The Hedonic Treadmill of Smart Phones

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“Whoa, is that your phone?”

We were at Chautauqua Greece and I had whipped out my smart phone to take out a picture. And as soon as I did, it was snatched out of my hands, passed around the group like an alien baby as a crowd of onlookers gawked at my trusty…iPhone 4S.


I remember when I first bought that, all the way back in 2011. Despite working in tech all my life, I had resisted the smart phone revolution for the longest time, instead relying on those quaint little “cell phone” devices that primarily, you know, made calls. I had one of those flip phones where calling someone was easier than texting them because to type each individual letter by tapping a number multiple times. Like getting the letter “C” meant pressing “1” 3 times, and so on.

Nowadays, those flip-phones are now mostly used as burner phones by drug dealers on The Wire or Breaking Bad, but back then I didn’t care. I may have been a gadget guy, but I just couldn’t stomach dropping $800 on a gadget that used to cost $100. Yeah, it’s got a camera, but…so what? I had a cell phone and a seperate sports camera, and together they didn’t cost $800.

But over time, as the smart phone revolution went on and what a phone could do went from “make calls” to “damned near everything,” I found the allure of a smart phone more and more difficult to ignore. Finally, when I found out I could now talk to the thing and it would understand me using this newfangled voice assistant called Siri, I took a deep breath, looked one more time at the $700 CAD price tag and finally took the leap.

And boy am I glad that I did. Out of any one purchase, no gadget has been more important to me while travelling than my iPhone. Now when I land into a new country, I can pop in a local SIM card and instantly be able to message my AirBnb host, map out the subway system, translate road signs, use GPS to guide me to my destination, all the while snapping pictures and uploading them to the Cloud. It’s now faster and easier to tap out a text message and attach a video than it is to call someone.

Not a day goes by where I’m not constantly amazed by how this white plastic-and-glass square has revolutionized all our lives. I think back to that back-packing documentary A Map For Saturday, where the guy was trying to figure out where to go using an outdated guide book, while trying to make a call on a pay phone using a phone card and having it constantly cut out on him. Poor guy. If only he had a smart phone.

That being said, 7 years is a long time in smart-phone land. The average person upgrades their phone every 2-3 years (take that environment!), and while I don’t mind not having the newest and greatest features, this little guy was starting to get seriously clunky.

“Siri…Siri…hello?” I would say before my phone would spontaneously shut down. Super.

Siiigh. So I guess it’s time for a new phone.

A Tale of Two Companies

I used to swear by Apple phones. Back in 2011, it really wasn’t a competition. Apple phones worked while Android ones…just didn’t.

But 7 years is an eternity in the tech game, and boy have things changed.

Well first of all, Apple got caught deliberately slowing people’s phones down in an OS update. That pissed me off, and that’s what eventually did my poor 4S in. Their defense was that the slowdowns were to protect the aging batteries, but I had long ago stopped caring about my 4S’ battery life by using a battery pack. But what that did was it made my phone unusable, since if I didn’t upgrade my iOS version, I couldn’t run any apps. But when I did, my phone became too slow to function.

Now, you could argue that Apple is not alone in this. Other companies like Samsung have also been caught doing this. The thing was, Apple has always been able to charge a premium based on the quality of their products and the understanding that they cared about the consumer and would never deliverately screw us over using cheap tricks like this. I always held Apple on a pedestal above every other tech company out there. Now, I see them as just the same as everyone else.

So when I started researching my smart phone replacement, I looked at everyone, not just Apple. And what I discovered was how different the smart phone market is now than when I remembered it back in 2011.

Back then, it was basically Apple leading the pack, and everyone else playing catch up. Now, it was totally different. It seems the introduction of truly cool features peaked right around the 4S with the introduction of Siri. After that it was just a whole series of incremental improvements that were kinda cool but weren’t really that fundamentally different than the previous iteration. Now with Touch ID! Now with Retina Display! Now slightly bigger!

And that’s fine, technology saturates at a certain point where not every iteration can be the earth-shattering innovation that it once was, but because of that, it’s inadvertantly created the most entitled people in the world: cell phone reviewers.

The Hedonic Treadmill

Holy crap.

I’ve written about the Hedonic treadmill before, but I’ve never seen it in more obvious than in reading cell phone reviews. I guess it’s the incremental nature of technology as it saturates. The first iPhone was like “HOLY SHIT I’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS.” The next one was like “MIND BLOWN AGAIN!” Then the next one was like “Wow, still amazing!” The the next one was like “Pretty good, but it could have been better.”

Until twenty years later you have people bitching about 11 MP cameras versus 12 MP cameras. Or a 12-hour battery life versus a 10-hour.

