It seems that 2022 is the year when my Android phone becomes EOL – end of life. Although I only have this particular phone for one year, in a sense I have had it since December 2017.
The phone I currently have is a replacement for the one I lost a year ago when some vehicles drove over it after an accidental loss (see my October 2021 column).
With the Samsung Note line of phones I became hooked to the S-Pen, for which Samsung became especially known. When my Note 8 was destroyed, I wanted to replace it with the same phone, but it just wasn’t available. I decided to use a Note 9, with basically the same shape (size, look and feel of a screen), and, most importantly, that S-Pen.
Fast forward one year and although Samsung has not made a formal announcement, it looks like 2022 will indeed be the last year for the Note 9 to receive security updates. In the mobile phone industry, alongside actual operating system version updates, security updates are of major importance. Without them, every day raises the lead for any malware or attack.
My Note 9 is already one operating system version behind the latest release, but the phone retains all the power it once had as a flagship phone from before, released in August 2018 and widely regarded as the best Android phone of that year. My intention was to keep it as a phone while those security updates keep coming.
Unfortunately, the end of the line for the Note mark came with the release of the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra in late 2020. Then the Note units came almost twice as much as the cost of that 2017 Note 8, and four times the cost of the improved Note 9 which replaced it.
Samsung, however, continued the S-Pen technology and deployed it to the Galaxy S line of handsets, most notably the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S22 Ultra. Samsung has also put the S-Pen in some of its Z-fold models.
At least cell phones are starting to last longer, and be used much longer than flagship phones say half a decade ago. Mobile phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have effectively convinced the general public that phones should be replaced every year. At $ 2k or more for some phones, that’s just a little rich.
That kind of thinking about a new phone is fading away every year, mostly because today’s phones are so good that every year’s improvements or changes are mostly evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
It’s time that phone makers adopted the thinking that evolved at Google for its Chromebooks platform. When the web-based computers were launched in 2012, they had a fixed EOL duration of three years. With many of Chromebooks ’current crop, that EOL duration has been pushed to eight years – a surprising increase in effective longevity when you think about it.
There is one furrow to keep older cell phones running. In the US, at least some of the major service providers are planning to shut down their 3G networks. In the process, some phones may stop working. Not just phones. Some cars have onboard services that rely on 3G communications. The same goes for some home security services. But we are talking about devices that are much older than typical consumer mobile phones.
The current user of consumer electronics is generally much more aware of the lifespan of appliances than was a user of for example a decade ago. Terrible stories about electronic recycling abuses in distant lands may have started to resonate here. Discarding a main phone, or any phone, within a year of purchase, due to some further improvement, is simply not appropriate today. Not that it was ever appropriate, but many of us have fallen in love with marketing that newer is better.
Elon Musk’s Starlink service doesn’t make sense in an urban setting. Elsewhere though it may be the only game in town. The parent company SpaceX recently announced that approximately 400,000 customers have joined its satellite internet service.
What may please city dwellers, however, is an RV license for Starlink. Previously, Starlink licenses were tied to a physical address and the service often stopped working a few hundred yards from that location. This new license can attract you if you are a recreational vehicle user – despite the price of gasoline.