New Phone Already Feeling Old? You Can Thank Android’s Short Manufacturing Cycle


We all know the feeling. A new Android handset starts to be rumored. Eventually pictures and FCC filings for the device begin to leak out. Based on speculation it is called the next big thing, and when it finally launches it sells out in mass quantitates. A few weeks later a new Android handset shows up at the rumor mill, and the cycle starts again. Without even owning an Android phone for more than a couple months we start questioning if we really got our money’s worth.

If you have experienced this situation, you are simply a victim of what a report at CNN is calling Android’s Law. As new iterations of the Android operating system are deployed, the manufacturing cycle of new smartphones featuring the OS becomes shorter. What once took a handset manufacture close to 10 months to accomplish is now being churned out at a rate closer to 7. That’s a shift from what was basically a year-long guarantee that something better wouldn’t come along, to a point where we might have six months at best to feel like the coolest kid on the block. With the large number of handsets announced at CES and even more coming at MWC, that life cycle could be getting even shorter.

But should this even matter? After all, the HTC EVO 4G launched last June on Sprint still stacks up pretty well to against the HTC Thunderbolt coming to Verizon later next month. The shorter life cycle also gives smaller companies such as ZTE and Huawei an opportunity to penetrate the Android smartphone market.

Does the shrinking lifespan of your mobile technology make you hesitant to purchase a new Android phone? Or does the great variety of choices make it an even better experience? Let us know in the poll below.

[polldaddy poll=4477339]

[via IntoMobile]

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  1. I tend to check the rumor-mill around the time my contract is up. If there’s something with a release date announced, I’ll usually wait for it. If the next great phone is still in speculation mode, I’ll just get whatever’s best at the time.

  2. That chart isn’t really accurate as 2.0 came out 10/09 and 2.1 came out 1/10.

  3. Now that I rooted my Nexus One. I don’t ever have to worry about NOT getting the latest and greatest. Cyanogenmod 7 is amazing and I look forward to some of the honeycomb in a few months too!

  4. Wish I would have waited but the epic isn’t so
    bad, once you root and flash

  5. How much do Americans pay to get out from the contract, let’s say after 12 months? Is it $200-$300? And then you have to buy the new phone which is $200 (or $300 with rebate). So if you end up paying $500 for the phone every year – why don’t you buy it unlocked?!

  6. The first upgrade was around the time that touch screens were new. The next was the droid with 3g. Now it should be a 4G device. I think any 4G device should hold you off for a while.

  7. I used to want a new phone every year but now that custom rom’s solved many of my problems. I don’t feel the need to buy a new one until 2012. I may look at a Tablet

  8. You’re buying a phone. Go based on the phone features. If you’re in the market for a feeling of superiority, you’re going to wind up spending a lot of money.

  9. That’s why i get the Nexus line. I bought my Nexus One a year ago and kept it in excellent condition, sold it for $350 and paid the difference on the Nexus S. I love my Nexus S and will get the Next Nexus phone. As long as they keep releasing a Nexus Phone once a year I’m OK.

  10. Dual and quad core, coupled with 4G makes it more interesting when you consider it has been the typical OS upgrades that would be the main deciding factor in buying a new phone till now.

    Trying to keep up with the Jonses!

  11. Maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places, but where do they have stable 2.2 or even 2.3 roms out for the epic?

  12. I feel that huge leaps have been made from the time the Droid came out until now. The Droid was the first 2.0 phone and only had 550mhz under its belt. Now that the dual core phase is reaching us, after that, not much else can be done to trump phones beforehand. it’ll be pretty even from now on, IMHO.

  13. There should be an option for “I purchase the next phone that runs stock android.” Also, seems like that link takes me to engadget instead of CNN.

  14. I just got the Nexus S and feel it is pretty much doing anything I need it to do. Combined with the software updates I should be able to wait until my contract is up. For those that really feel their phone is getting old quickly, you can always use services like http://www.gazelle.com to sell your phone and save on getting the newest one.

  15. Forgive the plug, but this is exactly the reason I created Swappa: http://swappa.com

    Swappa is for those with an insatiable desire for new Android hardware, like me. We can sell our not-too-old devices to help offset the cost of buying the latest and greatest devices.

  16. Xeno’s Paradox applies to Android phones…only if you choose to (not) act accordingly…

  17. I think one should buy a phone with the specs they want off contract. The is should be the best at the time then sell it if they want to buy another better spec phone.

  18. @ Lucian

    I WISH there was incentive for us to buy phones unlocked like there is in Europe but its just not the case. The pricing is the same for monthly plans whether your phone is locked or not and most phones only work best in THAT network. T-mobile and ATT for example are both gsm carriers but their 3g freqs are different so you cant even use your unlocked phone to its fullest capacity between networks.

