How old is too old to try to repair an electronic device?


When Ranjit Sinha’s Sony Xperia TX LT29i mobile phone stopped working, he asked Sony to help him repair it. But Sony declined, telling him that his phone was too old — and he’s unhappy with the company’s response.

Sony is no longer supporting repairs and updates to this phone model, which was introduced in 2012, and is even considering leaving the smartphone market. The model does not appear on Sony’s website.

What, Sinha wonders, can an electronic device owner do when the manufacturer refuses to repair it?

The answer is, unfortunately, not much. The owner is encouraged to replace the obsolete device with a state-of-the-art model. He or she can also look for a replacement on the secondary market. But our advocates can’t ask the manufacturer to fix malfunctioning devices that it no longer supports.

Sinha called Sony’s phone support line to request assistance from a customer care executive, but was told that the software in the TX LT29i model is obsolete and cannot be updated. He also took his phone to a service center in Lucknow, India, to ask that the phone be repaired, but the service center agents reiterated that Sony could not help him.

“Both of them told me that the software of [my] phone will not be updated,” says Sinha. “In other words, the phone is useless; [I need to] go to the local market to make [the phone] workable. Sony has [no] responsibility and will not give [me] any support.”


Sinha wrote to Sony: “I think this is not good for users of Sony mobile [phones], which is a global brand. So it’s [the] sole responsibility of Sony to take the product back and solve the problem.”

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Sony’s personnel firmly disagreed. They responded to his requests for assistance on multiple occasions with: “Unfortunately, as your query relates to a product and/or market not supported by the UK/Ireland support team, we have assigned your query to your regional support team.”

In frustration, Sinha turned to our forum members and our advocates. (Executive contact information for Sony is available on our website.)

But we didn’t have good news for Sinha either.

Our forum members pointed out that electronics manufacturers such as Sony stop providing support for their older products: “Unfortunately, being close to five years old is considered a technological dinosaur and [Sinha] may have to buy a new phone.” They also suggested that the factory warranty on the phone probably expired by the second year of the phone’s life.

One member suggested that Sinha could try wiping the phone’s operating system and data and having a new operating system installed. Other members proposed that Sinha could buy a replacement phone of the same model on eBay or Swappa.

And our advocates reiterated that without a warranty, Sinha’s only options were to find a repair shop that could fix the phone or to replace it.

Unfortunately, that’s the best we can do for Sinha. When a product, especially an electronic device such as a smartphone, comes to the end of its life cycle (generally within a few years of manufacture), it’s just too old to expect the manufacturer to repair it — especially if the warranty has expired. If it can’t be repaired, it’s time to buy a new one.

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org.

  • finance_tony

    Kudos to him for nursing a phone along for over 5 years, especially the battery.

  • Jeff W.

    This Sony phone, like many other phones from that “era”, had removable batteries. The good old days.

    If the battery started to weaken, it would be rather easy to buy a replacement and continue using it as long as everything else worked.

  • SirWIred

    It’s kind of sad that phones are considered objects with a useful life of only 2-3 years, but technology is advancing quickly enough that the things simply become less useful as they get older. And Sony’s absolutely correct that software updates are no longer being written for the phone.

    Smartphones will probably eventually reach a “plateau” like PCs have, and their useful life will be longer, but that day isn’t here yet.

    In any case, on the bright side, a used replacement probably costs less than any repair ever would. So if he really likes this model, it shouldn’t be tough to find one for cheap.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Because it is NOT cost effective to repair this device. Furthermore, the parts for the device may no longer be available. Yes, you grow attached to a item, but this is just plain silly!

  • John Baker

    How old is too old? Can I be mad at Commodore USA for not servicing my Commodore 64?

    The odds are you can’t get parts for the phone and the OS is no longer supported. Time to buy a new one.

  • finance_tony

    Oh good point. Thanks for clarifying. Those WERE the good old days!

