How to make your old iPhone last longer


Don't let this happen to you.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple’s revenue is hurting this quarter. Part of that is down to China, but part of it is Apple’s own stupid fault. The iPhone is just too damn good.

Unlike most crappy Android junk, which slows down and falls apart almost as soon as you’ve opened the box, the iPhone lasts for years. Even if you, the original owner, replace it after just a couple of years, then it’s likely that you’ll hand it down to a friend of a family member who will enjoy it for a few more.

The iPhone is a great investment, then (for you, if not for share traders) but you can make it last a lot longer. Try these tips to make your iPhone last you for years.

Charge it properly

Presumably, AirPower will charge iPhones correctly.
Photo: Apple

Step one is to look after the battery. The most likely reason for your iPhone to feel old, slow, and useless is because it has a weak battery. The means that the battery can’t hold a charge, and will run out of juice part way through the day.

But a weak battery also means that your iPhone will run slower. Remember battery-gate? iPhones with weak batteries were shutting down when called upon to perform power-hungry tasks. Apple decided to throttle performance to keep these old iPhones running. This shows how important it is to look after your battery.

Apple has a whole support page on the subject of battery care. Here are the highlights:

  • Keep iOS up to date, because of power-management improvements.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures.
  • Take it out of thick cases when charging.
  • Use low-power mode to reduce battery use, and therefore the need to recharge so often.

Also, if your old iPhone feels slow, then consider getting a new battery put in. It might be enough to give it another couple of years of life.

Keep it in a case

The number-one way to stop you iPhone from breaking is to never drop it, whack it, or let children near it. The second best way is to put it in a case. It doesn’t need to be a huge rugged case, either (unless you have kids). Apple’s own silicone and leather iPhone cases are slimline and lightweight, but offer plenty of protection where it counts: they protect the edges and corners when you drop it, and they protect the screen when you lay the iPhone face-down, thanks to a lip around the screen.

Buy a more expensive iPhone to begin with

After cracked screens and dead batteries, running out of storage space is a big driver for people to upgrade. The only way to avoid this is to spend a little more when you buy an iPhone. I wrote a whole post on choosing the best storage option for the new 2018 iPad Pro.

The tl;dr is that you should go for the next tier up from entry level. This gives you the most storage per dollar, without buying capacity you might never need. You’ll also save money long term. There’s no way to add more storage to an iPhone, so if you cheap out now, you’ll end up having to buy a whole new iPhone a year or two earlier.

And if you did cheap out on storage? Then you have another option. You can pay to increase your iCloud Storage plan. Here are the current monthly rates for plans in the U.S.

50GB: $0.99

200GB: $2.99

2TB: $9.99

For just a buck a month you can rescue yourself from a short-sighted buying decision. In practice, what this means is that you can offload the biggest storage hog on your iPhone — photos — off to the iCloud Photo Library.

Screen protector?

Xkin's glossy, black border that mimics and blends right into the iPhone X bezels.
Xkin’s glossy, black border that mimics and blends right into the iPhone X bezels.
Photo: Just Mobile

A screen protector will definitely protect your screen, but is it worth it? The feel of them is awful, unless you get a fancy tempered glass one, in which case it makes the iPhone quite a lot thicker. And, based on nothing but my own opinion, I don’t think a screen protector does much in case of a fall. iPhones rarely fall face-flat. They land on a corner, or maybe an edge, and that’s when the screen cracks. A good case will serve you better than a screen protector.

Ignore the itch to upgrade

The iPhone might be the soundest investment you can make. It’s well built and lasts for years. But the desire to upgrade is strong. Try to resist. Not only are you saving almost a grand each year you hold off, you’re also helping the environment a little bit. Although probably not enough to offset that car you insist on keeping.

Anecdotally, the most popular iPhone I see in my home town is iPhone-5-shaped. This could be an actual 5 or 5s, but is more likely an iPhone SE. Either way, that’s an old iPhone. In some ways, it’s a hipster badge of honor to use these older devices. In others, it’s just the most sensible choice for most people.



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