Save money by rejuvenating your old android phone

The normal change interval of a smartphone is around 2 years. Manufacturers support devices with updates for 3 years or less. Sony Xperia Z3 was released in September 2014 and had support less than 2 years, the new Nougat update does not arrive on Xperia Z3. There is still a good chance to get phones software updated and  your phone rejuvenated to last much longer than it was originally attended. With little work and almost no or little cost you can save money by giving your old device the second chance.


Phones do not have many components that wear out with use, one exception is the battery. Usually, cell phone batteries are made out of lithium. Lithium-ion batteries used in today’s smartphones last roughly 2 years, after that the battery drains out faster. This is not always the case and depends on the usage and number of recharge cycles.

batteryOver time phone’s battery stats are corrupted. This means that the phone’s battery and the battery status do not match. The battery may have still capacity left, although the phone shows its empty. In this case, you could try to calibrate the battery with an application such as the Battery Calibration.

If the phone has a replaceable battery renewing the battery is an easy task: Open the back cover and flip the battery to a new one. New phones are almost always made with a unibody structure and embedded battery. The benefit of unibody design is the sturdier construction with smaller, slimmer size. In most of the phones embedded battery is still possible to change to new one. Ifixit offers repair manuals to a number of smartphones. Ifixit also sells tools and the spare parts for the phones. When buying a new battery for the smartphone, it’s not always safe to buy the cheap replacement battery. Cheaply made batteries may feel attempting but there is no guarantee concerning quality and safety. The best option would be the official manufacturer, so called OEM battery, which is the same than the original.

Good places to buy spare parts and batteries for smartphones are Ebay and Aliexpress.

The feel of new device

Every smartphone is basically a just rectangle with a glass screen on the one side. The thing that makes the difference is the feel of the device. When you hold the phone in your hand, you can feel the shape of the bezels and the texture of the back.

nillkin coverTo get a new look and the feel of a new device you could buy a new cover. There is a lot of options, styles, and materials to choose from. When I get bored with my phone I often order a new cover. The cover doesn’t only change the look, but also hides possible dents and scratches and protects the phone. I order my cases mainly from AliExpress. One option is to buy a sticker, so called skin to the phone. The benefit of the skin is the size, skin does not add bulk to the device and is hardly noticeable after it’s applied to the phone. Best known skin manufacturer is Dbrand.

Scratched screen and camera lens

The screen gets easily scratched if it’s not protected with a screen protector. Newest screen material used is Gorilla Glass 5. Gorilla Glass is developed specially for touch screen devices and it’s really durable. The problem is the small sand grains that are almost invisible. Sand is stronger than the metal keys in your pocket and stronger than the touchscreen, that’s why you still can get your screen scratched.

If you like to get your screen clean from scratches, it’s not an easy task. The Internet is full of guides how to remove scratches from the touchscreen using toothpaste or baking soda. The truth is that touchscreens have a so-called oleophobic coating, against fingerprints and dirt. If you scrub the screen with something, the coating comes off and the screen looks even worse than it was before.

The only good options are: Get used to the scratches, have a replacement screen or a screen protector. The replacement screen is the best option. Again, you can find instructions from YouTube or Ifixit. The replacement screen and tools can be found on eBay or Aliexpress. The screen protector makes the screen feel new so that you can’t feel the scratch ridges with your fingers.

The camera lens is normally made from normal glass or sapphire glass. Today’s phones have large optics and the camera bump is the outcome of this development. Camera bump makes the camera more exposed to accidents. The camera lens is also replaceable. The replacement lenses can be found on eBay or Aliexpress. You could also try to fix the lens by rubbing it with toothpaste.

The software update

Android is a mobile phone operating system developed and released by the Google, under open source licenses. This makes it possible to users and developers to make their own custom Android ROMs. This is why it’s possible to get new OS-version, with the newest features, although the manufacturer doesn’t anymore offer software updates for the phone. If your phone runs Android, has unlocked bootloader and runs custom recovery, it’s possible to flash a custom ROM to the phone and replace the original, old android with a new one.

android nougat photo
Photo by Robert Nyman

All phones are not created as equal. Active communities develop android around popular phone models. If the user base is small there is not that much interest for the developers. Some manufacturers lock the bootloader or don’t release the kernel source code for the community, making Android development impossible.

Best place for Android development is XDA Developers forums, the place for android enthusiast and hobbyist. Almost everything concerning phones is covered on the forums: Guides from unlocking bootloaders, rooting and custom recoveries and ROMs.

It’s good to be aware that rooting and modifying the original android software on your phone will void your warranty, there is also a risk of bricking your device to the point of no return. But if your phone is already old and has left little or no value, there is not that much to be a concern about. This is only my opinion.


Most active and well known custom ROMs are CyanogenMod and AOSP (Android Open Source Project). Both of these projects support a large number of devices, have active development and a lot of features.

I hope this post helped you. If you have some trick to get your phone new again, please share your know-how with the rest of us.

Originally posted 2016-09-04 11:52:26.

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