Almost everybody wants the latest gadget. Everybody also wants their devices to last as long as possible, or at least sell for a good price in 2nd hand. I too have opinions on how long something is useful, and a 4 years old phone.
In my opinion, an electronic device should last 1 year for every 100$ spent on it. In other words, a 300$ phone should function 3 years or more and 1,000$ laptop should be useful for 10 years. Some of you think that, that is a ridiculous thing to expect, but many devices in our house beg to differ.
Our devices as examples
my father's laptop from 2011
My father's laptop, Toshiba Tecra R850 is from 2011. You would expect it to run excruciatingly slow but that is not the case. My father is someone who can (almost) never remember to close browser tabs or restart the computer, yet it runs surprisingly smoothly. I should also mention that only SSD storage and battery were upgraded over the years.
By the way, this laptop was unusable with Windows 10. Any attempts to use ended with tears and rage. You would expect Windows to make good use of 8GB memory, yet even opening start menu was slow all the way from boot to running for days. I would like to believe that days was enough time to cache start menu.
I installed Solus on an SSD and booted it over USB. It was faster than Windows on HDD (connected to internal SATA). My father started using Solus and later asked me to put it in the computer rather than having it dangling on the side.
I don't know how much it was when brand new.
media hub from 2014
My brother's old Lenovo G50-70 is now our media hub. It runs Linux Mint and is used for watching streaming services on the TV. Our TV is pretty old too (LG 55LE5500 manufactured in 2010). All in all, I am happy that this $400 laptop still has a purpose and staying out of landfill.
my phone from 2018
I am sometimes told that I should replace my current phone. My current phone is a OnePlus 6 and I am pretty happy with it. I bought it second hand in 2020 for $250. Its stock operating system Oxygen OS was okay, except that I was having problems with receiving notifications on time. When I forced important apps to run in the background (mainly WhatsApp and Signal), it started draining the battery fast.
I installed Lineage OS shortly after purchasing it. Battery life was manageable and important notifications were coming in a timely manner. Given that this phone had very small battery (3300mAh) for its high end processor (Snapdragon 845), I was surprised it was still holding on. Well, that was back in 2020. Like any other Li-ion cell, phone's battery naturally degraded further. My energy demands increased as well. I am using many more apps which need to run in the background.
For the curious ones, here is some info about my phone:
Release date: May 2018
Price at release: 530$
Last OxygenOS update: September 2021
CPU: Snapdragon 845
Battery: 3300 mA
I also heard that I should switch to newer phone because of my phone's small storage. We computer enthusiasts would like to talk about 321 backup system. To be frank, my system isn't complete yet. I mostly have 1 copy of important stuff on local storage, 1 copy everything on Nextcloud server and on remote backup. I don't need everything to be available locally. When you have a proper backup and sync server set up, you will find that 64GB storage can be plenty. You will be able to use your phone's tiny storage for the things you might need the most, such as the map of the city you live in.
There are few more devices in our house which are considered "old and crappy" by many, yet functioning perfectly. I advocate for using the things we own in the best way we can, for as long as we can. Of course you should replace something if it is too old to let you work efficiently. But rather than tossing the old device into landfill, find a way re-purpose it rather than tossing it to landfill.
Sorry if you found this post a bit pushy about continuing to use old devices. I don't mean to blame you if you have the latest gadget. I guess what I wanted to say was that "buy the best device you can afford and use it until it is no longer useful to you, not until new one comes out".
All mentioned prices are in USD.
It was brought to my attention that peripheral devices such as earbuds, mice, keyboard etc. can be purchased for less than $100. I forgot to mention that this article only talks about phones and laptops, not peripherals devices. I don't know how long such a device can be useful for if was not abused. After all, I use cable earphones that came with my father's Sony XA1. But if I still was to suggest a target for how long such a device should last, I would say a year/$15. Bonus points if you can get a year/$10. This is the target for total lifespan of a device since peripheral devices are not easy to re-purpose.
I should also mention that, I was talking about useful lifespan of stuff, not total lifespan. My brother's laptop reached its useful lifespan back in 2018 and no longer good enough as a daily driver laptop. But it still is working fine and could be utilized in other ways, such as an old TV smartifier. If I was talking about total lifespan, I would expect that laptop to be broken back in 2018.
There is also the problem of diminishing returns. You can buy a laptop for $1500, $2000 and even $3000 today. But that doesn't mean that $3000 laptop will still be suitable as a daily driver 29 years from now. I believe $1200 is the sweet spot.