Wanting a New Phone vs. Needing a New Phone

In an era of planned obsolescence and new flagship models coming out yearly, the phone market is ever-shifting, and incentives to upgrade are high.

The sense of connection, the feeling that your loved ones are just a tap away, the sum of the world’s knowledge at your fingertips—we’re plugged into a collective consciousness in a way that no era on Earth has ever known. And that’s a beautiful reality of modern life.

But it has its ugly side, too.

And part of that ugly side is the insidious way we’re tempted into buying a new phone, even when it’s practically unnecessary and financially stupid. If you’re struggling to figure out whether it’s time to say goodbye to your current model or put up with it a little longer, we break down the difference between needing a new phone and just plain old wanting one.

You Need a New Phone If:

  • Your phone is broken, and the cost to repair it is high, even when you stack it against the cost of getting a whole new phone.
  • Your job or schoolwork requires an app that your current phone simply can’t run.
  • Your phone is old to the point of being sluggish and unreliable. Be honest about this one—is it so slow that it’s unusable or just slower than the newest model?
  • The battery won’t hold a charge anymore. Luckily, this can be prevented, to a point.
  • Your mic is so degraded that the people you call can no longer hear you clearly or understand you. After all, this is technically what telephones are for, isn’t it?

You Want a New Phone If:

  • Your screen is broken. That’s a cheap fix, dude. And depending on the phone, it’s probably one you could do yourself.
  • Your phone is two years old. If you bought one using a payment plan, chances are it’s not even paid off by this point—some providers’ plans stretch as long as 30 months.
  • The new iPhone/Galaxy/whatever else is out this week. Of all the terrible reasons to buy a new phone, this is the terrible-est. Those new models aren’t going anywhere (unless it’s a Galaxy Note 7!), and chances are, they’ll experience a price drop if you hold your horses long enough.
  • You’re running out of storage space. Just back your business up on a computer. Better yet, put it on Google Drive AND your computer AND an external hard drive, if you really care about it. Then delete it from your phone, and know that it’s safer now than it was.

The bottom line? There are a lot of little irritations that crop up as a phone ages. But most of these can be repaired, or ignored, with a little patience.

If you upgrade your phone when you need to—and not when the companies that make them want you to—you can literally save thousands of dollars. If your financial situation is good enough that thousands of dollars are NBD, then sure, go ahead—upgrade away. Otherwise, put up with a magic pocket-computer that’s slightly slower than your friends’ and hold on to your cash.