Why I haven’t upgraded my iPhone in almost three years

I realised that upgrading to a new phone does not make me happier or improve my life.

Noreen Shazreen

Probably the coolest cat lady you’ll ever meet.

Published: 21 April 2021, 1:50 PM

Every year, technology manufacturers like Apple make announcements that their upcoming phone model is in development.  

Some people anticipate the annual iPhone release so much that they have already decided on which phone colour and size to get prior to its launch date.

Having had an issue controlling my urge to buy the latest gadgets, I used to fall into this category of people. In fact, I’ve switched between three different iPhones in the span of five years, with each one typically lasting me for about one to two years.

As I’m transitioning to pursue a more minimalist lifestyle, I realised there is no need to upgrade my phone every year. Besides, I own a perfectly working iPhone XS Max that I’ve had since September 2018, and I feel no pressure to upgrade it.  

Here are three reasons why I don’t wish to upgrade my phone anytime soon.

1. My iPhone still works perfectly fine

The core fundamentals of having a phone are for communication purposes like calling and texting. As long as my phone can serve these purposes, I would be satisfied with it. 


I would normally use my phone only for communication purposes or to check my emails. PHOTO CREDIT: ADAM AY VIA UNSPLASH


However, with rapid technological advancement in society, phones have gone from being a tool of convenience to a symbol of luxury. 

The smartphones we use have now become a representation of ourselves, especially our status and wealth.

When Apple released its latest phone model in October last year, a few of my friends immediately got their hands on the iPhone 12, and I somehow felt like I wasn’t up to the trend just because I was holding on to my “old” iPhone XS Max. 

But I couldn’t think of any compelling reason to switch to a new phone, apart from the fact that it’s new and I wanted it. The social pressure from my friends and fear of missing out (FOMO) further intensified when I started to compare myself to friends who had an iPhone 12. 


I felt like an outcast when the majority of my friends had gotten their new iPhone 12 as I was still using my iPhone from three years ago. PHOTO CREDIT: COTTONBRO VIA PEXELS


In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t waste money on a new phone. Though my current iPhone may not be the newest and best one in the market, it is still operating efficiently with good battery life, lasting for about ten hours with fast charging

And seeing how the people who had gotten the iPhone 12 have since started talking about the upcoming iPhone 13 made me realise I was never going to be satisfied, even if I had the latest tech gadgets. 

2. The excitement of having a new iPhone is not worth the high cost

Apple’s latest iPhone 12 mini starts at $1,149 without a contract, which costs significantly more than the older iPhone models.

As a teenager without full-time income, saving up a thousand dollars takes at least a year of part-time work and plenty of commitment and dedication.

Being financially prudent, I chose not to pay such a hefty amount of money just for the sole purpose of owning the latest iPhone when I could enjoy plenty of other leisure activities like eating out with friends.


Saving up a thousand dollars was considered a huge deal for me as a teenager. PHOTO CREDIT: JOSH APPEL VIA UNSPLASH


Of course, I did not always think this way.

When I was 16, external validation from my peers meant the world to me. I switched to an iPhone XS Max right when it was released in September 2018. I felt a boost of self-esteem when I was part of the clan in school that had the latest iPhone as it made me feel a sense of exclusivity, which lasted till I dropped the phone and it cracked. 


My phone no longer has the visual appeal due to the countless times I have recklessly dropped it. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NOREEN SHAZREEN


The excitement and pleasure of owning a new iPhone faded away as time went by. After a few months, I cared less about my new iPhone and more about other things I could buy to fulfil my life. 

I regretted spending a thousand dollars when I could’ve used that amount of money for other long-term goals, like saving up for a driving licence.

3. Planned obsolescence contributes to a negative environmental impact

To be fair, sometimes there is a need to upgrade your phone if you feel that it isn’t keeping up with your needs. However, the issue is often that phone manufacturers don’t have the intention of making phones that perform well for more than a year or two, so people are encouraged to upgrade.

This is also known as planned obsolescence – which occurs when a product is created with a limited useful lifespan so that it becomes outdated after a certain period of time.

Planned obsolescence is a huge concern among many smartphone users, including myself. When I first heard about the issue, I was afraid that my phone will degrade just because I had it for a long time. 

Thankfully, my phone is still working optimally without any bugs or issues, so I didn’t feel the pressure to upgrade my phone.

Besides, planned obsolescence also contributes to a huge amount of e-waste when people discard their old devices regularly. The growing pile of old electronic devices thrown into landfills results in a negative environmental impact as every phone requires the extraction of nonrenewable materials such as gold, cobalt or lithium.

Even if the phones have been used for a long time, toxic elements in phones will continue to pollute water and soil if they are thrown in landfills.


Smartphones that are thrown away can harm the environment when toxic metals are released, contaminating landfills. PHOTO CREDIT: LEONID DANILOV VIA PEXELS


As someone who cares for the planet, I didn’t want to generate more harm to the environment just because I wanted the latest iPhone model. 

After using several iPhones throughout the years, I learnt that I will never be truly happy or satisfied no matter how much I spent on the latest phone.

While Apple’s latest phone lineup holds various exciting features, buying a new phone will not make me happier or improve my life – it only provided me with temporary feelings of pleasure and shouldn’t be something that I look forward to changing annually. 

Hopefully, I can continue using my current iPhone for a few more years before it is really due for a replacement.

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