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12 Warning Signs It’s Time for a New Cell Phone

Updated: Jun. 13, 2024

Don’t be caught off guard. If your phone is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it could be starting a downward spiral that you can't stop.

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Time to make a change

Smartphones are a huge investment, so most people want to hang onto them for as long as possible. In fact, research by Strategy Analytics shows that smartphone users are now waiting up to almost three years before replacing their phones. While this can be a good strategy for your budget, keeping a phone longer than it is intended to be used can come with some consequences like poor sound quality, security issues, and more. Not sure if your cell phone situation is dire? Here are the telltale signs that it’s time to part ways with your trusty companion. Once you get a new device, make sure to avoid these 10 mistakes that shorten the life of your phone.

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The battery drains quickly

If a full charge lasts only a fraction of the time it used to and your phone constantly needs to be charged, it’s time for an upgrade, says Jonathon Nantz, a production support engineer with Republic Wireless. Over time, like anything else that’s used a lot, your cell phone’s battery will wear out. If your phone doesn’t have a replaceable battery, then you’ll have no choice other than to buy a new phone. Until then, here are some tips to help save battery life.

Amazed businessman annoyed with phone call
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No one can understand you

Can you hear me now? If the answer is suddenly no, even when you’re in tried-and-true calling locations or have four service bars, the problem might not actually be your connection—it might be your microphone. When your mic starts to wear out, people on the other end of your calls will continuously complain that they can’t understand what you’re saying because your voice sounds very quiet or the sound cuts in and out. Thinking about getting a new iPhone? These tips from Apple insiders will make you an iPhone super-user.

Woman looking at a smart phone on a bed
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Your phone isn’t VoLTE-capable

Did you know that 3G is on the way out? It is, and if your phone doesn’t support VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution, a new way to make a service connection so you can make a phone call and use your data at the same time), your phone could become a glorified paperweight that doesn’t get service. If you were unaware, you’re not alone. A survey conducted in early 2020 across all mobile carriers found that 79 percent of people didn’t know that 3G networks would be shutting down. “Check your settings to make sure VoLTE is turned on,” says Andrew Moore-Crispin, Director of Content at Ting Mobile, an MVNO mobile service provider. “[If your phone doesn’t have this feature,] there are lots of VoLTE-compatible devices you can choose from without breaking the bank.”

To find out if your phone has VoLTE, you’ll need to go to the connection settings or the cellular data options on your phone. The specific area that contains the VoLTE setting will vary depending on the type of phone you have and the carrier, so your best bet is to call your phone service provider and ask if your phone is VoLTE capable. While you’re talking to customer service, ask the representative to walk you through the process of finding the VoLTE setting to be sure that it is turned on, since many phones don’t have it turned on as the default. Learn these tricks to use less cell phone data—and lower your cell phone bill.

Cropped image of young woman using smart phone while standing on street in city
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The touch screen is glitching

Have you noticed that your touch screen is getting less compliant to your swipes? When the sensors on it are starting to fail, sometimes your phone will work just fine, and then other times you’ll need to swipe or tap repeatedly to get a response. When this starts happening, you’re not losing your mind or imagining things—it’s a sign that you need to start looking for a new phone. You can typically get your screen repaired, but if your phone is on the older side, it may cost more to make the repair than your phone is worth. Here are 14 genius uses for your old cell phone.

Handicapped Senior Man Sitting in a Wheelchair and Using a Smartphone
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Troubleshooting isn’t working

DIY phone fixes, like cleaning your charging port to improve charging and drying out a moistened phone, can keep your phone running for a long time. There’s a time, though, when not even troubleshooting will make a difference. If you’ve tried rebooting your phone, checking it for malware, and installing the necessary software upgrades and it still remains slow or laggy, it’s time to say goodbye, according to Nantz. Get to know about these warning signs of hoarding.

Close-up of hand scrolling on phone at festival
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It randomly reboots

If your phone randomly reboots, it could be a sign that your phone has malware and that hackers may have access to it. If, however, you scan your phone with an anti-malware app like Malwarebytes or Bitdefender and you don’t find anything amiss, your phone may just be old and worn out. Worn out electronics can glitch, causing them to malfunction and randomly restart.

Senior man using mobile phone.
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The operating system is outdated

When you can’t update to the latest operating system due to outdated hardware, your phone can slow down and potentially be vulnerable to security threats, says Moore-Crispin. Google the latest OS for your phone type and check in your phone’s settings to make sure your device is updated. If it can’t download the latest update, it’s time to upgrade. Just FYI, it usually takes around three years for a phone to have an outdated operating system, though this isn’t a rule. It can happen sooner or later, depending on the phone manufacturer.

Woman holding laptop and listening on smartphone
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You can no longer get technical support

“Depending on how old your phone is, your manufacturer or local repair shop may think your device is considered obsolete,” says Moore-Crispin. When this happens, you won’t be able to get tech support or replacement parts for your phone anymore. That means if it’s glitching out, there’s really nothing you can do but get a new phone. When you have a fully functioning cell phone again, check out these 30 cell phone hacks you’ll wonder how you ever lived without.

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The camera is terrible

At this point, just about everyone uses their phone as their personal camera. If your photos are cringe-worthy, with grainy images and less-than-brilliant colors, it’s time to make a change. Even budget phones have great cameras these days. Typically, if your phone’s camera has single-digit megapixels (your phone will often say something like 5MP or 8MP beside the camera lens on the back of the phone), then you should probably consider replacing it. The more megapixels, the better the resolution. Camera phones today have up to 20 megapixels, which means they take photos just as well as many newer digital cameras, with clear, crisp images. You should also look for phones with zoom capabilities and the ability to take photos in low-light conditions. While we’re on the subject, here are some genius tricks to take a postcard-perfect picture on your smartphone.

Hand reaching for phone dropped in pool
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It has internal damage

If your phone looks like it’s been dropped off a Ferris wheel, it’s time for it to rest in peace. “We all drop our phones occasionally, but if your device is experiencing internal damage that goes beyond a cracked phone screen, you may be due for an upgrade,” says Moore-Crispin. Signs of internal damage can include a touchscreen that doesn’t work properly, random phone reboots, or a screen with blacked-out pixels.

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You never have enough storage

Are you constantly deleting photos and uninstalling apps because your storage is full? And your phone doesn’t have external memory that you can upgrade in the form of a better microSD card? It’s time to face facts: You need an upgrade. The only way around this, really, would be to save your photos to a cloud service like Google Drive or iCloud and use as few apps as possible. Older phones have around 4 to 8 GB of memory, but that doesn’t really cut it with today’s apps, especially if you want to store photos on your phone, too.

If you don’t use a ton of apps and still use a regular camera for most of your photos, 32 to 64 GB of memory should work for you. But you can get up to 1 TB of memory storage on new phones, which is especially important if you want to take photos with your phone and store them there, as well. Photos take up a lot of memory! If you want to wait just a little while longer to get a new phone, here are some clever tips for freeing up space.

Midsection Of Woman Plugging Headphones In Smart Phone On Running Track
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You do the headphone wiggle

Headphone plugs take a beating from dust and lint constantly getting in the port and from regular use, and after a while, they stop working as well as they should. If you’re constantly wiggling your headphone jack so that you can get sound to come through, no matter what headphones you try, then you need a new phone. Aside from a solid set of headphones, these are the 15 cell phone accessories you’ll end up using every day.