A white smartphone with a severely cracked screen on a yellow background.
Qvils/Shutterstock.com

A new shiny model of your current smartphone might debut every year, but just because a better model is out doesn’t mean you need it. When it comes to actually needing a new smartphone, only a few factors really matter.

Apps Require a Newer OS Version Than Your Phone Supports

Smartphones are all about apps. Without apps, there’s not much your phone can do! After some time, your phone manufacturer will no longer offer operating system (OS) updates for your phone. How long this takes depends on the phone manufacturer and their commitment to supporting a given handset, but once the OS updates end, you’re on the clock.

Eventually, new versions of apps will require an OS version later than your phone supports. At which point those apps will no longer work. When this happens, it’s time to buy a new phone, perhaps one with the longest OS-support commitment you can find.

You Stop Getting Security Updates

Even when operating system updates are halted for your phone, security updates will likely continue for some time. These updates patch any new exploits that hackers might use to steal your data or otherwise target you.

Hanging on to a phone that’s running an older OS is still tolerable as long as the apps you need still work on it, but as soon as its security updates stop, it becomes genuinely risky to keep using the device. At that point, it’s important to get a replacement to keep your online activities safe.

RELATED: How Long Can You Keep Using an iPhone?

App Performance Is Poor

Smartphone performance has come along in leaps and bounds, with modern phones easily matching mainstream laptops for daily tasks. If you’re into high-end mobile gaming, video editing or other content creation, or you’re a big multitasker, you may find that over time your phone will run new or updated apps poorly as they implement bigger and better features. If an app you really need (or just want) doesn’t run as well as it should, it’s time to look at something new with more horsepower under the hood.

The Best Android Phones of 2023

Samsung Galaxy S22
Best Android Phone Overall
Samsung Galaxy S22
Moto G Play (2021)
Best Budget
Moto G Play (2021)
Google Pixel 6a
Best Mid-Range Android Phone
Google Pixel 6a
Samsung Galaxy S22
Best Premium Android Phone
Samsung Galaxy S22
ASUS ROG Phone 6
Best for Gaming
ASUS ROG Phone 6
Google Pixel 7 Pro
Best Camera Phone
Google Pixel 7 Pro
ASUS Rog Phone 6
ASUS ROG Phone 6
ASUS Rog Phone 6

Your Battery Won’t Hold a Charge or Has Low Capacity

A smartphone’s battery is the only truly consumable component in the device, which is a pity because, in most modern phones, it’s not removable without a teardown of the phone using specialist tools. After a few hundred charge cycles, the battery will experience a reduction in its charge capacity, and eventually, it may fail to hold a charge for long.

Once this happens, it’s time to replace your phone. Some phone manufacturers do have official battery replacement services at a reasonable price, so if you’re otherwise happy with your handset you may want to use that option. However, most phones that have worn their batteries out this much are probably also having issues in other areas, so it’s a good general sign to get something new.

If you opt for a battery replacement, stick with an original battery and not a third-party replacement since these can potentially be dangerous.

Your Phone Has Serious Wear And Tear

Smartphones are a part of our daily lives, which also pick up wear and tear from being used in all sorts of environments. If your screen is cracked, or your phone is dinged up to the point where it affects how usable it is, you should consider replacing it even if it’s otherwise still fine.

For one thing, wear and tear can compromise the liquid and dust seals on IP-rated phones, and you may also have a compromised battery depending on the impacts your phone has experienced. Cracked screens can cut your fingers or make it hard to read the content. Often a screen replacement is so expensive that it makes more sense to replace the handset than attempt a repair.

Everything Else Can Wait!

Apart from these issues, most other motivations to get a new phone are a question of wanting a new handset rather than needing one. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the latest tech to play with (we all love it!) but it’s worth considering whether the expense is worth getting those new features now and being patient.

The Best iPhones of 2023

iPhone 14 Pro
Best iPhone Overall
iPhone 14 Pro
iPhone 14
The Classic iPhone
iPhone 14
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
Best Budget iPhone
Apple iPhone SE (2022)
iPhone 14 Pro
Best iPhone Camera
iPhone 14 Pro
iPhone 14 Pro Max
Best Battery Life
iPhone 14 Pro Max
Profile Photo for Sydney Butler Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
Read Full Bio »