Consumers Abandoning 2-Year Phone Upgrades: Survey

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ByI. Mitic
August 23, 2019

American consumers are gradually but unmistakably ceasing to upgrade their mobile phones every two years as they once did.

That’s the bottom line from a survey by Ting Mobile, a mobile virtual network operator.

The biennial upgrade tradition is based on the two-year contracts offered by many mobile carriers, which are often tied to hardware upgrade incentives.

The tradition lasted too long, thinks Ting content director Andrew Moore-Crispin, who decries the way it forced consumers into upgrades even though their old phones were perfectly functional. "People don't care about having the latest, coolest tech,” he says, acknowledging that consumers’ new mindset is “something that might not be great news for big manufacturers this year."

Here are the key survey findings:

Consumers have started to break the two-year upgrade cycle

  • 47% of survey respondents said they used their mobile phone for three to five years before replacing it, and as many as 55% expect to keep their current phone for the next three to five years before upgrading again. Eight percent of consumers have used their phones for more than five years.
  • Only 10% of consumers said they had upgraded their phones because of a new model they really liked, while a mere five percent changed their phone in response to a special offer from the carrier.
  • For the largest percentage of respondents (32%), the main reason for upgrading is because the previous phone didn’t run so well anymore.

Android users are more loyal

  • Some 94% of Android users said their previous phones also ran Android. By the same token, 78% of iPhone users are repeat customers.
  • Android phones are more popular among males. Forty-two percent of surveyed women use an iPhone, while 69% of men said that they are Android users.

Criteria for choosing the right device

  • The top three factors for deciding which phone to choose are price (35% of respondents), operating system (30%), and performance (14%).
  • It seems that most consumers don’t prioritize phone specs. Only 5% said they cared about screen resolution, 4% cared about the battery performance, just 1% looked for an exact headphone jack type, and 2% said they looked for some “cool features" on the device.

Seventeen percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 said that the device’s camera was important, which reflects the generation’s habit of taking selfies.

  • Thirty-eight percent of consumers reported purchasing their latest devices through mobile carriers, while 22% bought them at retailers like Walmart, Target, or Best Buy. One in five bought phones directly from the manufacturer.
  • For 47% of respondents, price is the most important factor for deciding where to shop. Some 37% made their purchases through dealers who provide unlocked devices, for flexibility reasons.

The survey shows that people prefer paying in advance over paying in installments — 82% of respondents said they bought their phones outright. Most people spent between $150 and $300 on their most current phone upgrades.

What happens to abandoned phones?

The largest portion of respondents gave their used phones to children (46%), while 42% of old phones ended up in a drawer. Half of surveyed consumers tried to repair damaged phones before upgrading.

About author

For years, the clients I worked for were banks. That gave me an insider’s view of how banks and other institutions create financial products and services. Then I entered the world of journalism. Fortunly is the result of our fantastic team’s hard work. I use the knowledge I acquired as a bank copywriter to create valuable content that will help you make the best possible financial decisions.

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