12 Warning Signs That You Need to Replace Your Smartphone

Smartphone prices have come down over the years. But that doesn’t mean replacing your phone is suddenly cheap (or fun). Most of us do our best to keep our smartphones running like new. And many of us have found ourselves doing everything in our power to make an aging phone last another year. But sooner or later, all good things must come to an end.

In the case of your smartphone, it’s usually good to retire an old device before it completely gives up the ghost. Having a replacement in hand before your old phone dies for good will give you some peace of mind. But it will also keep you from ending up stranded without a working phone. The problem is knowing when, exactly, you need to replace your old phone, and when it’s likely to still have some life left in it.

We don’t have any foolproof ways of predicting when your phone is going to quit working for good. But we do know a few warning signs that can tell you when it’s a good idea to replace your phone. If you notice any of the red flags ahead, consider it a warning that you need to head to your local Best Buy or carrier store to get a new phone.

1. The screen shows vertical lines or other anomalies

businessman shouting on the phone with gesture on the car

If your screen is acting up, it may be time to replace your smartphone | iStock.com/Tomwang112

We all know that the screen is one of the easiest smartphone components to damage. But if your phone starts showing vertical lines or bands across the screen, or other anomalies like flickering, that’s a big warning sign. It’s a good idea to either take your phone in to get it looked at — or to bite the bullet and start deciding what kind of smartphone you want to purchase next.

2. The touchscreen gets extremely slow

young woman's hand typing a text message on her smartphone

You should worry if your touchscreen is slow | iStock.com/Ridofranz

Another screen-related sign it’s time to replace your phone? The touchscreen gets very slow to respond. It seems that every phone misses or misinterprets a tap or a swipe occasionally. But if your phone ignores your taps and swipes, or is extremely slow in registering and responding to them, then that’s a good sign you need a new phone. Not only is it just about impossible to get anything done on a phone with a slow touchscreen, but it’s also a pretty reliable sign that the device is on the decline. 

3. The power button stops working

Female using app on a smartphone

If the power button stops working, this is a major warning sign | iStock.com/SolisImages

Most modern smartphones have few buttons. But the few they do have — like the power button — are critical. A power button that stops working isn’t necessarily a sign that your phone is about to die. But if you can’t power the phone on or off, it won’t exactly be easy to use (especially not if it powers off and you can’t get it to turn back on). Do yourself a favor and look into replacing your phone ASAP.

4. The device repeatedly shuts down and reboots itself

Four hands texting on their smartphones

If your phone shuts itself down, it may be on its way out | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

Most smartphone users have had a phone shut itself down unexpectedly. It happens occasionally. But it’s cause for worry if it happens repeatedly. This can often indicate a problem with the battery. You should take the phone in to have it looked at. And you’ll likely have a couple of options: Either replace the battery, or replace the phone. Some phones have batteries that are easily replaceable, while others don’t. 

5. Apps constantly crash, or the operating system seems unstable

girl chatting with a friend through text

Your apps should not repeatedly crash on you | iStock.com/velvelvel

Occasionally, an operating system update that’s intended for newer devices can have unforeseen consequences for older devices that install it. And sometimes, apps that are optimized for more recent phones won’t work so well on older devices. But if you haven’t installed a new update and the OS seems unstable or multiple apps keep crashing, that’s cause for worry. Before things get any worse, you should back up your data. Then, reset and restore your phone. If that doesn’t help, it may be time to get a new smartphone. 

6. The phone overheats, even when you aren’t using it

Woman holding her mobile phone

If your phone overheats when you’re not using it, it could be time to get a new phone | iStock.com/ Kikovic

Overheating can point to a variety of issues with your phone. But if the device is overheating even when you aren’t using it, you have a big problem. We all know that phones can explode after overheating. And that’s dangerous not only for you, but also for the people around you. So instead of shrugging the problem off, you should either get the phone assessed by a repair technician, or replace it with a new smartphone. 

7. The battery is bulging

handsome man playing with smartphone

A bulging battery is dangerous | iStock.com/zhudifeng

If your smartphone’s battery is bulging, then you need to replace the battery (or the phone) immediately. The sorts of physical changes that are happening by the time the battery is bulging are dangerous, and a bulging battery is a sign that chemicals are breaking down inside the battery. Unless you want your phone to short circuit or for the battery to catch fire, it’s a good idea to stop using it right away and to get to your carrier store or electronics retailer as soon as you can.

8. The phone is extremely slow and can’t be sped up

Young man lying on the sofa at night and illuminated by light

If your phone is painfully slow, you might need a new one | iStock.com/Art-Of-Photo

There are a few easy ways to keep things moving at a steady clip, even on a phone that’s past its prime. (Think keeping your software updated, getting rid of unneeded files, uninstalling a few apps, taking a second look at the device’s settings, or even resetting your phone.) But if the device is moving painfully slowly, and none of these steps help to speed it up, chances are good you should just replace it. 

9. The camera takes way too long to capture a photo

Man using smartphone

A slow shutter speed may make you want a new smartphone | iStock.com/DamDesignnu

If you have an older smartphone, chances are pretty good that it lags far behind the cameras that are found in more modern smartphones. But one kind of lag that you shouldn’t tolerate is shutter lag. If it takes an interminably long period of time between when you hit the shutter and when the phone actually snaps a photo, that’s not a good sign for the longevity of your phone (or for the levels of frustration you’ll have to tolerate to continue using it).

10. The battery life isn’t long enough to get through half your day

woman sitting at a table using mobile phone

A short battery life is incredibly frustrating | iStock.com/loveischiangrai

Decreasing battery life is a sure sign of an aging phone. You can make it less of a problem with a battery case, or with an external battery pack. And it’s probably not too big of a red flag if your phone’s battery life is only a little bit shorter than it used to be. But if the device only has enough juice to stay on for a few hours at a time, that’s not a good sign. You should consider either replacing the battery, or replacing the phone altogether. 

11. The headphone jack is annoyingly finicky

Businesswoman using mobile phone

If you’re always listening to music, you want a headphone jack that works | iStock.com/diego_cervo

If it takes you upwards of five minutes to get your headphones connected to your phone properly, that’s a good sign that you should begin thinking about buying a new phone. Sure, an unreliable headphone jack isn’t the worst thing in the world (especially if you own, or wouldn’t mind owning, a pair of Bluetooth headphones). But that headphone jack may just be the first component to go. So now might be a good time to start looking for a replacement. 

12. The phone has been repeatedly dropped and damaged

man sending text message using smartphone

You’ve probably done some damage if you’ve dropped your phone a few times | iStock.com/Ondine32

We all drop our phones every once in a while. And if we’re unlucky, we can’t prevent them from having the occasional run in with a (hopefully small) body of water. But if your phone has been repeatedly dropped and damaged, chances are good there’s something wrong, even if you can’t detect it from looking over the phone’s exterior. Cracked displays are usually pretty obvious. But damaged internal components typically aren’t. If your phone has taken a beating over the years, and you suspect that its current malfunctions are related to that, then it may be a good idea to replace the phone before it dies.