And I get it. I’d make the worst cell phone reviewer in the world, because every one of my reviews would be like “WHAT AN AMAZING PIECE OF TECHNOLOGY!” But people don’t read reviews to marvel at smart phones in general, they want to figure out which one to buy. And to do that, reviewers have to pick on flaws and point out differences between each cell phone brand and model, which these days to be honest isn’t really all that much. So they have to nitpick about things that really don’t matter.

Take a recent camera comparison “shoot-out” I read, comparing two cell phones (I don’t even remember which ones) and trying to point out the differences between the phone’s cameras using side-by-side photo comparisons.

At the end of the article, the review had declared a clear winner, but I’m not even sure which picture was which camera, because these two pictures look exactly the same to me.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

I think Roosevelt said that quote, but it’s totally true. Happiness is a tricky thing, in that there’s an Absolute component of Happiness, where if you have a fundamental human need like food or security that’s not being fulfilled, you’re not going to be happy until that’s fixed.

But there’s also a Relative component of Happiness, and that’s totally a mindset thing. If you were to buy a cell phone, and keep reading cell phone reviews every month, you’d go “Damn! Now they have a 13 MP camera! If only I had waited!” But if you stop reading reviews like I did after my first iPhone 4S purchase, I was able to enjoy the HELL out of that phone for 7 years!

The key difference was I was able to keep my frame of reference with that phone the same as when I bought it. It was am amazing leap of technology back then because I was upgrading from my burner flip-phone that couldn’t type out a text message. And even though we’re up to iPhone XS now, I always compared my trusty 4S to that original flip-phone, not the latest-and-greatest version. So I was always happy with that phone, even though it’s a dinosaur by modern standards.

Keeping the right frame of reference is so important to happiness. Occasionally FIRECracker wakes up all stressed out about the book. “Is it going to be good enough? What if it could be better? What if it flops?” And then I have to remind her that just 5 years ago, the idea of us quitting our jobs, travelling the world, writing a book for Penguin, and actually being paid enough to live on to do it, would have been beyond the wildest fever dream we could have come up with. We went from house-horny cubicle-chained tech workers to millionaire world-travelling professional writers!

That usually calms her down.


The Hedonic Treadmill is super easy to fall into, and something that requires active effort to control.

Even from my teenage years when I used to trade video cards for my gaming PC on eBay, I had a rule that once I bought something, I’d stop shopping for it. Because if I happened to find a better deal somewhere else later, all that would do was make me depressed, while being unable to do anything about it.

Same goes for everything. If you compare what you have now to what you could have, you’re going to be perpetully depressed. But if you keep your frame of reference to what it was like when you were worse off, you’re always going to be happy.

Oh, and what phone did I eventually get? The LG Q6+. It does everything I want and more, it has a dual-sensor camera that can get DSLR-like depth-of-field shots (so expect some cooler pics on the blog in the future), and they massively dropped the price on Black Friday so I was able to grab if for $225 USD, or less than half the price I bought my iPhone 4S for way back in 2011.

And in case you’re wondering, I will now stop reading phone reviews for the next 7 years 🙂

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93 thoughts on “The Hedonic Treadmill of Smart Phones”

  1. Testify! My dad’s side of the family always claimed that “comparisons are odious”. It was used to justify buying super-frugal cars (with crank-operated windows and no A/C right up to the late 1990s), keeping the same house for generations, taking vacations both spartan and rarely, and all kinds of other strategies to avoid keeping up with the Jones family next door.

    We certainly appreciate the existence of fancy cars and fancy tech and fancy lifestyles; sooner or later the most useful features trickle down to the same cheapskate prices we’ve always paid, subsidized by those with more money than sense. 😛

    1. Exactly! I’m able to get my new phone with all these fancy features for $225 because some other idiot’s paying $700 for the latest and greatest model!

  2. I’m with ya… I only upgraded my last phone (Galaxy S5) because my charging plug had gotten full of junk, and stopped taking a charge. Paying hundreds of dollars to repair a disintegrating phone didn’t seem like the best investment. I probably paid too much for my S8, but I have it in a nice case that keeps the debris out now, and it works great, and I hope it will last me 5-10 years.

      1. I’m really not sure how it happened. I assume that after being carried around in my pocket for years, general lint, sand, and debris, worked it’s way into the phone through the mini-usb port, which slowly caused damage to the phone as a whole. This was before phone cases like my otter box had covers over the ports, and before wireless chargers were a common thing, so I had to plug it in every night causing more wear and tear to the charging port. After three years of operation, it’s ability to reliably take a charge stopped. Since I’m dependent on having a quality phone to communicate with clients, it was time for a new one. For me the nicer camera was also worth it as I take a lot of pictures for work since I am in the printing/embroidery business, and keeping a library of quality close-up pictures is important in case I have to reference an old project with a client.