  • Bill___A

    It is what it is. Nothing much can be done about it.

  • Diva Linda

    When my husband lost his Blackberry (he lost or broke more than one), he bought replacements rather cheaply on eBay.

  • Dan

    OP thinks refusing to repair a device is bad? How about Logitech just outright disabling working devices and offering current users a discount on new devices? That’s just an outrage.

    http://www.zdnet.com/article/logitechs-decision-to-brick-harmony-link-leaves-owners-outraged/

  • redragtopstl

    No smartphone lives forever, not even an Apple.

    My iPhone 4S was retired earlier this year, after the OS could no longer be upgraded and we decided I needed a newer one. So we went to our neighborhood Apple tech guru, who got me an iPhone SE (6S components in a 5-series body) with 64g memory for a nice price. Hubby is still using my old iPhone 4, but as soon as tech guy finds him a newer iPhone (probably another SE) he’s going to upgrade his too.

    Yes, our phones are paid for (they’ve all been bought refurbished from reputable sellers), but you can’t add memory to them and the software becomes too far obsolete to upgrade. The 4 series are worth zilch on the resale market, so I don’t know what I’ll do with them when hub gets a new phone.

  • James

    It’s kind of sad that phones are considered objects with a useful life of only 2-3 years

    When I moved out of my parents’ home back in the 1980’s, they gave me a Western Electric phone. It still works. Western Electric designed their equipment to last 20 years.

    (Of course, modern electronics almost always have computers built in, and Moore’s Law indicated they get out of date quickly.)

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I have the opposite problem. My windows phone is also very old, and few new Apps (if any) are being written for that operating system, but even when I accidentally drop it, it doesn’t break. Of course I could still buy a new phone, but the old one works for calling/texting/data (mostly) so I don’t have a good “business” reason to replace it.

  • RightNow9435

    absolutely an outrage. a class action suit is warranted

  • Janet Campbell

    Nice to read as my father worked for Western Electric for 40 years!

  • Carol Molloy

    I can understand his frustration. While I appreciate the smart phone’s functionality and utility, I dislike how quickly they become obsolete. I resent having to upgrade my equipment in order to receive good service.

  • I use a 4+ year old iPhone & the battery still gets me through most days on a single charge. While Apple does not consider the battery to be user replaceable, its fairly easy to do it on your own using replacement kits you can buy on Amazon for a fraction of the cost.

  • jae1

    If they can still be used to make phone calls, you can donate them to one of the charities that provides phones to people who need them.

  • cscasi

    Yes, you can be mad at Commodore. That’s your choice, but doing so would just cause you more angst because nothing would be done. ;-)
    I had a Commodore 64 back in 1985 while I was stationed in Scotland in the U.S. Navy. My how computers have advanced that time.

  • y_p_w

    Almost any device has a battery that just plugs in fairly easily if you can get it open. The difficulty in opening is the issue. For years there have been devices that have at least partially been glued together to make them more compact. There are aftermarket iPhone batteries for $20, but the labor to install is expensive. I gave my iPhone 4s to someone to get a battery replacement overseas where the labor is much cheaper.

    A lot of device makers would carry “new old stock” and a battery replacement service would really just be replacing the whole device. These days the devices cost way more so they might actually open it up to replace the battery. They used to have glass replacement that was really just replacing the whole thing, but now they actually replace the glass for less.

    I had a problem with my Apple notebook computer freezing up, and it wouldn’t do anything except give a faint buzzing sound. None of the usual hard reset techniques would work. At that point, only pulling the battery connector would do it, and an Apple Store didn’t have an appointment slot for 5 days. So I just removed the bottom (all screws) myself and unplugged the battery connector. It was easy, but theoretically it’s not user serviceable. Smaller devices with adhesives are much harder. Pros use heat guns, but I’ve heard of heat packs that go in a microwave oven for home use.