  19. Contrary to what the headline would indicate, it’s not the manufacturing cycle that’s the problem, it’s the news/rumor cycle at the root of the problem. Most bleeding edge devices are rumored before their predecessor is even available for purchase. So by the time you can actually buy something, your appetite is already wet from its successor – making buyers constantly feel like they’re behind the curve.

  20. I still think the Evo is one of the best out there and I don’t see that changing radically in the next 6 months….it might make it to its 1 year birthday unrooted for me. Sprint sure is trying hard to make me want to root it though with all their crapware.

  21. I think that this judt encourages smarter cnsumer choices. Recently the Nexus S was heralded as the best phone to get right now, but if you’re smart and are aware of the wave of Terga 2 devices you’re probably be better waiting for one of those. A yearly upgrade is the way to go in my opinion. Spint, for instance will give you a yearly upgrade if you’re on a plan that qualifies for their Premier program (almost all data + voice plans do). Not that I’m trying to tout sprint or anyting, but it seems like the best upgrade option out there.

  22. #17 dead on – You can control your contract and not break the pocket by selling your old top-of-the-line for 300-400 and picking up a new one for 500-600, still a few bucks but doesnt hurt as bad.
    Contract really helps if your streched for money and cant justify that $500 shot to the pocket

    or if your a cheap ass

  23. @Alex: You missed the main point of the article.. use the word phone loosely btw… the problem the article is expressing is since Android comes out with updates so often.. and since these updates are actually quite a big deal, we will always get the feeling of “If we only just waiting another month..”

    It’s not unusual to want to keep up with whats currently the norm. We are not talking buying new hardware here… it’s just we want to be upto date software wise.

    The problem is not Android however.. the problem is the carriers/manufacturors.. They make money when they force you to update your hardware when all you really wanted was software. And the Nexus one would have been an answer to this but the lack of carrier support ruined this.

  24. The funny thing is that the iphony people think that their phones stay up to date longer than the Android phones based on the fact that they only get updated once a year. That must mean that technology moves at a slower speed for IOS than Android OS?

  25. I usually wait for next generation of phones that are a huge leap above the phone that I have. For example, I have a Droid 1 and will wait to upgrade to a dual core, 4g phone with a qHD screen like the Bionic.

  26. Six months? Bullshit. Android devices go obsolete every 3 months

  27. The Evo 4G is old news and it has nothing more on any newer high end android device aside from size and before anyone says oh but it has a 8mp camera! So its still not as good as a Samsung camera nor a Motorola camera

  28. The Evo 4G is old news and it has nothing more on any newer high end android device aside from size and before anyone says oh but it has a 8mp camera! So its still not as good as a Samsung camera nor a Motorola camera!!

  29. @curt Truly Epic Rebirth v1.2 (http://bit.ly/htez1n). Been using it for a couple of weeks, much better than stock 2.1.

  30. It would be nice if manufacturers focussed more on software updates and keeping their devices up to standard and not just new speck sheets. That way they could probably create more third party support for each device. Like if they created 6 devices at the beginning of the year. A low, mid, and High end options with and without keyboards. Each of them having a kind of dock connector for added uses. That is one thing Apple got right. I also think that after Honeycomb and dual-core we should see some slow down. Maybe Google will change their cycle too. Update the tablet OS and then the phone OS version. I think that would help.

  31. who cares, i’m still doing fine with my Desire…

  32. @ Len

    “And the Nexus one would have been an answer to this but the lack of carrier support ruined this.”

    Lack of people that would “cold-buy” a phone caused the N1 to suffer. Now those that did choose to “cold-buy” are the ones that aren’t worried about falling behind.

    Rooted N1’s running Gingerbread prove that you CAN stay current with an older phone.

  33. Same for me. My DInc was already starting to show its age, but once I rooted and flashed a better ROM, it’s all-around a better device. Until Verizon actually has nationwide 4G coverage, I’m sticking with this one (especially now that CM7 is on its way).

  34. While theres now more powerful phones out than my Desire, there’s no actual reason to buy them. I’ll buy a new one when more software require it. I’m bailing out of the boat Android, if i’m gonna have to do that every year.

  35. You guys are missing the “I purchase a phone when I feel like it, on or off contract. I don’t worry about the latest and greatest.” option

  36. i fell in love with the N1 when i heard about it, i wish i could have gotten it but being on Verizon i got myself an Eris. and honestly i understand the frustration about the cycle but at the same time now that Android is out, the smartphone market is now starting to more closely mirror the actual PC market. which is phenomenal! i appreciate it and although it’s difficult all you have to do is know what you’re doing and think about your decisions! sure I’ve been waiting with baited breath at every new generation of phones. the HTC incredible most… but the wonderful combination of lack of money and constant research of new phone technology kept me from moving. for all you people who complain about having to upgrade your phone every 6 months… patience! it’s one thing to get caught up. it’s another to never realize it and learn lol. to all you people with a N1… im jealous. :o lol ^^

  37. If your new phone is already feeling old…..it probably isn’t rooted.

    My rooted, ROM’ed, and overclocked Droid still outscores alot of new phones on Quadrant and has every Android bell and/or whistle available on a brand new phone and some that you can’t even get on a new phone.

