Will 2024’s Android flagships actually last seven years?

How gently can we anticipate our hardware to age, given that Android heavyweights have promised longer software support?

Today’s flagship smartphones only receive incremental improvements on an annual basis, which means that the days of slab smartphones undergoing revolutionary changes are basically behind us. There have been significant improvements in efficiency in recent times; yet, the performance of systems-on-a-chip and other essential hardware does not significantly improve from one year to the next.

Since this is the case, it should not come as a huge surprise that industry heavyweights Google and Samsung have increased the Android update lifespan of their flagship devices to a very impressive sounding seven years. In a few years, however, how useful will the most advanced mobile devices of today be, let alone when they approach the end of their lifespan in the early 2030s?

A look back to 2017

Just seven years ago, things were different.

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When they were first introduced seven years ago, no one could have ever envisaged carrying around a Galaxy Note 8 or Xperia XZ1 Compact for more than a few years. I clung to my XZ1C until the year 2022 because there was no other like it, and it is quite unlikely that there will ever be another one. Four years later, however, the hardware did begin to experience strain as a result of software that was becoming increasingly complicated and demanding.

Not to mention the significant impact those years had. Benchmark performance of the major Snapdragon SoCs has virtually doubled between the years 2017 and 2021, and then again between 2021 and the present day. The top processor of 2028 might not be such a revolutionary increase, however, given the gradual performance gains that have been observed.

Current performance of flagships from 2021

Despite the fact that models such as the Galaxy S21 from 2021 may have outdated specifications, they continue to function normally, running Android 14 and demanding applications without causing any problems. For example, a flagship phone from three years ago may not have the scorching speed of a 2024-grade device, but it still performs at least as well as or even better than many of the fantastic midrange phones that are available now. While it is true that code bloat exists, constant enhancements to operating systems assist ensure that older devices continue to function without any problems.

More efficient chips have been developed throughout the course of the past couple of years. With a lower power demand, a greater functional capacity, and fewer cycles, the lifespan of the device is extended. The most significant challenge in future-proofing smartphones is determining how much longer it will be before the degeneration of the battery will adversely impact the user experience.

Battery lifespan and the industry’s evolution

Because the batteries in smartphones cannot be removed

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There were other reasons why replaceable battery packs went out of style besides planned obsolescence, which is the process of reducing the performance of a product and making it impossible to repair it. For the purpose of preventing harm, removable batteries need additional protection, but fixed batteries enable for phones to be more compact.

Moreover, they sought gadgets that were more stable. That it is possible to create a phone with an IP67 rating and a detachable battery was demonstrated by Samsung’s Galaxy S5. However, if the rubber strip that runs around the back panel became damaged or weathered over time, the water resistance would not be maintained. In spite of the fact that high-precision screws and thick adhesive coatings are significantly more dependable and long-lasting, they make it nearly difficult for the common consumer to swap a battery for a battery.

Why batteries deteriorate and what can be done to prevent it

Before their capacity begins to decrease substantially, batteries may only discharge and recharge a certain number of times, which are referred to as cycles. It is not just the cycle count that causes damage; other factors include charging to capacity, draining below 40%, being exposed to high temperatures, or being stored at an excessively high charge.

Battery capacity can be maintained for the longest feasible period of time with the help of certain tactics. One example is the usage of grace capacity in electric vehicles, which allows them to report as fully charged while leaving uncharged overhead. Smartphones, on the other hand, do not make use of grace capacity rather than the entire cell, which is detrimental to the health of the battery. Not only does the battery indicator on your smartphone hit 100% for the first time, but it is not actually fully charged at that point. Instead, it will continue to charge until it reaches 100%.

Another method that smartphone manufacturers use to limit wattage and reduce degradation is to build charging rate algorithms that are based on capacity and temperatures. While charging, the Galaxy S24 Ultra only momentarily reaches its maximum power output of 45W. For extreme protocols such as the 100W SuperVOOC standard used by the OnePlus 12, heat sensors are also helpful in regulating speeds, which is the case.

A number of mobile devices come equipped with adaptive charging, which reduces the rate of charging to a crawl and only reaches 100% when it is absolutely necessary. You can use the alerts that you have set as a guide for certain implementations, but they can also evaluate your usage patterns and determine when they should aspire to be full on their own. There is a lot of emphasis placed on Pixel Adaptive Charging; yet, my previous Xperia XZ1C and my current iPhone also have this feature.

In general, however, it is not possible to prevent battery degeneration. As a result of Apple’s failure to reveal the activity, the company was previously accused of infamously reducing the performance of older iPhones in order to compensate for decreasing capacity and voltage output. Despite the fact that it was not on purpose, it serves as a good illustration of the challenges that are associated with batteries that are getting on in years.