        1. I had this happen with my old iPhone 5, which used the Lightning port. After a while, it wouldn’t charge when I’d plug in the cable. I did a little digging on the Interwebs and found out that this is often caused by dust and gunk accumulating in the port. That made sense, as I primarily keep my phone in my pocket.

          I simply took a paper clip or thumb-tack and used the pointy end to scoop out the dust. Lo and behold, the phone charged again perfectly and I didn’t have an issue going forward (until the next time it got gunked up again, upon which I looked around for my paper clip…)


  3. Ha. I can relate.
    I had a ‘iPhone 4’ up until a month ago. (I had to give it up because it wouldn’t charge anymore, or when it did, it wouldn’t hold it for long). It showed its unreliability in an inopportune time – my trip to Italy.

    I went to the Apple store to finally look at a new phone, and the ‘Kid’ helping me out said that he had never seen a phone like mine before !
    Well, I got 8 years of life out of the iPhone4, and hope to get at least that much life out of the new one.

  4. Here’s my trick…Most of my family members tend to get a new cell phone every time their plan expires, even though the phone is only 2 years old. The phone is just sitting there collecting dust so I politely ask to use it and typically, they just give it up. I’ve had to fix cracked screens sometimes but it’s worth it compared to the full price of the phone itself. I havn’t bought a phone in 10 years and I have spare phones for when i travel (main phone + local sim phone)

    It’s crazy that people treat smartphones as disposable items after only 2 years.

  5. I’m still rockin a 2012 Galaxy Note2, and to be honest, it still does everything I need it to. Maybe not as fast as a new phone, but it gets the job done.

    I see no reason to keep running on that hedonic treadmill as long as a good phone keeps running.

    Nice choice on the LG Q6+! Great phone and that price was great! Much cheaper than overpaying for an Apple logo and a phone that will slow down in two years.

    1. Gotta say… the Apple logo is expensive ( as is the Samsung and Google logos ) but the fact that he had an iPhone 4S for this long is nothing short of remarkable.

      To put it into perspective, that’s when the Samsung Galaxy S2 came out.

      The LG Q6+ is a great phone, but something tells me it just won’t have the same lifespan as an iPhone.

      I’ve always said… if you take care of your phones, get an iPhone as it will continue to get updates ( I think an iPhone 5 gets the latest iOS, which actually SPED UP older phones)… if you don’t, then buy a cheap Android like a OnePlus…

        1. I can’t speak for iOS 11, but iOS 12 made my older devices faster. They spent a lot of time optimizing for older devices.

          Though I just checked, iOS 12 only runs on an iPhone 5s or newer… so your iPhone 4s wouldn’t make the cut anyhow.

          That being said, batteries DO have a lifespan. Apple screwed up by not being transparent. They could have avoided the issue by just putting on a ‘battery health mode’ but they don’t like to add toggles to the settings that the user needs to think about. They like to automatically make those decisions… and let’s face it, having a battery at 20% suddenly die is WAY more annoying than a phone that slows down to prevent sudden shut downs.

          I think Apple’s a victim of its own success here, having devices that perform for a long time make it vulnerable to other issues of aging. And Apple gets more flack… partly because it’s a premium brand, and partly because if a problem affect 1% of iPhone users, it’s still a LOT of people… more than many companies sell phones.

          It’s estimated that Google sold a couple million Pixels total… Apple sold 217 million iPhones in 2017. When you scale that big, you can’t afford to make mistakes.

      1. Completely agree with this. Generally it does not make sense to buy a new smartphone every year / two years. It definitely pulls you away from financial independence, which in the end will bring much more happiness than a new smartphone. 1000 euro (Im Dutch?) can provider quite a yield down the line when properly invested. Last time I bought a new phone was when it ended up in the washing machine ?.

  6. I replaced my old glitchy phone a few months ago with a Huawei that looks like a premium phone, but only costs $220. Sure, if you believe the US state department, China is now probably stealing my Netflix account details, but I figured it was a good trade-off. I scoffed at people dropping $1000 on iPhone X’s or Pixel 3’s; what madness is that?!?! Why would I want to carry a fragile depreciating $1000 device in my pocket? But Friday I upgraded to a Pixel 3….

