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23 Oct 2020

Do you really need a new smartphone?

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October 23, 2020 Category: Technology Posted by:

How to know when it’s time for an upgrade

The SUN introduces our new monthly tech section featuring TechLife Steph.

Stephanie Humphrey

By Stephanie Humphrey


With this month’s release of Apple’s latest smartphone offering – the iPhone 12 in all its iterations – you might be thinking that it’s time to upgrade your device. But is it? Here are some things to think about before you decide to buy a new phone:

Does my phone still work? If your phone is still in good working condition – meaning the screen isn’t cracked, apps aren’t crashing, the battery still gets you through most of the day, and the processor speed isn’t driving you crazy because it’s so slow – a new phone probably isn’t necessary. Even if there are some minor issues, it might be worth it to pay to fix a screen or replace the battery rather than buying an entirely new device. Keep in mind though, depending on the brand some repairs can cost hundreds of dollars, so if they start adding up it may be worth it to start over with a new phone.

Can I still get updates?  If your smartphone is too old to get the latest operating system updates, it is definitely time for an upgrade. System updates provide functional and critical security features that your device needs to operate properly. Plus, some apps may not work as well (or at all) without the latest operating system either. Lower cost devices typically don’t support the latest software beyond a year or maybe two, but higher-end brands like Apple and Samsung will typically support multiple models of a device that may be three, four, or even five years old. Check the website of the manufacturer to find out which devices they currently support.

Is the upgrade worth it?  Sometimes you’re not necessarily getting what you pay for with an upgrade. There was a lot of fanfare around the fact that the latest iPhone 12 models were enabled with 5G, but that standard isn’t even widely available yet with wireless carriers in the United States. Do your research to understand what features are actually being upgraded? Is there a significant bump in the camera, processor, or overall design? There may only be incremental changes between smartphone versions, so make sure you are getting something better than what you already have.

Can I afford it?  Of course, budget is always a consideration when considering a major purchase. And even though wireless carriers have payment plans built in to cover the cost of the smartphone, that payment will increase when you upgrade to the latest model. Make sure your wallet can handle the extra money you’ll be spending every month. And if you own your current phone outright, it might not make financial sense right now to add an extra payment to your budget.

After you have asked yourself these questions, you should also consider where your old smartphone will end up. Researchers at the United Nations have shown that 80% of electronics are not recycled, and e-waste is the fastest-growing global waste problem we are facing right now. So, while the decision is entirely up to you, if you don’t absolutely need to upgrade your phone right now, it would probably be better for your bank account and the environment to wait a while.

Stephanie Humphrey is a former engineer turned tech-life expert. She is a contributor to ‘Good Morning America’ and Fox 29’s ‘Good Day Philadelphia’. You can find Stephanie on Instagram and all around the web @TechLifeSteph

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