Why In-Store Repairs Won’t Change How Often You Get a New Phone

A lot of it comes down to personal preference

Key Takeaways

  • T-Mobile will start offering in-store repairs for customers in the future.
  • The right to repair has been a point of contention for many years in the smartphone industry.
  • Despite making repairs easier to get, experts say your phone’s lifespan still comes down to when you feel like it should be replaced, not necessarily how long it could last.
Some browsing smartphones in an electronics store.

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Experts say that carriers like T-Mobile making repairs easier for customers probably won’t change how often consumers buy new smartphones, since many already replace their phones before they have to.

The right to repair has long been a talking point of contention in the smartphone industry, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. However, some carriers, like T-Mobile, have shared plans to offer in-store repair options for customers. While this could open new doors for consumers to get their smartphones repaired, experts say the likelihood that it could actually change how often you buy a new phone is slim.

"On average, most people keep their phones for 2-3 years before selling them and upgrading them," Stewart McGrenary, an engineering expert who works with Freedom Mobiles, a smartphone recycler and reseller, told Lifewire in an email. "Sorrowfully, smartphones aren’t made to last eternally. They can last a long time, but exactly how long really depends on when you believe that your phone is 'dead.'"

Don’t Let Go

With new smartphones releasing every year, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea of replacing your old phone often. However, the quickness with which many replace their phones has started to change over time.

This change, though, is not necessarily tied to how easy or difficult it is to repair your phone, though that does help. Instead, it’s more tied to how often people believe they need a new phone.

"Sorrowfully, smartphones aren’t made to last eternally. They can last a long time, but exactly how long really depends on when you believe that your phone is 'dead.'"

In the early days of the iPhone and Android phones, manufacturers like Apple and Samsung constantly innovated, adding new features to each iteration of the phones they released.

Now, though, the release of new features has slowed, and each yearly update to the main smartphones usually offers minimum upgrades, making it worth holding onto your old phone just a little longer to save money and get the most out of your upgrade.

McGrenary says a lot of how consumers determine whether they need to replace their smartphone comes down to personal preference and opinions about performance.

Is the phone acting slow? Are you having trouble opening apps or keeping a charge? While repairs can resolve some issues, a technician can't repair performance and lack of software updates. Instead, they rely on support from manufacturers that sometimes just isn’t there.

In Flux

While the reasons to upgrade may have slowed for a bit, it’s possible that we could see the lifecycle of smartphones start to shorten in the near future, especially as 5G technology continues to improve.

According to Strategy Analytics, the current 40-month cycle for smartphones could shorten to 33 months by 2025. The reasoning behind this change appears to be improving economic conditions and cheaper 5G models becoming available as that tech improves.

Someone handing a broken smartphone to a repair person.

PR MEDIA / Unsplash

Even if smartphone carriers are offering easier repair options, if users feel like the technology being offered in new phones is superior, it’s likely to keep them upgrading often.

There are also other incentives to upgrading early, especially if you’re paid off your old phone. Many consumers still rely on purchasing recycled or refurbished devices, a part of the industry that continues to grow as new sites and stores offer up consumers’ old devices. 

"Depending on the condition your phone is in you could still sell your old smartphone and get a decent amount of cash towards your new phone," McGrenary noted. He also says that many consumers still have old handsets just sitting in drawers or boxes, where they’ve been thrown after new upgrades were purchased.

Of course, even with new tech constantly generating buzz and smartphones offering new features, the true reason you want to upgrade or replace your phone comes down to personal preference, McGrenary says.

Some users will be happy waiting years to upgrade. After all, there are joys to waiting for an upgrade. Others, though, may not be happy with the speed of their device, or the fact that it won’t receive any additional software and operating system updates.

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