How to Upgrade Your Android Phone Without Buying a New One

Andy Betts 16-01-2018

It can be hard to resist the temptation of a new smartphone. Yet phone development has slowed to the point where a new device isn’t guaranteed to be that much better than an old one. Especially not $1,000 better, which is what you might end up paying.


So maybe a better solution is to get more from your current Android phone. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for upgrading, and how you can work around them.

You Want Updated Software

As desirable as it is to have the latest version of Android, it isn’t actually that important. Sure, you’ll miss out on the latest Android features and performance optimizations, but almost all apps can run on old versions of the operating system. You won’t lose anything by not upgrading.

how to upgrade android phone without buying new

Still, if it’s important you can try and prevent the problem in the first place. Choose a manufacturer that offers regular Android updates Which Smartphone Manufacturers Are Best for Android Updates? Android phones aren't always guaranteed updated, so how do you know which manufacturer to go for? Read More .

If that isn’t possible, installing a custom ROM How to Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device Ready to revitalize your Android phone or tablet? Installing a custom ROM is the best way to do that -- powering it up with even better performance and features. Read More is the best way to go. We’d recommend Lineage OS LineageOS Replaces CyanogenMod: How to Try It on Android Right Now CyanogenMod was shut down at the end of 2016, but its successor LineageOS is now available to try. Here's where to get it and what you should know. Read More , which has builds for most common phones and is updated regularly. There are three main benefits:

  1. You get to run a more up-to-date version of Android than your phone officially has.
  2. The latest security updates are incorporated into the builds.
  3. There are extra features you won’t find elsewhere, especially for privacy and security.

how to upgrade android phone without buying new

If the latter is particularly important to you then you might want to look at CopperheadOS instead, although it only supports a very limited number of devices.

Get a New User Interface With Launchers

Obviously, flashing a ROM is a more technical solution, so it isn’t for everyone (and cannot be done on every device, either). An altogether simpler and more accessible option for upgrading your Android phone is to install a new launcher.

Launchers replace your phone’s home screen and app drawer. They can give your device a fresh new look and are highly customizable, with support for icon packs and different-sized icon grids. The best launchers Which Android Launcher Should You Use? We Compare the Best! These awesome launchers will have your Android device feeling brand new. Read More , like Nova and Action Launcher, also carry over features from the latest version of Android and the Pixel devices, such as the “At a Glance” widget and the search bar in the dock.


A launcher isn’t a substitute for a full update. But if you’re getting a thirst for something different, experimenting with a new launcher might be enough to keep you happy.

You Need More Storage

One of the most common reasons for buying a new phone is that you’ve run out of space on your old one. A fresh out-of-the-box device might have tens of gigabytes of free space, but it only takes a few months before your photos, videos, games, and music have it creaking at the seams.

But before you decide to upgrade, you have a couple of options to try first.

Adoptable Storage

If your phone has a MicroSD card slot How to Move Apps to an SD Card on Your Android Need to move apps to an SD card on your Android? Here's how to offload apps and free up storage space on every version of Android. Read More , then obviously you should make use of that. Many devices running Android 6.0 or later support a feature called adoptable storage.


This enables Android to view your card as an extension of the internal storage space. You don’t need to worry about having to move files and apps from internal to external memory — it all happens automatically.

how to upgrade android phone without buying new

On phones that support adoptable storage, you’ll be prompted to set it up when you first insert a card.

You can also switch an existing card by going to Settings > Storage. Tap the card and select Storage Settings > Format as internal storage. Both methods will wipe your card, so make sure you’ve backed them up Here's A Free, Multi-Layered Plan To Back Up A Non-Rooted Android Even with a non-rooted Android device, you can have a solid backup plan – and it doesn't have to cost you a dime! Read More first.


The Cloud

If your device doesn’t have a memory card slot, you can offload a large amount of your data to the cloud instead.

You can do this for your photos and videos by opening Google Photos and selecting Menu > Free up space > Free up. This removes from your phone all the images that have been backed up to your Photos account and are more than 30 days old.

how to upgrade android phone without buying new

Similarly, you can upload all your music files to Google Play Music and delete them from your device. You’ll then stream or download them on your phone only as you need them (and the app caches your streams to save data). And you can upload movies to a Dropbox account and stream them using the native Android video player.

Your Phone Is Slowing Down

Every phone slows down over time. It isn’t that the hardware is getting slower, it’s that day-to-day use causes the system to become bloated and inefficient. But instead of upgrading to a new Android phone, you can make sure you’re getting the most out of the hardware you’ve already got.

