February 1, 2023

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How long can you keep using your Android phone?

Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Smartphones aren’t making great strides every year, which has led more people to keep their phones for two, three, or four years. Can a normal Android phone last that long before it runs into problems?

This is a complex question to answer, so we have to break it down into parts. First, the physical hardware in a phone has a solid lifespan, with varying access to repair and warranty services. There’s also the software aspect to consider, including operating system updates, important security patches, and app support. Since many different companies produce Android phones, the exact answers to these questions vary Many.

hardware

Most modern smartphones are built to handle small drops, falls, and scrapes relatively well — far from the cheapest budget devices, we’re well past the era of flimsy, non-Gorilla Glass plastic screens. But what about the internal hardware? Is there a Windows 11-like update on the horizon that will leave many existing Android phones stuck on an outdated version? Short answer: probably not.

Android hasn’t significantly changed its minimum requirements in many years, at least in terms of hardware. Instead, low-power devices are required Android Go version, which has some limitations to improve performance, and uses lighter system applications. For years, devices with 1GB of RAM or less had to use the Go Edition, but Go is now required for anything with 2GB of RAM (or less) and 16GB of storage (or less).

For this reason, new Android updates Generally Don’t make your phone or tablet slower or less usable. Some devices may seem to get slower over time, as they install more apps and fill up available storage space, but apps you don’t use get deleted (or continue to do so) Factory reset) I can help. In my own experience, doing a factory reset on my Galaxy S21 after more than a year of daily use made it feel a little faster.

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The main problem with any Android smartphone, like almost any portable electronic device, is its battery life. Lithium-ion batteries slowly lose capacity over time, and if you’ve kept a phone for a year or more, you may start to notice the need for a charger earlier in the day. Unfortunately, most modern smartphones do not have easily replaceable batteries. Stores like uBreakiFix And the best buy They offer battery replacements for some Android phones in the US, but most of those services are limited to Samsung Galaxy devices — most other Android phone manufacturers in America don’t have the affiliation or infrastructure for the same level of support.

You may also notice that the touchscreen has become covered in fingerprints over time, like the factory one Anti-oil coating It starts to fade. A screen protector is a quick and easy fix, if you don’t mind the extra bulk — specifically, the glass protector will feel like a new phone screen. Paying a store to replace the front screen glass will also work, though it will be more expensive and time consuming.

Android system updates

This is where things get complicated. Google is not responsible for updating every Android device, only its own Pixel series. For other phones and tablets, it’s up to the device maker to push system updates. Take the Galaxy S22 as an example – after Google developed a new version of Android, Samsung tweaked it with any needed changes and some additional features, then pushes it to the device. Every manufacturer has a track record of updates, but Samsung and Google are generally the best in this area.

Every Google Pixel phone provided Three years of major Android OS updates (such as Android 12, Android 13, etc.) and monthly security patches. Pixel 6 and later have a five-year warranty on security patches. But the same number of major OS updates. This guaranteed support period begins when the phone is released, not when you purchase it.

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The back of the Galaxy S22
Samsung Galaxy S22 will get four years of OS updates. Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Samsung’s flagship phones and tablets are Now guaranteed to receive four years of major OS updates, starting with Galaxy S21 series and later, Galaxy Z Fold3 and later, Galaxy Z Flip 3 and later, Galaxy Tab S8 series and later, and “A-series devices.” Other phones from the company are usually limited to 2-3 years of support, with no specific warranty.

Other hardware makers are generally worse. for example, OnePlus recently promised that “select” phones released in 2023 and later will get four major software upgrades and five years of security patches, but patches are bi-monthly instead of monthly. Motorola provides only 1-2 years of updates for most of its phones, and Some devices do not receive a major Android update.

Are Android updates important?

Most Android phones and tablets stop receiving major OS updates and security patches long before the device becomes unusable, especially if the battery has been replaced at some point. What happens when OS updates stop?

Most services and apps on Android devices update independently of the operating system, even some built-in system apps like Chrome and the Google Play Store — a stark contrast to the iPhone and iPad, where new features are found in apps like Safari and Apple Music. Requires a full OS upgrade. This means that even when your device maker finishes updates, your phone or tablet should continue to function normally for several more years.

Google keeps most of its apps and services for many years after the release of the Android version. for example, Google Play Services It runs multiple APIs and the Play Store, and is still fully supported on Android 4.4 – which first arrived on phones in September 2013. However, some apps and games don’t go back that far. the Facebook app Android 6.0 (from 2015) or higher is required, while Microsoft Outlook Wants Android 8.0 (from 2017) or later. Even if you are stuck on an Android version from a few years ago, you can still use new apps and some system features.

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The problem is that new security vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered in Android (just like Windows, iOS, iPadOS and other platforms), and if your device does not receive OS security patches, it will gradually become more vulnerable to malware. Google Play Protect It can protect you from some malicious apps, and Google is updating both Chrome and WebView (the system component that loads web pages inside most applications) for several years after the release of the Android version, which protects devices from web vulnerabilities. However, having an Android device with regular system security updates is still the only way to be as protected as possible.

iPhones and iPads have been receiving system updates for much longer than your typical Android phone — the five-year-old iPhone 8 Just got iOS 16 – But some features weren’t rolled out to older models. After the end of official iOS support, you will no longer get any New features or updates to most Apple apps, just occasional security updates. Compared to most Android devices, feature and security updates last longer, but there is eventually a hard outage rather than a gradual descent into unsupported software.