When Cell Phones Become EOL – BC Catholic


It looks like 2022 is the year my Android phone goes end of life – end of life. Although I’ve only had this phone for a year, I’ve kind of had it since December 2017.

The phone I currently have replaces the one I lost a year ago when multiple vehicles ran over it due to accidental loss (see my October 2021 column).

Thanks to Samsung’s Note line of phones, I got hooked on the S-Pen that Samsung has become particularly known for. When my Note 8 got destroyed, I wanted to replace it with the same phone, but it just wasn’t available. I opted for a second-hand Note 9, with essentially the same form factor (screen size, look and feel) and, most importantly, that S-Pen.

Fast forward a year and while Samsung hasn’t made an official announcement, it looks like 2022 will indeed be the last year for the Note 9 to receive security updates. In the mobile phone industry, besides OS version updates, security updates are of vital importance. Without them, each passing day raises the stakes for some sort of malware or attack.

My Note 9 is already one version of the OS behind the latest version, but the phone is still very much the engine it was as the flagship phone of yesteryear, released in August 2018 and widely regarded as the best phone Android this year. My intention was to keep it as a phone as long as those security updates kept coming.

Unfortunately, the end of the line for the Note brand came with the release of the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra in late 2020. At that time, Note units were coming in at almost twice the cost of that 2017 Note 8, and four times the cost of the refurbished Note 9 that replaced it.

Samsung, however, continued the S-Pen technology and rolled it out to the Galaxy S line of handsets, including the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S22 Ultra. Samsung has also integrated the S-Pen into some of its Z-folding models.

At least mobiles are starting to last longer and be used much longer than flagship phones were half a decade ago. Mobile manufacturers like Apple and Samsung had managed to convince the general public that phones had to be replaced every year. At $2,000 or more for some handsets, that’s just a tad rich.

This kind of thinking about a new handset every year fades quickly, mainly because today’s phones are so good that any annual improvements or changes are mostly evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

It’s time for phone makers to embrace the thinking that evolved at Google for its Chromebooks platform. When browser-based computers were introduced in 2012, they had a stated end-of-life of three years. With most current Chromebooks, that end-of-life time has been pushed up to eight years – an incredible increase in effective longevity when you think about it.

There is a downside to running old mobiles. In the United States, at least, some of the major service providers are planning to shut down their 3G networks. In the process, some handsets may stop working. Not just handsets. Some cars have in-car services that depend on 3G communications. The same goes for some home security services. But we’re talking about devices much older than typical consumer mobile handsets.

Today’s consumer electronics user is generally much more aware of the lifespan of devices than they were ten years ago. Horror stories of electronics recycling abuse in distant lands may have begun to resonate here. Throwing away a flagship phone, or any phone, within a year of purchase, in the interest of incremental improvement, is simply not appropriate today. Not that it was ever appropriate, but many of us have succumbed to the marketing spiel that newer is better.


Starlink Update

Elon Musk’s Starlink service makes no sense in an urban environment. Elsewhere, it may be the only game in town. Parent company SpaceX recently announced that some 400,000 customers have signed up for its satellite internet service.

What may appeal to city dwellers is a motorhome license for Starlink. Previously, Starlink licenses were tied to a physical address, and the service would often stop working within a few hundred yards of that location. This new license may be of interest to you if you are a recreational vehicle user – notwithstanding the price of gas.

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