I bought a Google Pixel 3a Android phone shortly after it was released. Google pledged three years of support for the device, which will run out in May 2022.
Previously, I bought a new phone whenever my old phone ran out of support, as I wanted to make sure that it received all the security updates for Android and also new versions of Android.
This time, I made the decision not to do that. I could buy a new phone, maybe the upcoming Google Pixel 6a when it comes out later this year, or another Android phone. Instead of doing that, I decided to keep the Google Pixel 3a phone and install another mobile operating system on the device instead.
I have to run some tests and see which works best, but will test custom Android ROMS such as GrapheneOS or Copperhead OS and install one of those on the device. These custom ROMs continue to support the Google Pixel 3a device (and others that ran out of support), and I plan to use these until support ends or core device functionality breaks. The latter includes fast deteriorating battery life among other things.
What is my motivation for keeping the old phone? I have a few reasons.
The phone works perfectly fine: it runs Android 12, the latest version of Android, has sufficient battery life, and serves me well throughout the day.
Why throw away a device that works well if there is no need to? Google changed the artificial support limited for security updates from three years to five years recently, but that is not helping me currently. Say what you want about Apple, but the company’s support for its devices is better.
It is better for the environment: mobile phones and other electronic devices require lots of resources to manufacturer and only a fraction get recycled. Recycling does not work overly well either at the moment.
Buying new phones every three years, or even more often as many do, is not sustainable. I understand why companies do it, as they don’t earn anything from their customers once a device has been purchased. The practice does not sit well with the image that many companies give themselves in regards to sustainability though.
I’m saving money: new phones require a purchase, or the renewal of a contract with monthly payments. I do buy my phones directly and without contracts, as I get a better deal usually and because it keeps me independent.
The next Google Pixel 6a costs around $400. While I could pick another manufacturer, I’d have to find one who gives at least three years of support (better 5 years) for the same price or less, and there are not many Android manufacturers who do. The manufacturer would need to supply security updates quickly after official release.
I do have to spend some time researching alternatives and installing them, but that is money well spend, especially since I may be able to write about my experience here on this site.
Privacy and security improves: custom Android ROMs such as Graphene promise improved privacy and security. You can check out GrapheneOS’ features page, which lists lots of improvements when compared to AOSP 12. Improvements included security hardening and improvements, optimizations, improved networking defenses and more.
I’ll start preparations to make the switch in the coming months. The Pixel device runs out of support in May, and I plan to make the switch by then at the latest. I don’t expect the move to be overly problematic, as I don’t use a lot of apps on the device and have used Google Play and other Google services or apps rarely only.
I still have to create backups and figure out how to get a few apps that I use regularly installed on the new OS.
Now You: how often do you buy new mobile devices?