Mobile phone technology moves fast. At least, that’s what it seems. Tech companies would like us to go through phones like we binge Netflix shows. However, phones change only incrementally from one version to the next. Do you actually need a new one each time? Phone are expensive, especially when you need a bunch of them. Whether you’re debating what to do about your own mobile device or you have a team of people messaging your help desk daily clamoring for an upgrade, here’s what to consider.
How Long Users Keep Mobile Phones
Even though phones are being released faster, users are upgrading at a slower rate. In the U.S. and Europe the time the average person kept a phone trended upward from 2013 to 2017, according to Business Insider and other sources. It is now well above two years, formerly the standard turn-around time.
Phys Org reports, “Analysts said they expect this trend to continue, at least until there is a major technological breakthrough.”
Reasons to Hold the Phone
Your primary motivation to avoid unnecessary upgrades is probably cost. Smartphones cost more than ever, and not just because of inflation. Ironically, it’s because users now keep phones longer that manufacturers are bumping up the sticker price. In addition, while carriers used to build the cost of devices into contracts, we now get costs up front. A few years ago, a phone price of $1,000 sounded crazy. Now it’s accepted.
Those sky high prices we talked about usually apply to the most high-end phones. Consider what features your employees truly need. It’s true that some may need the latest, most deluxe edition, especially if they’re testing your company’s own digital products. However, you can save money by buying only what you truly need.
Aside from financial cost, there’s an environmental cost to consider. A 2018 report from McMaster University said the energy to operate mobile devices already represents a carbon footprint triple that in 2007. But the real damage, they say, comes from producing new phones. Fast Company, reviewing the study, says, “...buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.”
The carbon footprint comes mainly from mining the materials, including coltan, cobalt, and germanium. But one must also add in the impact of building, packaging, and shipping the device. Your employees as well as your customers may appreciate knowing that your company makes environmentally conscious purchasing decisions.
Maximize the Performance of the Devices You Have
Before you break out a purchase order, learn how to best use existing devices. Conduct an audit of company devices or educate your team on how to do so themselves. Keep all software up-to-date and advise users to restart their phones regularly.
Look at what applications use the most bandwidth and storage. Free up space by deleting unnecessary apps. Extra widgets, animations, and video also eat up a lot of space. The blog Android Pit advises against installing third party task killers or storage management apps on Android devices, however.
Obviously, you will want to upgrade a phone if it gets damaged beyond repair. However, don’t overlook the possibility to extend the life of a device. It used to be that, sometimes, a new device cost less than repairing the old one. What is more, using a third-party repair shop has been considered a copyright violation. Now, right-to-repair laws exist or are in the works in many places to ease this restriction. Gizmodo delves into the details of “right-to-repair” laws here.
Regardless of where and how you repair your company’s broken phones, track these expenses carefully. Then weigh the cost of device insurance against the cost of maintenance. If your employees spend a lot of time in the field or otherwise work their devices pretty hard, the former might save you money.
When to Definitely Upgrade Smartphones
Five years is the absolute upper limit. After five years a device cannot accept software upgrades. As you know, outdated software leaves you open to security threats.
The bottom line is, make sure your employees can do their jobs. If they are working just fine, don’t be swayed by FOMO to buy a new device every few months. Keep an eye on performance and your budget, and you should save some money over time.