    Okay, so it wasn’t a completely stupid financial move. Google FI had a 1-day deal last week where if you signed up for their service (which is a really cheap option for me) and bought a $999 phone from them, they would send you a $999 gift card for AirBnB, Southwest, or I figure I would spend that travel money anyway, so basically the phone is free. Well, free minus the cost of a big-ass phone case that will help ensure my Pixel lasts 7+ years!

  7. I had a coworker, who makes the same money as me, look at my iPhone SE a year or so ago (when it was a fairly current phone), and declare, “Are you poor?!” He then showed off his nearly-identical, but much more expensive iPhone 7 or 8 and bragged about his success by way of his newly purchased Toronto condo, while apparently ignoring the fact that we make the same money, and therefore my not having these things should imply that I have a lot more money saved. These are the sort of people I don’t need to indebt myself to try to impress.

    It’s the same with cars. This summer I finally bought a fairly current car, a 2015. The thing’s a freaking space shuttle: A/C, heated seats, automatic lights and wipers, sat nav, Bluetooth, very respectable stereo, stability control, comfortable seating for 4, folding seat and hatchback for bulky loads, more safety features than you could get at any price 15 years ago, and enough power to get out of my own way no problem, up to about 200 km/h if I so choose, and gets very respectable fuel economy. The model: a Mazda 3, the cheapest that Mazda sells in Canada.

    There are differences between this and a $40,000+ luxury car, but they’re not big enough to matter for a daily driver unless you really have excess money to throw around.

    1. The 2015 Mazda 3 is consistently ranked in the top 3 best hatchbacks for that model year. Even my coworker who’s a big sports car guy agrees that it’s a good one.

      1. Good taste! We got a used 2011 Mazda 2 a year or two ago, but you can’t get them anymore. We were kind of looking for a Mazda 3 but the price (and colour!) were right on the Mazda 2.

  8. You should have gone with the iPhone.

    Looking at the bright side, you have a post theme for the near future on how you should have stuck with iPhone.

    1. I suppose I may miss the rose gold.
      You might be right. There still might be a quality premium that justifies paying 3x as much. I HIGHLY doubt it though.

  9. I totally agree and i am still kicking myself of upgrading my first Smart phone recently due to lagging issues (5 years back Moto G (1GB)and last year Moto G4 (3GB).

    I am going on backpacking trip next week to 7 countries and seeing the potential need of Dual SIM (keep canadian sim and local sim of visting country) with 4GB ram.

    I hope this will be my to go phone (Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro) which is around $160 USD.
    Actually i might buy in asia (Bangkok) rather ordering thru Aliexpress which will take 2 months atleast.

    Question, So did you ever consider having Dual SIM and Xiaomi brands before buying the LG Q6+

    1. Traditionally I haven’t had great experiences with Chinese brands (Xiaomi, Huawei, etc.) so I didn’t really consider them this time around.

      As for Dual SIM, actually the LG Q6+ is dual sim, but I haven’t found it super useful so far. I just use Google Voice for calling back home.

  10. Perfect timing with this post! It’s the holidays, and I wish people would take on this mindset for gifts. Have gratitude for what you got, not longing for what you didn’t.

    Not shocked at you phone story at all. I had a flip phone for four years. It was one of those go phones you pay $0.25 a text for, but it worked for me while I was in high school for emergencies. Then I upgraded to the next step up (it wasn’t a flip phone, I think they called them switchbacks) when I got an internship. I had to text my fellow coworkers, and the flip phone was just not working. But like you I was not going to pay hundreds of dollars for the shiny new smart phones.

    Kept that brick for over five years, and only updated it because it started dropping calls for no reason. It was only then that I switched to a cheap smart phone. Must have been $120 at the time. Wish I could have kept that one longer, but my provider was playing games I didn’t want to deal with. Now I have my current smart phone, and I hope to keep it for at least five years, if not more.

      1. I went with a Motorola G6 under a Republic Wireless plan. I got the phone on their semianual sale for maybe $150. Love the camera on it, and I use it all the time when I don’t want to carry around my compact point and shoot. Battery life is also stellar. So far the phone and provider have been treating me well. I’m very happy.

  11. I hear you on the phones. Smart but not too smart. I have not bought a phone in the last 4, two each for the wife and I. Did business with Google, got 2 free Nexus 5. Company got bought by MSFT (I took the pckage to retire) and their Verizon plan was real cheap and my Google phones didn’t work. Verizon gave me 2 (wife and I again). The LG V6 I think, 8 mos old, works fine. So, 4 years, 4 phones, zero dollars. Have to learn where to spend money, like Dead & Co tickets, 2019 tour. Hey, I’m older.

