When Should You Upgrade Your Phone?

By Tracey Dowdy

Getting a new phone is kind of like getting a new car. The minute you drive it off the lot – or walk out of the store – it immediately morphs into “used” status and loses value. Plus, developers keep releasing “new and improved” versions, so your phone is dated before you even send your first text or snap your first selfie.

So, if you’re thinking about upgrading your phone, you might ask yourself if it’s worth it. It’s easy to get sucked in to the hype, especially if you’re talking to a salesperson, so before you jump in ask yourself:

  • Does the latest upgrade really make a significant difference?
  • Does the upgraded version have features that I really want/need?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the expense?

Let’s look at the first question: Does the upgrade really make a difference? Other than being able to make me a grilled cheese on-demand, I can’t imagine what features could possibly be added to my iPhone 7 Plus to make me upgrade to the next version in the near future. Granted, I upgraded not long ago because but there was no additional cost to me to roll over to a new phone when my last contract finished. If there had been a cost, I wouldn’t have upgraded, as I wasn’t experiencing any technical issues and the body of the phone was in excellent shape. The operating system was still fast, I had installed all the updates and my battery life was strong – those are all factors to consider before choosing to upgrade.

Ask yourself if the upgraded version really has features that you really want or need. For me, the only feature that I was excited about was the camera. There’s a definite difference in the quality of the photos with the iPhone 7.  Again, had there been a cost involved, I wouldn’t have upgraded when I did, as the camera on the 6 was adequate for my needs. I have an excellent digital camera and although carrying it around isn’t as convenient as having my phone in my pocket, it’s my go-to for important photos and videos. For me, additional changes like more color choices, stereo speakers, and minimal improvements to battery life weren’t enough motivation.

Finally, you need to ask yourself if upgrading your device is cost effective. According to research by Bankrate, upgrading your device could potentially cost you:

  • An extra $25 a month (average cost of financing or leasing a phone)
  • $199, (average cost of subsidizing a phone with a contract)
  • $650 or more to buy your phone outright

If your phone isn’t experiencing technical difficulties, its physical condition doesn’t interfere with usage, and it has a decent battery life, you may be better off sitting tight for a while. In general, what you’ll save by skipping an upgrade depends on your service provider, whether you’ve reached the point in your plan that makes you eligible for an upgrade or trade-in, and the type of phone you want. Decide what features are most important to you, shop around online, talk to friends and family with different devices, and know what you want before you talk to a sales rep face to face.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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