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Before continuing to read, please understand that I do not have a smartphone and have never had one. Thus my experience with such devices is minimal.

I am thinking about getting an Android smartphone, but I strongly prefer something that lasts (please don't debate why). How long do current smartphones stay practically usable? How long do they last physically, and how long does the software stay reasonably usable?

I do have an iPad 2 (release year: 2011), which at this point is barely usable. It is in good condition but the (irreversible) OS updates made it slow and many current apps are also so slow as to seriously affect usability. It used to be the same with computers many years ago, but it isn't so anymore: a 4-5 year old laptop computer holds up perfectly well today, and I see no need to upgrade. What about current mobile devices?

I am not willing to get a smartphone unless it is likely that it will stay usable for at least 4-5 years. I'd rather stay with my 6 year old Nokia. I am not in a position to get a carrier-locked phone, so a getting a quality device would be a significant expense.

To sum up: I am not sure that progress in mobile device performance has already slowed enough to make longevity a reasonable expectation, hence my question.

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  • Well, this is quite a broad topic. I can quote my case, though: I have an old Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, operating since four years ago. By profiting from one of the custom OSes out there, I can run the latest stable OS almost without hassle, nor lags. Yeah, I choose my apps with insight, trying not to clutter the smartphone, but it performs really well. What matters, in my opinion, is how you treat your device.
    – Grimoire
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 10:35
  • If you want a no-contract Android device, consider a Moto G or Moto E. These devices offer very good value for money, and therefore are perhaps the best choices for North Americans who want a no-contract Android smartphone. You can buy a brand-new current-generation Moto E online for US$70 or so, plus shipping. Or you can buy used. If you buy a used Moto G or Moto E, do choose a newer model, released in 2015 or newer. Such newer models are likely to get security updates for more years; on a popular OS like Android, this is an important consideration. Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 21:21
  • Once your Moto G or Moto E stops getting security updates, I recommend that you either switch from Android to CyanogenMod (this may be able to get you security updates for more years) or replace it with a newer Moto G or Moto E. Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 21:22

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I second what @DeathMaskSalesman says in the comment - it largely depends on how you use your device and whether you load custom ROMs on it.

Bottom line is, unless you use the phone lightly, nothing can hold up to 5 years nowadays, and even then the battery will wear out. My 3-year-old Nexus 4, when retired at its 2.5 year of service, has its battery down to 1500mAh from the designed 2100mAh. This is increasingly serious a problem since recent smartphones tend to have non-replaceable batteries.

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  • No smartphone has a truly non-replaceable battery. Non-replaceable batteries can always be replaced, if you have enough time and the right tools. This may or may not be worth doing. Consider the value of your phone and the costs of dismantling it in order to replace the battery. ❧ Tip: Many "OEM" replacement smartphone batteries sold online are illegal counterfeits. They may be unsafe. If you want to replace a smartphone battery, it's probably wiser to buy an OEM replacement from your carrier, or to buy a trustworthy replacement battery made by Anker, Lenmar, or Mugen. Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 21:26
  • @unforgettableid Sure, sure, and I've replaced my N4's battery on my own. N4 is the easy type though - I'm not sure if I can do the same to my N6P when it retires, and I'm totally frightened to deal with glassbacks from Samsung and Sony. Doing that also means losing waterproofing.
    – Andy Yan
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 23:42
  • Just curious: How do you know that your Nexus 4's battery can still hold 1500 mAh? Do you own a standalone lithium-battery analyzer? Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 2:30
  • I have a USB plug-in voltage/current meter, in fact a fairly cheap one, but seems to do the job well (measures a new battery accurately enough for personal reference).
    – Andy Yan
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 2:36

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