Don’t be tempted to use utilities like task managers or apps that claim to offer more speed. They don’t work. Instead, opt for the simplest solution of all: a factory reset.

how to upgrade android phone without buying new

Make sure you’ve backed up your important data first. Then head into Settings > Backup & reset to restore your phone to its original out-of-the-box state. Now only install the apps, and setup the accounts that you actually use, and you should find that your phone runs as smoothly as it did when you first got it.

From there you can explore some of the more advanced ways to make your phone faster How to Make Android Faster: What Works and What Doesn't If your Android device doesn't feel as fast as it once was, try these tweaks to get it running faster (plus common "tips" to avoid). Read More , from speeding up animations to installing root apps that manage your RAM more effectively.

You Want a Better Camera

The camera is one of the few parts of a smartphone that still improves from one generation to the next. And while there’s nothing you can do about the sensor size or aperture in your current phone’s camera, it is still possible to get more from it than you currently are.

how to upgrade android phone without buying new

Software goes a long way towards determining the quality of your photos. Google’s Pixel phones are generally regarded to have the best software, especially its HDR+ feature for producing excellent high dynamic range images.

The Google Camera app is only officially available for the Pixel devices. Unofficially, there’s a modded version that makes it work on devices with the Snapdragon 820 and 835 chips.

These include the OnePlus 3T, 5, and 5T, the LG G6, and the Snapdragon variants of the Samsung Galaxy S8. The mod supports HDR+, zero shutter lag, and RAW shooting. You can read more and download it here.

Upgrade the Lens

If you’re serious about your smartphone photography, you can also try lens attachments to change the focal length your camera can shoot at. The priciest of the lot is the high-end range from Moment.

These include wide, telephoto, fisheye, and macro lenses, and work with the Samsung Galaxy S8, Note 8, and the Pixel phones.

Moment - Tele 60mm Lens for iPhone, Pixel, and Samsung Galaxy Camera Phones Moment - Tele 60mm Lens for iPhone, Pixel, and Samsung Galaxy Camera Phones Buy Now On Amazon

For something a bit more affordable, take a look at the VicTsng 3-in-1 lens. This is a clip-on fisheye, wide angle, and macro lens that should fit most Android phones.

Your Battery Life Is Getting Worse

Sometime around a year after you buy your phone, you will start to notice that the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to, and it’s downhill from there. This is unavoidable: a battery’s capacity shrinks the more it’s used and recharged. And most batteries are only guaranteed for 300-500 charging cycles.

how to upgrade android phone without buying new

There’s no way around this. You can try removing the apps that drain your battery Android Battery Killers: 10 Worst Apps That Drain Phone Battery Get rid of these apps if you want to have decent battery life. Read More the most, but you cannot reverse the effects of an aging battery.

But if you’re happy with your phone, you don’t need to throw it out and buy a new one. Most phones — at least from major manufacturers — can have their batteries replaced. You usually can’t do it yourself, but you can take it either to the manufacturer, the carrier, or a reputable third-party repair shop. Expect to pay somewhere around $70.

Upgrade or Not?

As much as we all love unboxing a new phone, sometimes making sure you’re getting the most out of your current handset is as good as an upgrade. Some new software, a choice accessory, a quick spring clean, or even just a new case can be enough to breathe life into an old device.

If you decide to look for a new phone after all, check out the best Android One phones The 5 Best Android One Phones for Every Budget Google's Android One program brings a stock Android experience to a variety of smartphones. Which is the best Android One device for you? Read More for something different.

Related topics: Android, Battery Life, Smartphone Photography.

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  1. Rashi
    March 28, 2019 at 6:22 am

    I must suggest you to upgrade to a new phone instead of using the same old phone. These days you dont need to worry much as there are various platforms which pays you for your old phone. In terms of reffering to the same, You can sell old mobile on and gazelle as they both are good way to go.

  2. FlyingAce
    May 24, 2018 at 4:52 am

    I've been using my Galaxy S5 Mini for 3 years now, and have no immediate plans to replace it. Could use a new battery, though... thankfully, it is removable ;) Nothing a power bank can't solve in the meantime!

  3. Cat
    January 26, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I run a Galaxy Note 4, and the Galaxy Note 8.
    Love them both! However the Galaxy Note 8 allows me to run 2 WhatsApp accounts from it - an absolute godsend! There's a clunky work-around for the Galaxy Note 4, but when it comes to tampering with such essential daily use devices, I panic and freeze! My bad, and how I suffer for it, but nothing compared to if I stuffed up the operation of my Note 4!