How Long Do iPhones Last? How to Know When to Upgrade Your iPhone

Do you need a new iPhone? We’ll help you decide.

How long do cell phones last? Apple gives a standard of three years of use for their iPhones, but many other factors can play into deciding when it's time to get a new phone. We'll look at how long an iPhone will get iOS updates before it's not supported anymore, the typical lifespan of an iPhone, and other lifestyle factors that might impact your decision to buy. We'll also take a look at the best time to buy a new cell phone so you can get the most out of your new purchase.

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How Long Do iPhones Last?

Apple estimates an average lifespan of three years for their iPhones, but many people see a decline in performance around the two-year mark. A lot of this can depend on wear and tear, along with how many significant drops you've put your iPhone through, but since this seems to be a pretty consistent trend for most iPhone users, I think two and a half years is a more accurate measure for how long your iPhone will work well.

Some people keep their iPhones for up to five years before they squeeze out that last drop of life, and a lot depends on how many trips to the Genius Bar you're willing to make and how much you want to spend on new batteries, screens, and other physical parts. Overall, you can expect a regular iPhone to be in your life for somewhere between two and three years.

When Should I Buy a New iPhone?

So your iPhone isn't working great, but it's still usable. Maybe you're staring at the old thing on your desk and wondering, "how old is my iPhone?" Or maybe a new iPhone model has caught your eye but, as Mom used to say, you have a perfectly good one at home. Whatever your reason for wondering, it can be hard to finally tell yourself, "I need a new phone." It's a big commitment and can also be a hassle. So, we've compiled a list of signs that it is indeed time to get a new iPhone.

Related: Apple Announces Online-Only WWDC 2021: When & How to Watch the Keynote

Performance Decline

So your iPhone doesn't work. Or maybe it works, but it doesn't work well. Once you start to run into consistent, noticeable performance issues, it's time to start looking at new phones. A few years back, I ignored worsening issues with my iPhone until one night I got stuck in an endless loop of a restart screen and had to officially call it quits. Not only did I lose two years' worth of photos (always back up your iPhone, folks) but I was also stuck without a phone at all until I was able to get a new one. Since I hadn't budgeted for a whole new iPhone yet, the cost of a new iPhone took me by surprise. Once your iPhone starts glitching regularly, prepare for a new iPhone purchase. Even if you can get another few months or even a year out of it, you'll be happy you planned ahead.

Battery Lifespan Decline

This is one of the biggest motivators for users to decide it's time to buy a new iPhone. Whether your iPhone's battery life is declining because you make it a habit of keeping it plugged in overnight or because you've simply had the phone for a long time, there's really no getting back the loss of your iPhone's battery lifespan

Lost iOS Support

If the latest iOS update doesn't support your iPhone, it's time to get a new one. Sure, one missed upgrade might not seem like a big deal, but you're going to be falling behind on performance quickly, and apps that are updated to run on the new OS might not work well or at all anymore. There's little to no point in keeping a device that isn't supported by the latest iOS

Physical Damage

Our iPhones can take a beating, but sometimes the damage proves to be too much. If you're trying to see through a shattered screen that you've decided it's not worth it to fix, or if a button is permanently broken, your frame is coming apart, or anything is held together with duct tape, now is when you want to make that new phone investment. Remember when that first scratch on the body felt like true heartbreak? Chase that feeling. You'll be glad you did.

Your Carrier Offers a Deal

Ten years ago, I could set my watch to when my cell provider would offer me a free cell phone upgrade. I could walk into the Verizon store, say "upgrade my phone!" and be provided with an array of free and reduced-price cell phones in exchange for another two years of loyalty. Now these kinds of deals aren't as common, but most providers offer a free iPhone at some point. Keep an eye out for BOGO deals and special offers around new iPhone launches (usually in early fall each year), and you might find yourself in luck. If a carrier's offer to provide a free second iPhone with any iPhone purchase coincides with a friend or family member deciding they need a new phone, go for it. A free phone is always a good reason to upgrade.

A New Phone Model Satisfies an Unmet Need

Maybe you don't need a new iPhone, but you do need a new feature on one of the latest iPhones. Whether it's a smaller size for easier one-handed navigation, a bigger size for easier screen viewing, or 5G support, if a new iPhone meets a need your old one doesn't, go ahead and spring for it. Keep up to date with launches and new features, and you'll be able to easily distinguish between want and need. That being said...

You Want One

It's okay to buy a new iPhone just because you want it. Really. If you can afford it, wanting the latest model is a totally fine reason to buy it. If you're feeling guilty about waste, you can always give your still-perfectly-good old one to a friend, or even donate it!

When is the Best Time to Buy a Cell Phone?

Generally, the best time to buy an iPhone is during or after the launch of the new line, which typically happens in the fall. If any price drops happen on the older models it will happen after the launch of the new ones, and if the price doesn't drop, you might as well see what the new ones are. Sometimes the new models are comparable in price to the old ones, or offered for free as part of special carrier deals. It's a frustrating feeling to buy a new iPhone in July or August only to find out in September or October that you could have gotten one with much better features for the same or lesser price!

The bottom line is, the best time to buy a new iPhone is when you need one. Don't let the seasonality keep you from investing in yourself in a way that really matters. Happy upgrading!

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Author Details

Amy Spitzfaden–Both's picture

Author Details

Amy Spitzfaden–Both

Amy Spitzfaden Both is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life, an award-winning novelist, and an iPhone enthusiast. Over the past decade, her work in the publishing industry has included live coverage of industry events including the Yale Publishing Course and Magazine Innovation’s ACT 9 Experience, providing editing services for several start-up publishing houses, and acting as newsstand consultant for magazines such as The Old Farmer’s Almanac and The New York Review of Books. She graduated from M.I.U. with a Bachelor’s in Literature and Writing, and has gone on to publish two novels and two short stories. Her debut novel Untold won the 2014 Chelson Award for Fiction.
Writing everything from book reviews to skincare tips, Amy discovered a passion for bringing exciting and useful information to even the most casual researcher. The mix of usability and endless possibilities is what drew her to Apple products originally, and the more she learns, the more she loves.
Amy lives in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter. When she’s not writing or glued to her iPhone, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and creating her own tea blends.