  • y_p_w

    I wouldn’t do it myself. There’s potential to break plastic parts. They’re replaceable but I’ve let a pro do it who can fix any mistakes with parts on hand.

  • y_p_w

    20 years? Way more than that. However, they were extremely simple. I’ve seen the inside of an old push button phone, and there aren’t too many parts that can break, and the electronics are extremely simple.

    However, it’s not as if everything is about the good old days. Cars are far more reliable these days even with complex electronics. I remember when my dad would get a local mechanic to adjust the carbs every year and my aunt needed a rebuild after less than 100K miles.

  • y_p_w

    Certainly the NSA or FBI could repair a device if there was something that they absolutely needed to access, but for the most part nobody repairs these things because they’re made as one unit. They’ll assemble them, and if production testing indicates a defect, they’ll usually just toss the whole thing. Chips aren’t easily removed. In fact modern ones are assembled in ovens to melt the solder balls that are on the package. It’s not impossible to undo the result, but it’s hard to isolate the fault and once it’s melted in it’s certainly not cost effective to strip the solder and reattach new solder balls.

  • y_p_w

    You could get parts. The difficulty is in finding the issue and the amount of work to remove the faulty parts. When they’re still under warranty, if an IC or even a capacitor fails, it usually makes more sense to just replace an entire main board complete with new ICs than to try to isolate a single part failure and trying to rework a part that’s already been soldered to the board. Modern ICs are made for automated attachment, and aren’t easy to remove. In my industry we might do it for prototypes, but it costs hundreds of dollars.

  • Extramail

    I had a flip phone that I loved but it suddenly quit working for no apparent reason. (I think they all have a self destruct button in them so you have to buy a new one in a relatively short period of time.) I went to the Verizon store and wanted to replace with the same model I had. The salesman said it would be $150. I didn’t want to spend that and I really didn’t want to spend hundreds more on an iPhone. As I vacillated as to what to do, the salesman asked me to wait a minute while he went in the back. Out he came with a flip phone and gave it to me for no charge. He said he knew I’d be back to buy an iPhone so he felt okay letting me have the phone. (And it was one someone has traded in.) That phone lasted me for three years and I just took over my husbands old iPhone only because he wanted an upgrade. We did buy it from the original store but that salesman was long gone.

  • greg watson

    planned obsolescent is such a wonderful thing……………for the manufacturer !!

  • y_p_w

    I know someone who works at Microsoft. He had a Windows Phone that was subsidized by his employer including the phone plan. Eventually he got tired of using it and just got an iPhone like many of his coworkers at Microsoft.

  • John McDonald

    it would probably cost him more to repair than to buy a new phone

  • kanehi

    Even batteries have end of life. You can probably get an aftermarket battery but it’s going to be difficult to find it.

  • kanehi

    Sony stopped making laptops but they still manufacture phones. Unfortunately the phone is old and fixing it might be too expensive than buying a new one. See if someone at eBay is selling the same make and model of the phone for cheap and just transfer the SIM card

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I believe. I don’t work at Microsoft, just thought they’d do better at the phone thing than they did, but I’ll upgrade when I finally need an app that isn’t available that I actually need.

  • y_p_w

    There was that video of Steve Ballmer asking to see an employee’s iPhone at some company event, where he pretended to stomp on it.

    I think they’ve discontinued support. I was at a mobile phone store where there was a Windows Phone section but no phones.

  • y_p_w

    From a practical standpoint, everything is more reliable and cheaper to produce. It was possible to repair electronics, but that’s because there were many parts. These days a lot of functions are consolidated. Bugs can be fixed and features added.

    I frankly prefer what we have now. Years ago one didn’t worry about the lack of software updates being ended because they just didn’t exist. If your cell phone needed repairs, it was still a board swap or perhaps just reassembly. I remember dropping a Nokia phone and the display looked scrambled as a result of the display connector loosening. They fixed it for free, but anything more severe would have probably meant a complete replacement.

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