Security isn't usually at the front your of mind when buying a new mobile phone, smart speaker or wireless camera - it's natural to focus more on getting good value on a product with a range of useful features.
Unfortunately, we've found that manufacturers often deprioritise this essential aspect of smart devices as well. The result is that you may end up buying something that is either 'abandoned' long before its time, leaving you risking your data and privacy by using it, or the device may not have sufficient security standards from the start.
You may also find that important apps no longer work, as they become blocked on older operating systems that your device is now compelled to use.
Factoring security into a purchase is an important way to ensure you're buying a product that lasts. To help, we've created a range of tools that allow you to check whether a device you own, or are looking to buy, is still supported. We can also help you choose a device that is likely to be supported long into the future.
We've found that some mobile phone brands support their devices for a little over two years. That contrasts sharply with exclusive Which? research that found that many smartphones were capable of lasting six years or more before they needed replacing due to faults or issues with performance.
Short lifespans on mobile phones put consumers at risk, cut the lifespan of devices that are otherwise in good working order, and contribute towards the global e-waste problem.
If you're on the lookout for a new mobile phone, we can help. Our security updates tool will tell you if a mobile phone you own or are looking to buy is still supported, and how long you can expect these support periods to last.
You're less likely to look to upgrade a tablet as often as you do a mobile phone. But with similar concerns around the lifetime of these devices, it's important to factor the same checks into any purchase, and to make sure a device you're using is still getting updates.
Fortunately, many of the most popular tablet brands - including Apple's iPads, Amazon's Fire tablets and Samsung's Galaxy tablets - have relatively good support periods of between four and seven years from launch. Other brands, such as Lenovo, are far more variable.
The situation with many laptops is a bit different to most mobile phones and tablets. Laptops that run Microsoft Windows benefit from the same ongoing support as desktop PCs; this includes important security patches.
However, Microsoft recently announced , which is beginning to roll out to compatible PCs. If a computer you own or are looking to buy is not compatible, you'll remain on Windows 10, which will stop receiving important updates from October 2025.
That may seem like a long way off, but you'll definitely want to make sure that any new laptop you're looking to buy is capable of lasting more than a few years.
If you're in the market for a Chromebook, the good news is Google is far more transparent about how long it'll update devices for. This information isn't exactly front and centre when it comes to buying a new Chromebook, though, so you'll still have to do some research to make sure a model you own is up to date, or one you're looking to buy will be supported for long enough.
A recent Which? investigation into found that a range of big retailers, including Currys, John Lewis, eBay and Amazon, were stocking laptops that would soon expire. In fact, up to a quarter of stock would stop receiving updates within three years, and four of the 20 best-selling Chromebooks on Amazon had already stopped receiving updates.
It's easy to forget about the home router when considering whether smart devices you own are secure. Routers aren't something that we want to interact with very often, but as the entry point for anything we do online, it's vital that they are kept secure and up to date.
Resolving this situation can be more difficult than you might think. In most cases you'll find an ISP will want to charge you to replace an old router, require you to recontract to get one, or both. Both ISP update policies and those provided from third-party router brands such as Netgear and TP-Link are usually far from clear, which makes the situation even more difficult to manage.
It's not just brands that offer short support periods that you need to be wary of when buying a smart device. We regularly find examples of poor security practices that leaves brand-new products open to hackers, and this situation is particularly prevalent when shopping on online marketplaces like Amazon Marketplace and eBay.
It's most common to find these issues on little-known or unknown brands. Products from these brands are often popular due to their low prices, and because they may be promoted with extremely positive reviews, or even the . Take these recommendations with a pinch of salt, though, as we've found time and again how fake reviews can be used to artificially inflate customer scores.
Instead, do your research carefully before you buy any device that connects to the internet, and read our reviews. We factor robust security testing into more than 30 categories of products - including burglar alarms, wireless cameras and smart doorbells, and you can be sure we'll let you know if we discover any issues.
Software updates (or 'firmware updates' when they're related to the hardware) are vital as they can improve products over time, but they more crucially fix any problems or security vulnerabilities that occur. An unsupported product isn't instantly going to get hacked, but if it does develop a vulnerability, the manufacturer may not be willing or even able to fix it.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has proposed new laws for the security of smart devices. If passed, brands would be required to state at the point of sale how long you can expect your phone or any other smart product to receive security updates.
Which? is calling for the government to push ahead with this planned legislation, and back it up with strong enforcement. But while these measures will bring some level of transparency for consumers, we think manufacturers could do more to lengthen the security lifespans of devices and help to protect the environment from unnecessary e-waste.