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I'm forced to get a "smartphone", even though I want nothing to do with them, simply to be able to use as a "digital identification" thing and similar things for companies that refuse to provide a website -- only an "app". So I'm trying to find the cheapest possible one.

There appears to be only two "kinds": iPhone (ridiculously expensive beyond words) and Android (less expensive, but infested with Google). Since I don't actually want to use them for their intended purpose, and will only power it on briefly when forced to, I'm going to have to pick an Android one.

The cheapest one I can find where I live is $189. A bit more than I expected. Could've sworn they sold sub-$100 ones not long ago. Either way, what I'm wondering is if they are going to make me keep buying new ones every few years, or if I can just perpetually update that one with new versions of the "Android" OS? Or do new versions eventually require newer phone hardware and refuse to install, leaving me with a rotting brick which eventually stops working?

I have a feeling that these things are made to become obsolete rather quickly. Is that feeling correct?

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  • On Android there is one rule of thumb: The cheaper the device is the less updates you will get. Very cheap Android phones usually do not get updates at all. You can use such phones for years, however with every vulnerability found the risk increases that the device can be hacked.
    – Robert
    Apr 20, 2021 at 7:08
  • buy used Xiaomi with Android 9.0 for $ 30-50 (i never paid more than this for any of my family members)
    – alecxs
    Apr 20, 2021 at 7:32

2 Answers 2

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I have an old Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, its a phone from 2011. It still working, you can use the browser and make calls ets... The play store don't support it because the android version of this phone is 4... so I can't install new apps from the play store, but I still can download them from the internet. This phone is so weak and old that many apps just wont work on his system...

But you can still use your phone even after 10 years

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    are you sure? https won't work because of outdated ssl certificates. navigation won't work because of outdated google APIs etc
    – alecxs
    Apr 20, 2021 at 7:34
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"Planned obsolescence" is synonymous with "Android". As a general rule, you cannot upgrade the Android OS on a device unless the manufacturer provides you with an update. And huge companies like Samsung typically do not provide OS updates to customers for very long.

Even Google themselves, which typically provides the longest "promise" (the word of Google always has to be placed inside quotation marks) of OS upgrades for their hardware, but even they max out at under a half-decade (which, itself, is only a tiny fraction of what should be the usable lifespan of the hardware). And with a Google phone, you become even more entrenched with the Evil Empire.

That ugliness disclosed, the reality is that you can more or less continue to use Android devices well past the time when greedy self-centered manufacturers hope you throw them in the back of an obscure drawer. They key is finding apps (and app stores) that are compatible with your devices and not worry about the actual OS. If you can, removing the Google Play store and Google Play services can often dramatically increase the lifespan of an Android device, as well as its battery life. Yes, security will be an issue, but frankly, I consider all Android devices to lack effective security.

In all likelihood, though, the developers of your corporate "identification thing" will be using the latest version of Android on their development phones, and not pause to consider that most regular people are not interested in spending all the money required to buy that kind of hardware. As such, you'll probably need to run whatever OS version they demand.

One solution, if you aren't overly concerned about security, is to buy used Android devices. They are often much less expensive, and someone with your uses will likely not care about scratches or dents. In most regions, you can pick up a working, yet scratched and dented, Android phone for a low cost (same with iPhones).

That said, I think the best choice for you would be a used and beat-up iPhone that supports the software required by your company. Apple is well known for upgrading older devices to their latest OS, so an old iPhone may work. The downside to this is that Apple is also well known for intentionally degrading performance on such devices so the battery will last longer with all their new bloatware built into the OS. But for your uses, that shouldn't matter.

I learned about all this the hard way. Early during the ongoing pandemic, I wanted to see a doctor online. The doctor I found only performed video visits using software (written by her wealthy family) that supported the very latest Android devices or a recent iPhone. I had neither, and she simply didn't care that she was excluding all patients who could not afford such luxuries.

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    We've had a Q&A recently about why app developers don't support old Android versions. I think it ought to be mentioned here so that non-Android-developer folks don't end up thinking that all app developers are corporate drones and serves their employer's interests only, and hence, don't support legacy Android versions. android.stackexchange.com/q/234334/96277
    – Firelord
    Apr 20, 2021 at 9:21
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    Another point is that, if you are going to question an OS' security architecture, do consider linking to an alternative (idea/implementation) you think Google should adopt. Because otherwise, one cannot distinguish genuine dissent from rant. For example, when you say "Android device lack effective security", how do you expect a reader to know what counts as "effective security" for you? If they can't compare, they are left to believe in your words. What is worst is the objection from folks to such mentions of security risks diluting the efficacy of the overall message you are presenting.
    – Firelord
    Apr 20, 2021 at 9:27
  • @Firelord Thanks. All good points! I spent more time writing that answer than I planned, so I only have a moment right now to respond. To your first comment, yes, like any diverse group, Android developers span a wide range of different attributes, and many are hired to perform jobs with which they don't entirely agree (although they could refuse such jobs). Regarding OS security architecture, Android allows all apps to access the internet without asking the user's consent. That alone makes the OS a security nightmare. If the user can't control data ingress/egress, security does not exist. Apr 20, 2021 at 9:51
  • the problem is with question, not with answer. it's opinion-based. if you compare iphone with android, android is clearly not synonymous with planned obsolescence (consider removable battery, modular hardware design like fairphone, unlockable bootloader, open source custom ROM community, microG, f-droid, etc)
    – alecxs
    Apr 21, 2021 at 8:48
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    [...continued] I think both Android devices and iPhones are designed planned obsolescence. The exceptions are the amazing Android projects, such as Fairphone. I'm not aware of any similar projects for the iPhone, likely because it's much more of a closed system, which is perhaps iPhone's largest detraction. Apr 21, 2021 at 10:29

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