Updated by Suzanne Kantra on 8/30/2023 with current self-repair availability and OS upgrade information.
Are you looking to save money by holding onto that phone you've already paid off? You're not alone. In recent years, Americans have been bucking the trend of switching to a new phone every couple of years, in part due to the rising costs and minor improvements in flagship phones. Here are the easy ways to extend the life of your smartphone.
1. Fix your smartphone
While 44 percent of people would prefer replacing a broken phone to fixing it, according to an Asurion survey, getting your phone repaired is easier than ever. Currently, there are 20 states with Right to Repair laws, which require manufacturers to make information, tools, and parts available to third-party repair shops and even consumers. Apple opened a Self Service Repair Store last year, where consumers can learn about repairing their iPhones and purchase repair kits. And for Samsung Galaxy S20, S21, and S22 series phones, you can buy self-repair kits to fix issues with the screen, back glass, and ports at iFixit and Samsung retail stores.
Even if you're not interested in fixing your phone yourself, there are more third-party repair options.
2. Replace the battery
A new battery is the most effective way to breathe new life into an older smartphone. Batteries come with a certain number of charge cycles – one cycle going from fully charged to fully discharged – and as it runs through more of these cycles, a battery becomes less efficient at delivering charge. Swapping out your battery every two years helps with the device's longevity. Getting the battery replaced at a repair shop is a straightforward task that usually costs under $100. Many phone insurance plans will cover the cost of battery replacement if the maximum battery capacity dips below 85 percent of the original capacity.
3. Protect your screen
Along with the battery, a smartphone screen is the component most likely to fail – and one of the pricier ones to repair. Expect to shell out up to $399 for iPhone screen replacement and Samsung Galaxy screens at authorized repair centers – though if you feel up to the challenge, iFixit offers screen replacement guides for the most popular devices.
For a cheap, easy fix, invest in a good shock-absorbing case for your phone and a screen protector instead.
4. Repair damage immediately
If you end up cracking the screen, repair it as soon as possible, even if you can make out enough of the display to go about your daily business. It's not just a cosmetic issue. The longer you wait to repair, the more dirt, oil, and debris can penetrate the cracks and compromise your phone’s internal components.
Speediness also applies to other damage, such as dropping a phone that's not water-resistant into water. While you may be able to make your phone operational again by drying it out in a bowl of uncooked rice, water vapor can remain, causing damage down the road. Repair shops can take your phone apart and dry and clean it.
5. Clean your ports
Keeping your smartphone clean can go a long way towards recreating that like-new feeling. The charging port is one common area that attracts dirt that could compromise device operation. If you keep your phone in your pocket, the charging port can become clogged by lint. Cleaning out the debris with a toothpick is a quick, easy fix. And you can use a soft-bristled brush to clean out your phone's speaker grilles. Make sure you're brushing at an angle to flick away the debris so you're not just shoving it further into the speaker.
The same goes for dirt or sand getting into your smartphone case – remove your phone from its case every so often and wipe it down. You can use a microfiber cloth like the MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloths ($5.99), lightly dampened with a 50/50 mix of water and distilled white vinegar to remove grease and smudges.
6. Pay attention to storage
General maintenance matters – if your smartphone has started slowing down, the first thing to troubleshoot is the amount of storage you have available. To keep your phone running smoothly, we recommend keeping about 20 percent of your storage free. If you're low on space, check out our story How to Free up Space on Your iPhone and Android Phone.
7. Reset your device
If clearing out your smartphone fails to restore its performance, its software may be corrupted, perhaps through downloaded apps. Try a factory reset that erases all content – including passwords and accounts. A reset helps by allowing you to reinstall the operating system fresh, giving it a nearly out-of-the-box speed and slickness. Back up your phone first to ensure you don't lose any data.
For iPhones, you can find the factory reset option under Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.
For Android phones, head to Settings > System > Advanced > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset). For Samsung phones, head to Settings > General management > Reset > Factory data reset.
When it's time to pass on your old phone
It is often the operating system that makes older smartphones feel their age. iOS 16 runs on iPhones sold in 2017, including the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and Samsung announced that they will support Android OS updates for four years for their latest Galaxy models. Although iOS and Android OS updates technically support devices, certain apps – and OS updates themselves – can prove too power-hungry for previous years’ specs.
[Image credit: closeup of phone in hand via BigStockPhoto]