Many consumer electronic items are built with planned obsolescence in mind.
So when your parents or grandparents say, “…they just don’t build them like they used to…” they’re actually more right than they could know.
Manufacturers need you to buy the bigger screen, the faster computer, or the smarter smartphone, so they can stay in business. And the only way to do that is by making those items not last as long as they used to.
Apple were caught red-handed deliberately slowing down older iPhones, but claimed this was to counter “battery issues”.
But it was nothing more than a sneaky way to force people with perfectly good iPhone 4s and 5s into buying a new phone.
And the really sick thing is they got away with it – a smaller company would have been dragged through the media, exposed and then bankrupt by one lawsuit after another.
When Will My Hard Drive Die?
But do external hard drives have the same problem with forced obsolescence?
The good news is that the short answer to this is, “No”.
And this is for the simple fact that any company manufacturing hard drives that lasted no more than a few years would go out of business before the warranties on their products expired.
Look at how upset people get when their hard drive crashes and they lose all the family photos they haven’t backed up. Now imagine that happening, on a completely unpredictable timeframe, to every single external hard drive on the planet?
Here’s the thing though – even the big names in external hard drives offer no more than a 3-year limited warranty on their products.
So, does that mean it’s a case of hope for the best but plan for the worst?
Buy Brand Name Drives
As long as you buy an external hard drive from a reputable company.
And here’s why buying from a brand name is important.
High-quality external (and internal) hard drives are manufactured in completely sterile environments – the same type of “clean room” you’d find used for assembling satellite components.
The failure rate has to be as close to zero as possible.
And when those clean rooms are infected in any way, companies can lose entire batches of hard drives – literally thousands of hard drives destroyed forever.
So this also plays a part in whether or not your hard drive lasts for the entire duration of your warranty.
How Long Do They Actually Last?
But back to the original question you want an answer for – how long do external hard drives last?
If you turn to the “experts” they’ll say between 3 and 5 years, as if that was written in stone somewhere.
It’s not, and they’re wrong in the timeframes provided.
In fact, anyone quoting numbers like that is probably just basing them on manufacturer warranties.
A cheap external hard drive will probably keel over and die within a year or three.
But a high-quality hard-drive from a reputable brand name can last an awful long time – my best run so far has been 12 years from a Western Digital My Passport 750GB.
And it’s still not completely dead but has become incredibly slow and unreliable.
That’s 4x the manufacturer’s warranty, and 4x as long as “experts” claimed it would last.
Of the other dozen or so external hard drives I’ve owned I’ve only ever had to bin one after 2 years of ownership…because it fell off my desk onto a concrete floor…and died instantly.
Apart from that my external hard drives (and the ones I’ve bought for friends and family) have all lasted at least a decade.
I can’t even say I took extra special care of them – I just didn’t drop them on the floor, spill coffee on them, or expose them to a powerful electromagnet.
So, if you buy a cheap external hard drive then you can probably counts its life expectancy in months.
More and more people want to disconnect from the hyper-connectivity we’ve immersed ourselves in without giving a thought to what it might do to our social structure.
What it might do to our minds.
Is there a connection between the rise in depressive and social anxiety disorders and when smartphones became the “must have” gadget of the new millennium?
It would appear so.
Those who can’t bear to be separated from constant online activity (…but you’re not addicted, right?) might go as far as installing apps to stop the constant notifications from their iPhone or Android device.
Even the true addicts can sense that smartphones are nothing but a massive time suck – they wouldn’t install “blocking” apps otherwise.
Will we see smartphones consigned to some kind of technological scrapheap?
I doubt it very much, but the jaded masses of former social media addicts are slowly ditching smartphones and reclaiming their personal time.
Can You Still Use Old Cell Phones?
Certain tech companies might hate the idea, but once your phone is capable of connecting to a 2G GSM or CDMA network, then all you need is a SIM card that fits it.
Or a SIM card adaptor if you get really stuck.
So that old flip phone you have in a drawer is probably still usable.
Countries like Singapore have already ditched their GSM network, and some mobile networks in the states are doing the same.
It’s almost like they want to keep people connected all the time…even if they don’t want to be.
At worst you’ll need a dumb/feature phone that can connect to a 3G network, which is something most older cell phones are capable of.
So, “Yes” you can still use old cell phones on modern mobile networks, including any 2G (GSM) networks that still operate today.
Are Flip Phones Harder To Track?
A cell phone that doesn’t have a GPS chip installed is far more difficult to track. The only real option being to use either your Wi-Fi connectivity or proximity to the nearest cell tower to find you.
The absence of a velocimeter on your dumb phone will also prevent anyone being able to pinpoint your approximate location based on how fast you were traveling and for how long.
If your flip phone doesn’t have a Wi-Fi connection option then it becomes even more difficult to track.
It all depends on how far you want to take your quest for online anonymity.
Can Flip Phones Be Hacked?
Any electronic device can be “hacked” if you pay the right people enough money.
Or if you’re a government agency that’s definitely not scanning mobile networks…if you want to believe that.
But not having GPS and a bunch of web-connected apps on your phone drastically reduces your exposure to security risks.
Yes, yes I know smartphones are meant to be secured from virus infection.
But that’s a myth.
Both Apple and Android devices have virus infection problems – the manufacturers just never make it public.
That’s from first-hand knowledge.
So owning a dumb phone doesn’t mean you’re “off grid”.
But it does mean you’re far less visible than walking around with a mobile tracking device in your jeans pocket or bag.
What Is The Best Non-Smartphone?
If you’re looking for a non-smartphone I’m going to assume you want a really basic phone.
So I’m not going to talk about smartphones with smaller screens and fewer features – we’re aiming for a completely dumb phone here.
After a bit of research it looks like the most popular dumb phone right now is the Nokia 3310. It doesn’t have a GPS chip or Wi-Fi connectivity.
The only real downside here is that it uses YunOS, which is a recoded version of the Android OS.
If you want to cut Android OS out of the picture altogether (and that’s not a terrible idea), the Nokia 216 is another option for you.
The 216 also doesn’t have GPS or Wi-Fi connectivity, and uses the Nokia Series 30 operating system.
So, how do you feel about switching back to a basic phone?
Probably as conflicted as I do.
My concerns about smartphone usage have less to do with security or privacy, and more to do with breaking the cycle of being addicted to a device that literally adds nothing to my day.
But I still wanted to address all aspects of downgrading from a smartphone so that nobody felt left out.
People say they can’t live without their device, but will check their emails/social media from one…while they’re sitting at a computer.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Have we reached “peak” smartphone usage.
I think we just might, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.