  12. Peer pressure on kids is huge for phones. My daughter, now 17, is already on her third iPhone. Let me bore you with the story of how that happened.

    iPhone 1
    My teenage daughter informed me she needed an iPhone. I said “Why an iPhone?” Everyone at school has an iPhone Dad. (It is a bog standard no fee school in the UK.) So I said if you really want an iPhone you need to ask for money from all your relatives for Birthday and Christmas and you then might be able to afford one. To be fair to her the “need” for an iPhone was such she did exactly that and a discounted 5c model was her proudest possession. Until…

    iPhone 2
    My 5c is rubbish Dad. I need the latest model of iPhone. I can afford it (I forget exactly how she had obtained this much money) and I am going to have it.
    Enter the next iPhone (I also forget the model name.) All good. Until…

    iPhone 3
    Dad my phone keeps freezing. I need a new one. I pointed out if the current phone and the 5c were both rubbish after just a few years then maybe iPhones were not all they were cracked up to be. Perhaps you could try a different make? We went to the O2 store where they looked at and said yes I think its on its last legs -you probably are going to need a new phone soon. Really????!!! I exclaimed – as I got out my work brick I have had for years – this one still works just fine and I treat it like shit. Me and highly embarrassed daughter walk out of shop!
    Two weeks later iPhone 2 literally fell apart in her hands. As my daughter works weekends she can afford to buy herself a new phone. I suggest a £200 model which as far as I can see does everything an iPhone can do. Nah Dad I like the iPhone XR its only £799. I did point out this was 2 months pay for her and if she spends £1000 or so every two years on phones and call packages then that is about £40,000 in today money over her lifetime. I use my phone loads Dad so it is worth it to me.

    I am holding a sweep on how long iPhone 3 will last!

    There is one last thing to this story. The 5c (iPhone 1) has had a resurrection! When I quit my job I handed in my work phone. I have never actually bought a phone in my life but my wife insisted I have one. So I dug out the 5c and put a PAYG sim in it. With wifi everywhere I hardly use the charged element of the phone – I think the sim will last me years.

    I know I am an old git and this is a generational thing but what is about iPhones that make them so desirable?! I simply don’t get it. All it is a computer with a tiny screen (I am sure every one who has an iPhone also has an iPad and a computer already with a far more useful sized screen) that can also make calls. Wow must get me one of those for $$$$!!

    1. Well, I guess for most people they spend more time on their phone than any other device so I guess that’s where the obsession comes from. I hate it. It’s a little weird coming from a computer guy, but I know people who will invite us out to dinner and then sit there at the table tapping on social media. I’m like HELLO, it was YOUR idea for us to get together remember?

  13. We recently “upgraded” to iPhone 7 — one bought on eBay for $AU460 and the other through Gumtree for $AU500 — or about half price compared to buying it from Apple. Both phones in near mint condition. I took both phones in to Apple to take advantage of the cheap new battery installation they have going on until 31 December 2018. Turns out one of the phones was still within a 2-year warranty period so that new battery was free. On the other phone they wrecked the screen when they replaced the battery so replaced the screen for free. The battery was $AU39.00. Two great phones that do everything we need in a good compact size.

  14. My first smartphone was the 1st gen iPhone because I though this was a ground breaking piece of technology when it was released in 2008. (before that I own the glorious Nokia 3310 that I’ve sure you’ve heard about).
    Flash forward 10 years, today I own an iPhone X. I did not kept my 1st gen iPhone for that long though. I used an iPhone 6S for almost 3 years but I did not pay for it as it was a given to me by a former employer. After almost 3 years of good use of my 6S, that thing got really slow & could not hold a charge so it was time for a change. Being an avid photographer, the iPhone X became a good option for me to stick with the Apple ecosystem while replacing my expensive D-SLR for 80% of my shots. So I consider this has a good win.

    The biggest danger of smartphone though are notifications. I’m sure you’ve read endless articles about the unsocial aspects of social media and how our phone-addicted generation can’t carry a conversation while maintaining eye contact or how we have more face time with our screens than face time with other actual faces. It took me a while to realized that I was getting addicted as well. But I’ve recovered since then. I have most of my notifications turned off and my phone is as afar away for me as possible when I go to sleep. The first things I do when I wake up in the morning is enjoying some home made breakfaster in whatever place my wife and I are traveling to we decided to make the world our home!

    I’ll definitely come back on this blog in 7 years to know which phone will replace your shiny LG Q6+ 🙂

  15. Mmmmm…

    Good thing nobody saw my phone at Chautauqua. 😉

    It is a moto something I got because it works with Republic Wireless. Not sure how old it is now. Works fine and my wife is having issues with her newer version so I hope it lasts forever.

