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I'm currently looking into buying an Android smartphone. Naturally, I'd like to keep using it until the hardware becomes technologically obsolete -- which, according to my prior experience with PCs (and some figures online), currently happens in something around 7 years. Just as expectedly, an official support span for a device is much, much shorter. Which in case of an always-on Internet-facing device is a showstopper because security fixes for components directly facing the network are a must here (unless I don't care about hackers stealing my online/banking credentials and/or making the device a bot in a botnet).

So, I'm interested in figuring out a way to determine a device's potential life span more productively than googling each model (which proved ineffective). Below is the information I have. Could you check my estimates and fill in the missing bits?

  • Hardware:
    • reliability/physical wear: unknown. Assumed flagship products to survive for at least 5 years but see some others' devices (like Sony Xperia Z3) already start breaking after 2 years.
      • Not planning to subject the device to hostile environments except occasionally getting into rain.
    • repairability: estimated by http://ifixit.org
      • the main distinction is how much it can be taken apart, i.e. how much will need to be replaced when any one part breaks
    • spares: taking "while supplies last" into account, my estimate is ~5 years for major models and 0-2 years for obscure ones
    • warranty: 1 year, didn't see anything longer
  • Software:
    • A new major version1 of Android is currently published once a year
    • Blobs
      • assume published/bundled blobs to be compatible with at most one major version.
      • Google supports two years' worth of new versions for its brands + 1 more year of security fixes
      • other manufacturers: unknown, assumed 1-2 years
      • With Google having standardized the 3D API in 7.1, proprietary video libraries should stop being an issue
    • Manufacturer-customized firmware
      • blobs are likely to be binary incompatible with anything but stock firmware, so this automatically writes a device off as soon as the manufacturer ends support (?)
    • OSS firmware
      • Open drivers
        • Unknown. Some manufacturers are/have been rumored to provide these but the information I found is fragmental and contradictory
      • Reversed drivers
        • I've found evidence of a number of efforts but too, fragmental and contradictory
        • The likeliness of a successful effort is proportional to the 1)combined popularity of models with the hardware and 2)availability of specs for it. The number of the building blocks should be at least two orders of magnitude less than the number of models, so it should be possible to gets some stats. Anyone gathering such statistics out there?
      • 3rd-party firmware
        • Strives to support devices for as long as practical.
        • Has to use bundled/published blobs, so the support is limited to as long as the blobs are usable (don't know whether Cyanogenmod resorts to compatibility layers for them). Those who don't use blobs lose major parts of functionality (e.g. Replicator doesn't support 3D graphics and Wi-fi).
        • By necessity, only support high-profile models
    • Roadblocks for firmware burning
      • all over the place, even the same manufacturer doesn't stay consistent. Any database?

I do see that overall, the Nexus line enjoys the best software support but I don't like its ditching of external storage (and didn't buy the excuses), so I'm evaluating other options.


1looks like the code name rather than numbers define which versions belong to the same "major version"

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