(NEXSTAR) — You’re undoubtedly familiar with expiration dates. From the milk in your fridge to the Twinkies in your pantry (yes, even those can expire) — but what about your phone?
It’s not like your phone starts to sprout mold or smell funny after you’ve had it for a while. If you can avoid cracking the screen and keep it clean, it might be hard to even tell how old your phone is from a distance.
But yes, in a sense, it can “expire,” though not in the bread-going-stale style you’re familiar with.
If you have an older iPhone, you may have actually experienced this already. Take, for example, the last major iPhone update Apple pushed out in September, iOS 17. While it introduced a bevy of new features for iPhone users, not everyone was able to get the update.
Apple made the massive update available to select models, dating only as far back as the iPhone XR and XS models (both released in 2018). If you have an iPhone 8 (released in 2017) or earlier, you don’t have iOS 17 and you’ll never have access to it. (Following the trend, that means the same will likely happen to XR and XS models when iOS 18 becomes available.)
For Google Pixel users, the most recent update is Android 14, which was released in October. That update was only available for Pixel devices dating as far back as Pixel 4a, which was released in 2020. Only the 5G version of that model was eligible, meaning other Pixel 4 versions and anything earlier (like the Pixel 3 released in 2018) couldn’t get the update.
Both updates, as well as updates from other phone software companies, include more than just new features. The main releases, as well as subsequent updates (iPhones are on iOS 17.1.1 as of mid-November), frequently include bug fixes and security improvements for phones. That means if your phone is too old to get updates, it may be missing out on those fixes and improvements.
Phones that are too old can even be dropped by service providers. Verizon, for example, no longer supports iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5c, or 5s models. Verizon also stopped supporting first-generation Google Pixels. (You can see a full list of devices, services, and apps Verizon no longer supports here.)
In addition to missing out on updates and being dropped by your provider, your phone’s battery can suffer. You’ve likely experienced this, regardless of how old your phone is. Over the first few weeks and months, you maybe rarely had to charge your phone. But over time, you may have found yourself reaching for the charger more frequently and leaving it on for longer periods.
In case you’re wondering, the average lifespan of a smartphone is about two and a half years, according to USA Today. There is a database, endoflife.date, that aggregates the “end-of-life” — when a device is no longer supported or receiving security updates — across countless brands. Remember earlier when we mentioned the Google Pixel 3 wasn’t able to get the latest update? That’s because its “end of life,” was in October 2021, according to the database.
So will your iPhone really turn to dust after a certain date? Not exactly. It’s more that it’ll become outdated. But, unlike expired milk or stale Twinkies, there is a very good chance you could continue to use your phone for an extended period of time.
Google even lists how long Pixel phones will get updates. The Pixel 8, for example, is guaranteed to receive updates until at least October 2030. The Pixel 5a with 5G is only guaranteed Android version updates and security updates until August 2024.