    Still miss my flip phone. It couldn’t do the things a smart phone can, but at least the phone calls were clear. 🙂

    1. You know, the funny thing is, the faster and more upgraded the phones get, the worse calls get. Remember how much trouble we keep having on our Skype calls? That shit never used to happen when we just dialed each other’s numbers!

  16. I just upgraded from a 5.5 year old Samsung Galaxy S4 that I bought used 2 years ago for <$100. I replaced it with a $99 Moto G6 that's light years ahead of the old S4, and it should last for several years before warranting a replacement.

    No thanks to $800+ fancy phones. I'd be worried about it all the time! Imagine traveling around the world and obsessing over whether an opportunistic thief is trying to snatch your phone every time you snap a pic. Hey, it might happen with my $99 smart phone but then again I'm only out of pocket $99 (plus dealing with a loss of phone in the middle of a vacation…).

      1. Google Fi (formerly Google’s Project Fi). They had a Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal where they were 50% off normal price ($199 – 50% = $99). I got 2: a black one for me and a metallic pink one for my phone-phreak oldest daughter. Way better than the used Samsung S5 or S6 I’d probably get otherwise at the same price point (though those might have slightly superior cameras??).

        I’m hoping that buying used will also mean the battery stays strong for longer and I get android system updates longer (without going to custom ROMs).

        1. As per my Google FI comment above, you paid $99 too much for your phone 🙂 The Moto G6 was one of the phones they were giving away last Friday (or selling for $199, and giving you a $199 travel gift card in return). I did this but with $999 Pixel; all of their phones were free for a day.

          Google is going to really dissuade early adopters with this behavior. That’s probably a good thing – maybe Google FI really does mean the same as FI means around this blog?

          1. Sort of 🙂 The “free” phone wasn’t free because you had to activate service and maintain it for $20/mo x 4 months minimum plus pay sales tax on the full price. $94 out of pocket with the “free” phone vs $106 I paid for my $99 phone. So I could have saved $12 if I had waited a few days. I have free cell service already, so I don’t value the 4 months of paid Google Fi that much (especially since data is a la carte extra $$). That said, they did email me a few days ago to say I’ll receive $90 credit for something or other, so I might end up WAY ahead of the “free” phone deal since I can pause the service and only use it when traveling overseas for cheap easy data without buying new SIMs everywhere.

            I actually tried to buy a couple of “free” Pixel 3’s to resell but they cancelled the promo literally as I was hitting submit on my checkout (the promo and phone disappeared from my shopping cart at final confirmation screen). I have a near endless demand for Airbnb gift cards so the $999 Airbnb GCs are same as $800-900 cash to me.

            1. Ya, having free cell service changes the math a bit! For me the a la carte data (shared with family) makes sense for me as we are all almost always in wifi zones. With taxes I expect $100/month will cover the four of us which ain’t too shabby.

              I was suspicious that people might try to game the system and buy/activate/dump the phones (I considered it too). Even though you couldn’t partake, it sounds like you’ll still come out ahead with the $90 credit.

  17. I might be the only person here who doesn’t mind paying for an updated model. Either go for the latest and keep it for about 4 years or go for a past model and update more frequently.

    We spend so much time on these things nowadays that I think even splurging on them is cost effective.

    1. Yeah maybe, but I’m no longer convinced that more money = more quality. It just seems Apple is just trying to figure out how much money people are willing to pay for phones because of “luxury brand something something.”

  18. Still have my s7 edge that I won in a raffle 4 years ago… cracked screen, cracked back, but work fine otherwise. So what ever. Also, have take to replacing parts on the wife’s iphone as it fails, battery replacement I’d super easy… just redid her screen for $25 and an hour of time. Really pretty easy.

  19. I bought my 6 when I went to Europe and the UK for 9 weeks in 2015. I needed a good camera and so that was my solution. My 3 just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
    The 6 is still going strong. I love it. It’s been to North Korea with me, still taking travel photos. I’m hoping there’ll be many more countries in its future!

  20. MY iPhone was super slow and had a terrible battery which ment I couldn’t leave the house without bringing a charger. Instead of replacing phone – new battery and Apple finally fixing their updates, it is as good as new. If I was to update I would look into some of the new Chinese phone brands in the $200 price range

  21. All batteries degrade over time and progressively lose voltage and amperage compared to when they were new. Apple did not leave enough of a buffer (to maintain the user experience) for what the hardware draws when new to account for the degradation of the battery. Their solution was to handicap the hardware over time using software. If they did not, the phone would just shut off every time their was a spike in processing power. To maintain peak computing power, replace the battery (which if you are slightly handy and techy can be done yourself with cheap kits from china). My old iPhone 4S is still going strong with it’s new owner 😀

    Upgraded to a hand-me-down Note 3 4 years ago, and now have a Note 9 (love that stylus!).

