It is possible to buy smartphones with an eye to longevity rather than upgrading every two years. This strategy will save money and global resources and give you the snooty self-satisfaction of knowing you're shunning gadget consumerism. Here's how.
KEEP YOUR PHONE LONGER.
High-end phones seem to have hit an innovation plateau, with each new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy just slightly better than the last. This is great for people who just want a nice phone.
The latest phones might offer nice extras like a fingerprint scanner or a better camera flash, but few of these are really necessary. The main thing to worry about in an older phone is a dying battery; after two years, you'll notice your phone struggling to keep a charge. Some phones, like Samsung's Galaxy line, let owners swap the battery; you can just buy a new one and pop it in. Replacing the iPhone's battery requires special tools, but it's a relatively cheap and easy fix. IFixit's iPhone 5 battery kit, for example, sells for $30, including tools. There are also thousands of phone repair techs across the country who'll do it for a small fee.
TRADE IT IN.
Apple, Samsung and other smartphone manufacturers sell their top phones for more than $600 each without a contract. But with a two-year mobile contract, that price gets baked in to the cost of the commitment. So many people don't understand the true cost of their smartphones — or their true value.
Demand for the best phones far outstrips supply, so devices that seem outdated in the United States still carry cachet in the developing world.
The global demand for old smartphones has prompted a boom in trade-in services like Gazelle. Yet the supply of used phones remains low; only a quarter of smartphone users trade in their devices.
BUY A USED PHONE.
America's largest mobile carriers are now offering contract-free wireless plans that separate the price of your device from the price of your service.
These plans offer incentives to buy from the secondary market; if you get a cheap used phone, you might save a bundle on your monthly bill.