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October 17, 2008

The Not so Economical Lifespan of a Mobile Smartphone

by snoyt

Nokia Conversations has a nice post about the beatings your phone gets, wear and tear of misuse and abuse. Sometimes ending the lifespan of your phone abruptly. Or remarkable stories of people reviving their phone through extraordinair care after it had drowned. Yet some abuse never shows. I never bashed, crashed or drowned any of my phones. They are well cared for, well protected in full covering leather cases for the occasional bump or drop. All are nearly fully scratch free. Gently handled, regularly updated, polished and cared for. They are fed the finest software for betalabs. They are kept from all harm, only asked to performe their tasks diligently. So very diligently.

Still within one and a half years I sent already two N95 to the Nokia Care Center. They were overworked, overwrought, overplayed, overrecorded, overwebbrowsed and overnavigated. Imagine a phone requiring the equivalance of more than 5 battery charges from your battpack and carcharger each day during your vacation and each weekend.

At some point they give up, you know. They start showing pretty rainbowsprinkels on your display instead of the GUI. Still, I care so I try to revive them by caring. But at some point the screen stays dark, forever... Now I am kindly awaiting for a third N95 IMEI number. I guess this time I'll sell the replacement N95 to more caring people. People who only make superficial scratches... Scratches that don't kill a phones soul :-(

A Nokia N82 made from black Dark Vader plastic now serves my purposes. I expect it's IMEI will also change after about 12 months of hard use. Yet now a question pops up:

What is the design(at)ed lifespan of a (Nokia) mobile smartphone?

I challenge Nokia for an answer. More so, I challenge them for giving a decent warranty. A smartphone should last 3 years. Give me 3 years of warranty or partial money back. Admittedly I switch each 1-2 years from phone, but like with a car its resell value allows for this. From a car you may expect 100.000 km trouble free, 150.000-200.000 km with the good ones. Tell me how many hours should I expect from my phone running at full capacity?

What do you expect from your phone's reliability? Let's talk economics, let's talk about the real number of goldpieces per month a smartphone costs. I think I could drive a much bigger car for the real cost of some smartphones.


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Steve Litchfield

My opinion? A battery might last only a year or so under heavy use, but that's easy to replace. The screen should last 3 years easily. And the rest of the hardware should last 10 or 20 years if it doesn't get abused. Cosmetic factors like logos and legends coming off play a part, too, of course.

Snoyt here: Batteries are never part of the warranty. Nor are scratches such. All very acceptable. The question is what is abuse? My PC can run years at full capacity without breaking down. Why can't my phones? Is it simply a matter of a bad heat dissipation design? All my other phones worked fine, my Palm Vx still runs, so does my Dell Axim, heck the HP200LX still humms nice in a friends pocket.

Basit Ali

I believe it varies from model to model and then handset to handset even.

No doubt some models are stronger than the others in the build and usability, but then two handsets of same model may differ in the way they behave in the longer run.

And then there are sets that are supposed to be strong and sturdy like Nokia 5500 sports. I bought this model and expected it be really rough and tough, but it proved otherwise when its supposedly water resistant keys started coming off. This could be just one instance.

Nokia for sure has been working hard with their quality control but I have examples of same handsets behaving weird. My 3 year old N72 is still giving me joy regardless of my occasional throwing and dropping around, very extensive use and being a mobile developer, testing every kind of software on it, while my cousin's N72 who takes care of it like a baby, keeps it in covers, doesn't do anything but take calls, she got her phone crashing only after 6 months of use. No she accuses me of recommending a poor quality set.

In general, 2 years is an average age of a smart phone today regardless of the way you use it. You are allowed to drop it every now and then, you are ok to install as many apps on it, you may be a simple voice user or a power user but the average will not vary. Yes, with extensive use, the very life decreases or the quality of use gets lower. For example, my crazy use of Nokia N95 8gb using my nails (as i have chubby fingers) has caused its keys to go white and the light glows well out of the white centered keys. I still know where's which key located, but yes, it looks really untidy.

And then these handsets where you cannot change the skin, keypad, camera covers and back covers. This decreases the life of a phone as well. I can still use my N72 as a regular phone, but I don't, because its so dirty from outside, and the poor quality skins I get here in my part of the world is incapable of letting me operate the phone properly. So I have to stick to the original casing.

And if you try to move away from nokia to other smart phones? My experience has been terrible several times. Things are so fragile outside nokia world :)


jeez - i've had my N95-1 for 1.5 years without any critical physical defect aside from a broken battery cover (which i replaced by buying a clone shell on ebay for $20 USD and using only the battery cover part).

yes, there are other issues - the buttons have worn out on the D-pad. where i press on them, i tend to use the nail of my thumb, and i've worn straight through the coating on the clear plastic. i don't bother calling this a defect, however, so much as a worn out part.

and i'm HARD in my phone. it's in my front pocket every step i take (and counting those steps on my behalf). what DO YOU DO to break yours so easily?


snoyt here: Simply use them, ALOT.


Eh, I think the length of use of a phone varies. I would say that while one would think the high-end phones (more expensive) might be used longer, folks who get high-end phones usually swap phones every 18-24 months.

With lower-end phones, folks are likely to hold on for longer.

But overall, I hear that industry average ownership time is 18 months.

Would be interesting to see what the actual number is these days.

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