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Making the Call

Michael Flack

WHEN I NOTICED my iPhone 3—that’s not a typo—had a small black spot on its screen, I started thinking that maybe I needed to replace it. Maybe. It was a difficult decision. It was the first smartphone I’d ever owned and, since 2010, it had served me well.

I liked it because it was small. It had a cool retro steampunk vibe that occasionally turned heads. “Is that an iPhone? That’s the smallest phone I….” Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about it getting stolen. Who would steal a 10-year-old cellphone, especially one with a black spot on the screen? Also, because it was so old, I metaphysically couldn’t lose it, because you only lose things that are expensive. It’s like the $20 sunglasses you bought at the mall kiosk. You never lose those. Instead, you lose the $200 Ray-Ban Aviators.

An added benefit of being retired is having spare time, which I used to think long and hard about this issue. I perused a multitude of Amazon listings, reviewed T-Mobile’s current deals and took the missus’s iPhone SE (second generation) for a test drive. I even tried to understand what caused the black spot disease (some impact had caused leakage from the liquid crystal display), if it would become fatal (maybe, maybe not) and how to fix it economically (it appeared to be incurable).

The problem was that all this analysis brought me no closer to a decision. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more paralyzed I became. Then I remembered a book I read many years ago entitled Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath. It mentioned that, when faced with a decision, short-term emotions can get the better of you, causing you continually to review the details of the decision, which doesn’t lead to a better outcome, just more stress and worry.

To overcome your short-term emotions, the book states that you need to “attain distance before deciding.” One way to do this: Imagine your best friend was facing the same decision. What advice would you give him or her? This allows you to attain distance and to look at the situation from a different perspective.

Well, when I thought about it from a best friend’s perspective, I said to myself, “You travel a lot, using your phone to book hotels and flights, and to keep in touch with your wife. If your phone completely succumbs to the black spot disease, you’re screwed. You need to get a new phone, ya cheapskate!”

So that’s what I did. Not a brand new iPhone, mind you. Going from an iPhone 3 to an iPhone 12 Pro Max could have irreparably shocked the system (mine, not the iPhone’s). After a thorough review of what was out there, I determined an iPhone 6s would be a good fit. Physically, it wasn’t much bigger than my current iPhone, and it had a bigger screen (4.7″ vs. 3.5″), a better camera (12 vs. 2 megapixel) and a headphone jack.

I went back to Amazon to purchase a preowned one but was disappointed. The listings weren’t very organized, the inventory was somewhat limited, and I didn’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling. Then I remembered a website I used to sell a Blackberry (many) years ago called Gazelle.com. Its listings were well organized, and they mentioned a rigorous testing and inspection protocol. I quickly identified an iPhone 6s in excellent condition for $95, with free shipping and a 30-day money back guarantee.

I’ve been using my iPhone 6s for a few weeks now. It’s taken a little while to get used to its bigger size, but the larger screen and improved camera have been quite useful.

Note: Prior to making any decision, you need to realize that you most likely won’t make a perfect choice. If a less-than-perfect decision is made, you need to learn from it and then move on. In my case, while writing this article, I realized that the iPhone SE (first generation) would have been a better selection, because it’s a little smaller and newer than the 6s. I’ll need to keep that in mind, hopefully for about a decade.

Michael Flack blogs at AfterActionReport.info. He’s a former naval officer and 20-year veteran of the oil and gas industry. Now retired, Mike enjoys traveling, blogging and spreadsheets. His previous article was Trading Places.

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R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago

Hey, I’m thinking about updating my iPhone 10 to a new 12 Max, know anyone who wants a phone for the 21st century? 😎 I retired about the time you got that first iPhone and yup, spare time is there, but after ten years, making decisions about spending money go from analysis paralysis to if not now, when. Just do it‼️ I’m paraphrasing my wife of course. 😁

mjflack
mjflack
10 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

R Quinn, Your wife is a wise woman (who happens to sound just like my wife).

Boss Hogg
Boss Hogg
10 months ago

I like older iPhones too. When shopping for used phones make sure your service provider supports them, or be prepared to move to a provider that will. Providers only support technology going back a few years as older phones use their network resources too inefficiently. For example, one can’t activate an iPhone 5S or earlier on Verizon (but I think you can keep using one already activated). 3G, used by your iPhone 3, gets turned off in about a year by AT&T, and in a few weeks by T-Mobile and Verizon, so I think your replacing the phone is timely.

mjflack
mjflack
10 months ago
Reply to  Boss Hogg

Boss Hogg,

I use T-Mobile and it appears you are correct regarding a Jan 2021 3G shutdown. I guess T-Mobile would have eventually informed me one way or another. They say that timing is the key to success.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
10 months ago

I imagine it depends on what you use them for. I was quite happy with my teen-marketed bubble gum flip phone (tease me all you want, the speaker phone put expensive models to shame.) Then events conspired to push me onto the apple platform, and i gotta say, it’s a big world out there. I use the heck out of that thing, yet barely take advantage of it’s full capabilities. It’s incalculably useful in many situations.

Our 6S’s were suffering somewhat in performance/battery lately, and since they were base models, memory management had become a nightmare. We get a stipend from her firm since it’s partially a business expense. I just tag along on the contract to keep costs down. We decided to buy new 2020 SE’s, with the modest memory upgrade, and they are fantastic. We usually try to use for as long as feasible, so we’ll see. 4 years seems to be about as long as we use them before upgrading makes sense. I was offered $30 trade-in on my old 6s… but a simple music storage device costs more than that, so I kept it to use when I jog.

CJ
CJ
10 months ago

i’m pretty frugal in terms of using a device as long as i reasonably can before purchasing new. But I do break the rule a bit on cell phones because of the os updates. Sometimes penny wise is pound foolish.

Realize that older phones – especially android – are only supported with security updates for a few years. Once those security updates are discontinued, anything you do on that phone takes on added risk.

So I keep a mobile phone until it is no longer supported with security updates – then sell on ebay and find a new mid-level priced replacement. Too cheap/basic often results in some frustration or disappintment with features. And I’m way too cheap for the flagship models. Just got a google 3a pixel and love it. Bonus; google offers some of the longest android OS support.

Same with laptops – I stick with the current version of windows – until it’s no longer supported.

mjflack
mjflack
10 months ago
Reply to  CJ

CJ, Thanks for sharing your IT replacement protocol. Can’t speak to androids, but I kept my iPhone 3, way past the last iOS update and never had an issue.

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