll base my upgrades based on when the newer chipset will provide a significant performance difference using Dex.
  • Going forward, my upgrade cycle will be tied to the security update cycle of the OEM. I will also try to really stick to purchasing one device at a time. So for example, if I get the Sony Xperia 1 mark 3 this year, then I know I will be purchasing another phone after receiving three years worth of security updates from Sony. However, if I get a Pixel 6, then I know I will be getting a new device once I have received 5 years worth of security updates from Google.
  • I have been upgrading my Samsung Notes every year. I have the Note 20 Ultra 5G. It looks like Samsung will now be upgrading the Note this year, and it looks like they have phased out SD cards. I will not buy a phone without an SD card so it looks like I jabber to find another phone when I upgrade. Samsung, one of the reasons I left Apple was because they don't offer users SD cards.!
  • Generally, I upgrade every year thanks to the Galaxy Forever Program. But I'm about to transition to every 2 years given the capability of these devices and the upgrade guarantees.
  • Picked up my first Android phone, a OnePlus 5T, in December 2017 and its still as good today as it was back then. 8GB seemed like total overkill at the time, but it's arguably the reason why the phone is as fast and responsive today as it was nearly 4 years ago. The battery is still ok-ish, in that I can get 12-14 hours out of it in a charge, but no worries, my local repair shop can replace the battery for £45. Can't argue with that. I'm hoping to hold onto it for another 3-4 years. The only thing that's holding this device back from being as good as it can be is the lack of upgrade past Android 10...although that may not be a terrible thing, as newer operating systems will require more resources, and will probably slow the device down. But yeah, Big fan of the 5T
  • depends on the phone. if it turns out to be a dud i upgrade sooner than later. had the Essential PH1 for 6 months (which i passed on to my daughter), the OnePlus 6t for a year (which i keep around just in case), and now the Note 10+ for almost 2 years. will probably get the Pixel 6 soon after it comes out and my Note 10+ will either be a trade in or i will sell it to offset the Pixel purchase
  • I keep my phone until I break it LOL! Years sometimes less.
  • The easy (to say, but highly subjective) answer is, "You upgrade when you want new features that your current phone won't have." I used to upgrade every year. Now it's every other and maybe longer in this iteration. Just like with desktops and laptops, the feature rollouts have started to slow and the really interesting new features are in the high-end, really expensive, not-quite-beta-test products. Also, as others have noted, sometimes the new models, while giving new features, also take away some that I like (physical headset socket, external storage) so I have to weigh the gain against the loss.
    My next phone may well be a Foldable (or the one after that), but only if the prices go down a bit. Since I'm not buying a phone every year, I might consider a bit more cost for something I'll use longer, but near $2000 stings too much right now.
  • Well with the durability of my previous flagship Samsung phones it wasn't long enough. I was lucky to get 1 to 2 years. Hoping this Pixel 3axl lasts longer! I'm tired of the disposable nature of phones. For the love of anything all the chargers need to be universal! Can't believe the waste the electronics industry has created with nonsense over the years.
  • I have a Motorola Fusion Plus and it works flawlessly. It's fast, has great cameras and paid only $260 for it new.
  • I'm on the Samsung upgrade program, so exactly a year. We'll, until they screwed me over this year by not producing a note 21. I'm becoming more and more reliant on leased hardware for things with a high depreciation value. Cars, laptops, mobile devices, basically pay for half the product interest free over a known period, then give it back and get a new one.
  • I mostly went every two years, when I got the S7, I held onto that for 3 years, then went back to 2 years. So mostly, every two years.
  • I'm different to the norm in that I upgrade every year, cause I usually get a great trade in deal on my current phone if I didn't get this I wouldn't but for a few hundred a year I get the latest handset, new battery, and a new warranty etc Plus if I hold onto a a handset into two years I find I have to pay a lot more to get back to the latest handset, this isnt for everyone I know but I use my phone soo much for work and business it's a small price to pay to stay current and have secure updates.
  • The availability of updates is my biggest determining factor for keeping a phone nowadays. The last phone I kept way past updates had ceased was the Sony Xperia Z3 which lasted me over 3 years, it had great battery life. My Pixel 3a XL is still serving me well after 2 years and I'll happily see out the next year worth of updates which will make it one of best bang for bucks phone I've ever owned. Especially for the camera quality. Unless the Pixel 6 tempts me beforehand, liking what I'm hearing. I've grown to love the Google Pixel software, so clean compared to other Androids.
  • I know how you feel, I really miss my Pixel 2 XL, which I sold 3 years ago and I regret it as I was at the height of an addiction at the time that I've thankfully beaten and realised that the Pixel was the phone I was happiest with and will be getting. Pixel 4a 5G before the end of the year unless I win the lottery and I'll get both the 6 and the 4a 5G, the Pixel software is great and love how clean the software is and it's exclusive features like Now Playing, etc along with the fast updates which I actually get notified for.
  • My dayly driver is a Motorola G4 Plus now 5 years old. I'm going to upgrade soon as it's battery is getting old but due to bad cell phone coverage where I live I'll have go with WiFi calling but that means changing carriers. Most likely get a Samsung A52 5g.
  • I'd say at least 2 years for a smartphone, because after that 2nd year is when the battery starts to not last as long for me (I'm good 'til mid 2021 on my Motorola). I've had my Samsung Tablet for 3 years, very grateful for the updates, but it's received the last one in December 2020 (time for a new Tablet). I guess it's about time to upgrade to 5G (I don't see that many 4G LTE devices on store shelves) and check out T-Mobile's 5G home internet.
  • I would never buy a Motorola phone dueto their terrible approach to updates and prefer the Pixel software experience even though it's similar to the Pixel software but I don't like Motorola's software additions.
  • Pixels nice but cost twice the cost of a Motorola and in my case not available to buy in my country.
  • I upgrade whenever a new phone strikes my fancy, usually about once a year.
  • I use my phone while plugged in a lot so I used to go through one every 12-18 months before the flimsy micro-USB B ports would would start crapping out on me (that is, physically breaking the connections to the board). USB C has saved me a lot of money just by being a lot sturdier! I'm still on my Pixel 2 XL almost 4 years later, but may upgrade to a Pixel 6 later this year because the battery life is getting really, really bad, even with battery saver on at all times.
  • I'm still using my galaxy s10e because it does everything I need it to do. Maybe in a few more years when it stops getting security updates and new Android os then I'll change it.
  • In the past I held onto a phone for at least 5 years. Then I got a Pixel 2XL which I loved. I'd planned to hold on to it until the 6 launched but it got damaged severely at work. Due to the current supply chain issues I ended up with Moto One 5G UW. It's not the Pixel I'd dreamed of but it more like a lateral move from the 2XL. I'll be seriously looking at the Pixel 6 series when it launches. I've become quite a fan of the Pixel ecosystem and all it offers. The Moto isn't bad. Great battery life and SD expansion are a plus. Seriously miss the active edge on the 2XL.
  • 4-5 years at least. Max 7 years.
  • Very keen reader of the technical press myself, especially Android Central. Currently using Redmi Note 10 Pro. Generally paying full price, for the latest value for money breakthrough. Next possible purchase, soon, will probably be a folding smartphone.
    Technology is moving so fast now, that few can keep up. Now we need to keep our body wearable gadgets in time with our smartphone & other gadgets.
    Smartphones are much more than a phone. Cameras of many types & kinds. Recorders & logging devices. Game & exercise tools. Tutorial & learning machines. Then combinations of all these many devices, beyond any person's imaginations.
    So upgrade at least annually.