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Time for a new phone?

This is the time each year when the world’s two largest phone manufacturers introduce their new models and entice us to buy. Samsung just introduced a pair of folding phones and Apple will be announcing their iPhone 15 models in September. I’m usually first in line for a new iPhone when my existing phone hits the 3-year mark. But strangly I have no desire – at least right now- to upgrade my nearly 3-year old iPhone 12 Pro Max. In fact, it’s hard to find much difference from the current iPhone 14, and it’s unlikely the iPhone 15 will have enough new features that justify its estimated $1000 cost. From the initial information I’ve seen, the iPhone 15 series will have a new charging port, the familiar USB-C replacing Apple’s Lightning connector. That’s being mandated by the EU regulation bodies to use a single charging standard. But USB-C cords are not all equal. (Some USB-C cords are designed for charging, while others for data transfer. The problem is they look exactly the same.)

What might get me to upgrade would be a significantly longer battery life or the ability to work at higher ambient temperatures. In these days of extreme weather conditions, phone displays often dim as the phone heats up from heavy usage and high ambient temperatures. It gets so bad that the display becomes impossible to read. The failure of our devices to perform properly – whether it’s our electric car or cellphone – may be what it takes to get more people to believe that climate change is real. There are certainly too many that are still deniers. But effecting my gadgets?…that may be what it takes.

I used to think a folding iPhone might be enough to get me to upgrade, but after trying out a Motorola Flip Phone, I have doubts about folding phones. The displays are plastic rather than glass – more easily scratched – and the complex folding mechanism is often susceptible to dust and dirt.

But if you are interested in folding phones, Samsung has just introduced two models, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and the Galaxy Z Fold 5. The first is a standard size phone that folds in half, much like Motorola’s flip phone. The Fold 5 is a squarish tablet sized display that folds in half to become the size of a normal phone. The phones retail for $1500 and $1800 respectively. No word whether Apple is working on an iPhone version.

One reason my many iPhones don’t need replacing very often is that iOS upgrades are rolled out automatically to everyone, unlike Android phones where the upgrades are handled by the manufacturer who don’t always offer updates. But if you have an older model of either variety that can no longer be updated, that’s a good reason to upgrade. Once a phone can’t be upgraded, it’s susceptible to security issues.

I would also encourage you to consider repairing your phone. Repairs have become less expensive and a new battery can often re-energize your tired old phone. Recently, I noticed that my images sometimes appeared soft and full of flare in which a small light source in the picture would show up as a large fuzzy bright spot with rays eminating in all directions. When I checked the lens covers over the camera lenses, I noticed lots of fine scratches, apparently from rubbing against the inside of my pocket. I thought I might need to replace the phone when Apple said the covers could not be replaced.

They explained that the covers were a part of the camera that was a part of the camera back assembly that contained essentiall the entire phone except for the front display and the rear glass. So while they couldn’t replace the covers, they did something much better. For $29 with my Apple Care, they replaced the back assembly, which gave me a new camera, new circuit, and new batteries – essentially a new phone. So don’t overlook repairs. With Apple Care, the cost is usually modest and can be done the same day at an Apple Store. And now that Apple was forced to supply parts and repair information, there are now many 3rd party repair companies. Apple lists the ones they’ve authorized here.

So, replace your phone if-

  1. It’s so old it doesn’t work with the latest software or upgrades are unavailable for your Android.
  2. It has so much physical damage that it’s hard to use
  3. You have a friend or relative that would love to take/buy your current phone, giving you an an excuse to buy a new one.
  4. You want to take advantage of the expanding 5G networks and your phone doesn’t support 5G
  5. You’re changing carriers or adding a new line and your carrier is offering a free phone or a hefty discount
  6. You really want a folding phone because you “need” something that’s much easier to carry or a phone/tablet in a single device.
  7. You want to change from Android to an iPhone or vice versa.

GM CEO Confirms Chevy Bolt Returning

In an earlier column I noted how foolish GM was to kill the Bolt, America’s least expensive electric car whose sales have been very good and keep getting better. One of my readers sent me this news today that GM is reversing that decision and will offer a new version of the Bolt:

Barra took it a step further on July 25 during GM’s second quarter earnings call when she confirmed that the Detroit automaker plans to soon revive the Chevy Bolt after discontinuing it.

“We are investing significantly less capital and expect to deliver vehicles that will have much higher levels of customer-facing content and even better margins than today,” Barra said in the earnings call. “Another great example of a capital efficient program is the next generation Chevrolet Bolt that we plan to execute. Our customers love today’s Bolt. It has been delivering record sales in some of the highest customer satisfaction and loyalty scores in the industry.

Barra, however, did not provide any further details on models, pricing or when it would launch the new Bolt.