The Chore of Buying A Smartphone

My OnePlus 6 smartphone is overheating and automatically turning itself off.  And it’s annoying. 

I bought my OnePlus 6 phone in mid-2018 at quite a high price.  Reviews then touted the OnePlus 6 as the best Android phone in the market.  I liked its features and its chipset, a Qualcomm SnapDragon 845.  Because OnePIus promised continuous updates to the Android software, I believed the phone would last for at least five (5) years.  I was wrong. 

Three and a half years later and the phone dies on me two or three times a day.  It takes about an hour or so before I could turn it on again as I have to wait for the phone to cool off.  Having my own phone unavailable for me to use has become a major inconvenience.

I decided therefore to buy a new smartphone.  And as much as I wanted to think it would be simple, it wasn’t.

There are many smartphone models in the market.  And from what I’ve read and observed, there are three (3) categories:  high-end, mid-range, and budget.

High-end phones like Apple’s iPhone 13 and Samsung’s S22 are loaded with features from network capabilities (e.g. 5G) to multi-faceted high-performing cameras.  High-end phones are supposedly built well but they’re expensive.  Many customers buy high-end phones for the status symbol as much as for what they offer.    

Mid-range phones sell for about 30% lower than the high-end models.  I notice reviewers from North America and Europe put Samsung and OnePlus models as the best mid-range phone brands to buy.  Other Chinese models like Oppo and Vivo do get some good comments but not much, which I think is a bit unfair as the phones look good and many people buy them.  Mid-range phones look quite as good as the high-end ones.  They may not have the same network capabilities but their features are similar or not at par with high-end models. 

Budget phones offer themselves as cheap but still capable of providing the basic features if not more.  When I held some budget phones, they were light but they had the same responsiveness, if not better, than my OnePlus 6.  Reviewers, however, seem to shun them, especially the Chinese models.  Some reviewers even lambast some models as junk.   

I decided to set criteria for the phone I would buy.  It has to have network capabilities such as 5G (preferably not 5G with limited bandwidths).  It has to have decent memory storage (e.g. 128 gB) and a good CPU (e.g. octa-core at about 2.0 GHz).  And it has to last for at least five (5) years; the phone shouldn’t die on me like my OnePlus 6 is doing to me now. 

Most high-end, mid-range, and even budget phones met my criteria.  Except one:  the five (5) year life-time.  No smartphone brand would guarantee a five (5) year life cycle for their models.  No reviewer could argue for any model that would last for five (5) years.  I’d be lucky if a phone I buy will last up to four (4) years. 

Reading between the lines:  smartphone manufacturers build their models for a life cycle of up to three (3) years.  They count on users to switch phones every two (2) years as they tempt consumers with newer models with new features every six (6) months. 

The marketing focuses on the features rather than on the life of the product.  Hence, smartphones may look good with nice cameras, fast responsiveness, and a good-looking body but they’re not meant to last for the long-term. 

No smartphone model therefore met my criterion for a five (5) year lifetime.  I would have to choose a phone then based on how much I’d be paying year on year for the price I’d be paying for.  An iPhone 13 at $999, for example, would come out to USD $250 annually if it would last four (4) years.  A Vivo budget phone priced at USD $200 would cost me $USD100 a year if it lasts two (2) years.  Mid-range phones priced at $USD 499 would come out costing me USD $167 per year for a three (3) year estimated lifetime. 

Choosing a smartphone is a chore that requires one to set criteria but at the same time one has to be flexible to the realities of what are available in the market. 

I find it annoying that I have to buy a new phone because my OnePlus 6 is a perfectly good phone if it weren’t for the overheating and shutdowns. 

For the money we invest into our smartphones, we don’t get the value we want from what we pay for.  Instead, we gamble that the smartphones would last and perform longer than expected.

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