US smartphone users kept same devices for longest time period yet

As 2023 ended, businesses continued to face the harsh headwinds of economic slowdowns and cost-of-living crises driving industry-wide highs in the value of the smartphone returns market.

In its latest quarterly analysis of the smartphone returns market, Assurant found that, by the end of the first quarter of 2024, US consumers were holding onto devices for longer than before, with average age at trade-in hitting an all-time high.

The latest quarterly Mobile trade-in and upgrade industry trends report from Assurant found that a total of $874m was returned to US consumers through mobile trade-in programmes in Q1 2024, with the average age of devices at the point of trade-in at an all-time high at 3.64 years.

Using market data, alongside its Device IQ analytics platform, the report outlined the top smartphones returned through trade-in and upgrade programmes, the average trade-in value of smartphones, and trade-in trends for Apple Watches.

As has been the case for a number of years, Apple devices were the most traded in and variations of the iPhone 12 – the company’s first 5G-comopible device – made up almost half of the top five devices turned in via trade-in and upgrade programmes for the past two quarters (39% and 42% retrospectively).

Assurant noted that, having launched in October 2020, consumers upgrading these devices to newer models seemingly contributed to the average age of devices.

The report highlighted the current average age of device at 3.64 years compared with 3.45 years in Q4 2023. In addition, the average trade-in value of smartphones has decreased in the past three months, falling from $147 in Q4 2023 down to $110 in Q1 2024.

Despite being launched in 2019, the iPhone 11 remained the top turned in mobile device through trade-in and upgrade programmes for the eighth quarter in a row, and was the only 4G device of the top five. The remaining top five devices, all 5G, were the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Max.

In terms of other platforms, the leading Samsung device remained the Galaxy S21. The average trade-in value on the latest Apple smart watch, Ultra 2, reached $317 in the first quarter.

Commenting on the trends revealed in the survey, Rebekah Griffiths, vice-president of product-device lifecycle solutions at Assurant, said: “After a record high of money returned to consumers in Q4 of last year, it’s typical for Q1 to see a dip in trade-ins following the peak shopping season.

“With inflation contributing to rising cost of living globally, trade-in is an important tool for OEMs, operators, retailers and MSOs to encourage consumers to upgrade their devices and take advantage of newer network capabilties. It also reduces the number of devices being stashed away in drawers or, worse, ending up in landfills.”

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