Will smartphones ever have removable batteries again?

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It was decreed by a significant EU ruling in 2023 that all smartphones will require replaceable batteries by the year 2027. As is typical for choices made by the European Union, this shift will almost probably have an impact on markets all over the world. This is because it is impossible for manufacturers to create completely distinct phones for each region. To replace an old battery, consumers should not be required to have specialized equipment or a significant amount of skill, as the legislation makes it quite apparent.

However, for the time being, we are no longer able to escape the current state of most phones, which is cemented together.

Battery changes are something that require the assistance of a technician, unless you are exceptionally knowledgeable about technology. Replacement often costs less than one hundred dollars and has the potential to restore nearly perfect performance to a flagship device in 2024, which, five years from now, can hardly hold a charge. In terms of the future viability of today’s phones, that is not much, and it appears to be encouraging.

What’s next for smartphones?

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Remarkable alterations to the slab smartphone that is currently available are difficult to conceive about. Despite the fact that cameras, speakers, displays, sensors, and connectivity all function exceptionally well, there is very little space for improvement other than making adjustments to image processing, increasing brightness, and making other iterative innovations.

Even though materials and hinges have made significant advancements since the failure of the first Galaxy Z Fold, there is still a noticeable crease on even the best foldable phones available today. There is a lot of opportunity for improvement in foldable phones. Dual-screen functionality is also being improved by developers, with outside displays that are compatible with applications and inner screens that are suitable for multitasking. This transforms unique handsets into advantageous hybrids.

After that, there is the market for used items. One further compelling argument in favor of extended Android lifespans is evidenced by the fact that a reconditioned Galaxy Z Flip 4 costs approximately $300. In the end, the most important factor that prevents foldables from becoming widely used is expense. Having the ability to purchase a refurbished phone at the same price as a new midrange phone, while still enjoying the advantages of flagship-level performance and battery life, is a very encouraging indication for the future.

AI: A buzzword, or the future?

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To reply to inputs with dialog, photo editing, voice transcription, and other tasks, machine learning, also known as artificial intelligence, makes use of intricate algorithms and built databases from which it draws. The marketing for the Pixel 8 family puts a lot of emphasis on artificial intelligence characteristics; the same can be said about Galaxy AI in the Samsung Galaxy S24 saga.

Some artificial intelligence capabilities are dependent on strong cloud computing resources that can be accessible through the internet. These tools may be implemented on devices very long after the product has been released. Other artificial intelligence functions rely on the hardware of the smartphone itself to perform computations at astonishing rates, without severely depleting the battery. The on-device artificial intelligence forward-compatibility of older devices becomes more difficult as chip efficiency increases. There is still a chance that Samsung’s Instant Slow-Mo may be included in the Galaxy S23, which is yet another encouraging reason in favor of Android’s continued support.

However, things are not all rosy. iPhones that are many years old continue to receive upgrades to their operating system from Apple, but with each release, an increasing proportion of older handsets are excluded from certain functionalities. Existing flagships will unavoidably fall behind in the face of certain software developments, particularly when these advancements need the most powerful chips or innovative sensors. That being said, having some features is preferable than having none at all, and it is essential that Android makers now compete with Apple in terms of providing long-term maintenance.

Is a 7-year Android update promise worth it?

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Over the past ten years, people have swapped out their mobile devices approximately every two and a half years. There will always be a large number of power users and tech enthusiasts who will buy the most recent and greatest flagship, which will result in more gadgets being sold on the secondary market.

Midrange smartphones, such as the Galaxy A54, now surpass flagships in terms of sheer power and efficiency. However, this is expected to change in the next three or four years. And while there are users who require lightning-fast speeds and cutting-edge capabilities, the majority of consumers are content with an adequate level of performance, cameras that are dependable, and software that is secure and free of bugs.

Due to the fact that they will not be directly impacted by increasing lifespans, the former camp might not be concerned about it. You have a lot to look forward to, however, if you prioritize price and stability over cutting-edge specifications and innovative machine-learning capabilities. In addition to the number of accessories and their quality, the materials and build quality have reached an all-time high. The most significant barrier that hinders the long-term success of a flagship product is the absence of a quick battery servicing. There is reason to be optimistic about the future.

As a result of the long-term Android guarantees made by Google and Samsung, it is possible that additional manufacturers will pursue similar strategies. A flourishing market for used goods provides users with the opportunity to purchase high-end smartphones and all of the features that these devices have to offer at a price that is affordable to them.