    P.S. Since the Note 7 exploding batteries scandal, Samsung has some of the highest quality (long lasting) batteries on the market.

    1. Is that exploding thing still going on? I would have looked at Samsung more seriously but last year they were confiscating Samsung phones at the airport in Thailand and I just can’t take the risk.

      1. It was only the Note 7 phones. They thought they had fixed the battery after the first recall, but the refurbished ones still caught fire. The 8 & 9s are fine though. Got to watch out for those lithium dendrites puncturing the battery membranes!

  22. I had two iPhones, and was a bit of a fan boy, but then I kept having to deal with the worst piece of software in the world, iTunes, which kept deleting my library when ever I updated it. Then my computer stopped being able to recognize the phone, so I couldn’t transfer files, and the apple store was no help. NOPE done with them. I got a Sony and it’s totally fine, except for the internal memory being limited to 16 GB, which is a problem because you have to put the apps on there and things automatically download there and pictures go there. So, that internal memory fills up too quickly. I hope there’s a way around that, and if someone knows how, i’m definitely open to that!
    But yah, Apple sucks. I will never buy an apple product again, and I hate that my work computer is an Apple, because they decided to REMOVE all the ports and replace them with two useless USB-C ports. Stupid company.

    1. Oh God, iTunes. It still boggles my mind that a company that’s so good at designing software would produce THAT.

      That’s one thing I’ll be glad to say goodbye to forever.

  23. About thirteen years ago I got a *really* *fancy* Nokia. Up until then, I’d use a standard mobile phone I’d “inherited” from my parents, which they had themselves bought five or six years earlier (it was so old, it had a detachable antenna).

    I bought the *really* *fancy* Nokia because it ran on Symbian (think Android before Android existed), and I could write mobile games in Java for it. It was fun – I made a waterballoon-throwing 3D maze game. Of course, such a *really* *fancy* Nokia inevitably was soooooo attractive, that someone stole it from me.

    Since then, I’ve used the *very* *cheapest* Nokia available (it has Snake, Sudoku, and a colour screen)! The last replacement cost about 250NOK (~30USD, ~23GBP), and it does everything I want it to (actually, it does more than I want it to – who calls when they can text?).

    I work in IT, so I do get some funny looks and “Is that your phone?!” moments, but I’ve never really seen the attraction of “smart” phones. I bought a Xiaomi Redmi (the cheapest “smart” phone available), just to see if, on maturity, I actually could find a use for one now. And I did – it’s now my wife’s phone!

  24. Admit it, the real reason you’re upgrading is at Chautauqua you felt embarrass when your ancient phone was being pass around. I still have a nexus 5, the trick is not “whipped” it out at group event.

  25. We were at Chautauqua Greece and I had whipped out my smart phone to take out a picture. And as soon as I did, it was snatched out of my hands, passed around the group like an alien baby as a crowd of onlookers gawked at my trusty…iPhone 4S.


    I am somewhat surprised by that.

    In my mind, everyone at Chautauqua would have flip phones. Some may not have a phone at all.

    I would have gotten the Moto G6 instead of the LG Q6+. You can get the Moto G6 for $199.99.

    1. But what happened next?

      Perhaps Wanderer was stripped naked and whipped with stinging nettles for breaking the code of frugality at Chautauqua. How dare he waste money on a smart phone when a flip was perfectly satisfactory!

      1. I think I did see someone with a flip phone actually.

        But that could either mean they’re super frugal or they were working on their post-FI side hustle of being a meth dealer.

  26. Was this article an inspiration from the previous article, “Technology is Making it Easier Than Ever to Become F.I.”?

      1. I’m SURPRISE so many people in the responses don’t upgrade as often as the people around me do. 🙂

        I with the group that upgrades every 4-5 years or until something gets annoying, making thing inefficient.

  27. Hand me downs are fine by me, my biggest problem on my LG-E400R was memory, it would only hold about 20 numbers.

    I still have it, but now use an iphone6 stupid thing, is I was looking forward to SIRI, but apple disabled it unless you connected to power, as it drains the battery? Friend and brother are always getting the newest and greatest, their throw aways are always better than what I have.

    I had a nice HTC which I loved, but dropped it and smashed the switch…. oops, now I invest in covers. Sorry, I don’t like iphone, and hope to find an android some time soon, something about the big stupid round button… I know its going to wear out some day.