  38. I always laugh at things like this. Complaining because better comes quicker? Lol. Think about it this way, once your contract ends you know you are more likely to get the very latest available tech, rather than something thats been out a while

  39. I purchased my first Android device (Acer Liquid) almost one year ago, off contract (due to the lack of good Android devices on AT&T) and plan on purchasing my next device (Motorola Atrix or HTC Inspire, still deciding) on contract. And then hoping to purchase another next year or the year after (depending on how advanced LTE is). Expecting both of the devices I am debating to be relevant in one year given how Motorola and HTC handles updates on high end devices, it more than likely will be.

  40. There are not options for me.. i’m with Sprint so I buy every year although my contract has not yet expired.. I get the discounted price

  41. I got the Hero on an 18 month contract. I feel that the hardware is now showing its age, but thanks to Feeyo at Cronos ill be running gingerbread soon. Due for an upgrade around d the time tegra 2 devices come out. I’m fine with such an upgrade cycle, it means I can spend my money elsewhere. :)

  42. I always want the best, so 7 months ago I got iPhone4 and next month I will get the Atrix 4G.

  43. 42nd!!


  45. Still happy with my Evo. I’ll be waiting for a while to get a new phone.

  46. @N1 on GB:

    “The funny thing is that the iphony people think that their phones stay up to date longer than the Android phones based on the fact that they only get updated once a year. That must mean that technology moves at a slower speed for IOS than Android OS?”

    Appleholics think Steve Jobs’ infamous ‘Reality Distortion Field’ can accelerate the passage of time. Kinda like warp-drive. :)

  47. Cant wait for the Evo 2 hopefully coming this summer

  48. Shame on the statistician that published this graph! Just so people now, the differences look more exaggerated than they are since the bar graph starts at 6, when it should start at 0. The smallest bar is only 75% of the height of the tallest bar, but it looks like a lot more. However, 3 months is still amazing.

  49. I hate the product cycle getting shorter. I wish they would control this better.

  50. I love the fact that new phones come out so often. Because now I have so many choices. I’m very happy with my nexus. I can easily wait a year until I upgrade.

  51. Dumbest reasoning ever.

  52. I have been a VERY PROUD owner of the HTC EVO 4G ON SPRINT since June 4th 2010 my first android device ever. And as of today my beloved Evo which was clearly the best Smartphone device released in 2010 the GRANDDADDY OF 4G ANDROID the one that started it all on the best carrier that started the 4G revolution is still the TOP 5 DEVICES ON THE MARKET AS OF THIS DAY… At sprint being a preferred customer allows us the opportunity of purchasing yearly NEW DEVICES which I will do ONLY WHEN THE NEW HTC EVO 2 4G WILL BE ANNOUNCED AT CTIA IN MARCH 2011 WHICH WILL HAPPEN SOON. Sprint and Htc knew EXACTLY what they were doing and where the industry was headed back in March 2010. My current Evo is a Proven Beast of a device that is not beaten by anything out today. I love sprint/htc/google and what the FUTURE HOLDS FOR US CURRENT EVO OWNERS. WE ARE BLESSED TO HAVE THIS DEVICE… HTC EVO 2 4G WILL BE A MONSTER AND I WILL FIRST IN LINE ON JUNE OF 2011

  53. Its called doing some homework before you buy, my N1 is still holding its own against the mass of Androids. But i got to say those dual core that are about to hit the streets look pretty sweet.

  54. To #18: You’re wrong about all carriers charging you the same when you buy unlocked: I bought a Nexus One outright. T-mobile is giving out $20 discounts (on the unlimited everything plan) if you bring your own phone.

    No contract, and over two years this is actually cheaper than getting a comparable phone through the carrier.

  55. @ReVa

    The exception being tmobile :P Although they’re trying to hide their off contract plans nowadays.

  56. i really dont care about my contract. when i learn of any new hot phone with the specs that i find desirable, i want it as soon as it comes out.i went from the touch pro 2 to hd2 to vibrant to hd7 to nexus s all from january 2010. now im waiting for the galaxy/vibrant 4g on the 23rd if the rumors are true.

  57. Sprint revealed to a Samsung Galaxy S owner that Sprint has no plans to upgrade from Android 2.1 to 2.2. Many Galaxy S owners are very irate. See their comments at:


  58. Sprint finally admitted on Friday, February 3, 2011, that Sprint has no plans to update the Samsung Galaxy S to Android V 2.2. The owners are more than irate. See their comments at:


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