Take a clear-eyed look at whether your phone is past its prime. Here are three cases when it might be wise to replace it:
Your Current Phone is Giving You Trouble. You can replace a cracked display or an anemic battery (by yourself on many Android phones), but when system improvements from Apple or Google reduce the performance of your phone, it’s probably time to replace it. Ditto sluggish response times, frequent crashes, and a battery that gives out before the end of the day.
You’re Moving to Another Provider. In the past, switching carriers meant you were definitely getting a new phone. Providers locked the phones they sold into their services. Once you met the terms of your agreement, you might persuade the company to set yours free, but chances are the device lacked the technology to function properly on a rival network. That’s no longer true: Apple, for instance, sells unlocked phones with the technology to operate in multiple networks. Okay, so you don’t have to get a new phone if you’re switching providers. But it can still be a great idea. You may be able to trade in your old phone for money toward a new one, or even replace a model from your old provider with one that’s the same or similar at no additional cost.
You Can’t Resist a New Gadget. These days, annual improvements in handset technology are less significant than they were a few years ago, so there’s less incentive to upgrade. For instance, the iPhone 6s is quite similar to the 2014 iPhone 6, except for a moderately faster processor, a 3D Touch display that simplifies multitasking, and a higher-resolution camera that takes still pictures that move. Only you know if those are good reasons to rush out and buy one.
Consider Your Options in Operating Systems
Smartphones all share the ability to browse the Web and run apps, handle office and personal e-mail and facilitate social networking. But how easily and how well you can do those tasks varies by operating system. The OS also affects apps selection, though highly popular apps such as Facebook, Weather Channel, Google Maps, and Pandora are available on multiple platforms.
If you want a wide choice of phones, you’ve come to the right OS. Google’s Android platform supports the largest variety of hardware from handset makers such as HTC, LG, and Samsung. Options include everything from compact models to phones with displays larger than 5 inches. The Android OS is highly customizable, thanks to widgets and other tools for tweaking phone controls, as well as the desktop’s overall look and feel. Android’s native Google Search engine, Maps app, and cloud-based Drive and Photos services are among the most popular smartphone apps (even among iPhone users).
The interface of the latest Android version, Marshmallow, gives users more precise control over what personal information individual apps can access. Now, on an app-by-app basis, you grant or deny permission for an app to access such personal data as your location, your contacts, and other potentially sensitive information. Google Now on Tap also helps you dive into specific app content with fewer steps. For instance, if you launch the National Public Radio app, it will ask you which programs you’d like to listen to.
iPhones complement their sleek designs with intuitively simple operation. The iOS interface is not only ultra-easy to master, but also among the best for accessing music, videos, games, and other content. Consistency is another plus: iOS is the same from carrier to carrier and almost identical to the OS on iPad and iPod Touch products. iPhones have a home button for closing or backing out of apps, checking app status, launching universal search, and returning to the home screen.
The Siri voice-controlled assistant is quite adept at interpreting and executing an impressive number of requests. The Maps app received a significant update with iOS 9. Now directions for a single trip can factor in departure times for public transportation and the time it takes to walk between them.
And it’s hard to beat the immense selection of apps, content, and gaming options from iTunes and the App Store. You’ll also find accessories galore from Apple and third-party vendors. On the downside, iOS is less customizable than Android, though you can create folders to organize apps.
Like BlackBerry, Windows is a marginal player in the market. Nevertheless, the Windows phones provide straightforward yet flexible access to most functions via two main panels. One is a Start Screen with a scrolling interface of resizable Live Tiles—animated app icons that can display app activities and notifications. The other is a list of all the apps on your phone. The latest version, Windows 10 mobile, helps to unify compatible Windows desktops, tablets and phone operating systems by sharing many of the same features as the desktop version.