  28. I don’t understand the obsession with smart phones. For the longest time, I only used flip phones ( I had 2 or 3). About 9 months ago I bought my first smart phone, it was an LG. The price was like $175. I read the reviews and I could tell that some people were very critical of this phone. I did not care about that and I bought the phone. The phone has been useful to me. That’s all that matter. Those expensive smart phones are just a waste of money.

  29. The battery on my 2013 phone discharged after a couple of hours so I replaced with a new battery. It wouldn’t charge so I ordered a new phone, a Moto X. It feels like a big upgrade. The screen is nicer, the fingerprint thing is cool, and it just works better.
    I would have been fine with the old phone, but an upgrade is a treat. Luckily, I got it on sale too. Hopefully, it’ll take nicer pictures.
    Nice job holding off on upgrading for so long. Thumbs up.

  30. It’s a pretty decent deal if you’re paying for it too!

    The other gotcha with the free phone promo was the need to transfer in a real phone number that was 90+ days old. I didn’t really have one other than Gvoice # and there was speculation it wouldn’t count. And not sure if my free freedompop #’s would count either. So I researched it and waited and waited before jumping on it then deal died.

  31. What I hate about cell-phone reviews is they always overlook the most important thing (to a frugal person), repairability! I always have my phones in cases so the screens are usually fine, but inevitably my usb port or headphone jack starts to go. Replacing a screen or a battery is usually something pretty much anyone can do if they have a credit card, a small screwdriver, a hair-dryer and some free time. However, the ports are often held in place with solder, and have connections so small that professional level soldering skills and equipment are required!

    That’s why my policy for when my phones give out is to look up “(phone model) usb port replacement”, and if it’s just switching out a ribbon then that’s a green light, but if it’s a solder job then that’s a no-go.

  32. Fortunately for me work pays not only for my new smartphone every two years but for my monthly as well. I also get $800 a month car allowance plus gas. Finding a career path that pays for these things really helps fuel our savings and that’s always one of my suggestions to people trying to really build that nest egg; find a job that helps pay for your living expenses on top of your salary. Mrs. Chili has a government job that fully funds a rather luxurious defined benefit pension and our HSA whereas my job puts nearly 20k a year in a deferred compensation plan. That allows us to take full advantage of Mrs. Chili’s government 457.

  33. Good on you for not jumping on the treadmill! I recently bought an iPhone 5C, which was almost the bottom of the range phone at the Apple store for about $AUD 500 cause this suits me fine ( I don’t need all the bells and whistles or massive storage or a fancy camera) . I was stunned at how expensive the iphoneX is… How can people justify spending that much money?!

    I’d say its also keeping about projecting a certain image; for some it’s almost a statement of wealth and a one-up on their peers to be touting the latest and greatest device.

  34. I’m a little late to comment here! I would add a wrinkle. I buy my phones (about every 3-4 years) every so slightly used. I’ll get last year’s top Android phone that has been used for like a month. It is usually some Apple person who decided to try Samsung and then scampered back to Apple due to hating trying to learn the new OS. The phones literally look brand new; I get the very best Android phone on the planet (as of 12 months ago); and it costs about $385. I just buy it on Ebay. Another plus (hasn’t happened) is that if I hate the phone I can dump it again on Ebay for the same price (minus fees and shipping). Seriously, you can do this.

  35. Last winter I was in Vietnam with said burner phone style (old school Nokia phone)
    I took the phone to the local MobiFone to ask for a sim card…
    I Said “Hi I’d like to buy a simcard for my phone” pointing to my trusty Nokia
    The young lady in her early 20s looked at me confused and said “Sir you need a PHONE”
    I responded that this was my phone.
    She looked extremely puzzled at me and grabbed a few co-workers assuming there had been a translation error.
    3 of them held out their 3 new smartphones and said very slowly in perfect English
    “SIR THIS IS A PHONE” “do you have one of these”
    again I pointed to my Nokia and said that’s my phone!
    They still looked puzzled, this went on for about 20 min with pretty much the entire store trying to help and figure out what this crazy foreigner was talking about.

    Eventually it was established that my Nokia was indeed a smartphone and would work with their network lol it turns out these young folks at the Mobifone store had never seen a (dumbphone) none smartphone before and thus didn’t recognize the Nokia as it had buttons and a tiny screen that wasn’t a black mirror.

    Wow did I ever feel old!

  36. Ohh, I’m on the hunt for an iPhone 14 case, and I’m starting to lose hope after visiting numerous stores. I’m looking for something really elegant. Any recommendations?

  37. Amazing! I just recently bought myself a new iPhone and I want to find a case for it. I am thinking about this Floral Romance iPhone Case. It’s like carrying a piece of a garden. Do any of you have experience with Orase cases? I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on their durability and the style they bring to your phone.

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