Greener, cheaper, what's not to love about a secondhand smartphone?

Price tag, hardware durability underpinning 'already lengthened replacement cycle'

Half of consumers polled in a Vodafone-backed survey are considering buying a refurbished smartphone instead of a brand-new handset, with the lower purchase price and environmental concerns cited as the main reasons.

The Kantar survey of 7,750 people in 12 countries shows that more than a third of respondents intend to replace their current handset within the next year, with 52 percent considering the lower-cost option.

The sixth edition of the Recommerce Barometer found that 43 percent of those quizzed already own a used phone, up from 42 percent a year earlier.

Of the survey-takers who chose a used handset, 67 percent highlighted affordability as the primary factor in choosing a refurbished model, and 39 percent said pressure on the environment was shaping their decision to some extent as well.

IDC last week forecast global smartphone shipments of 1.2 billion units for 2024, which, if correct, would equate to year-on-year growth of 2.8 percent and end a a record period of shrinking phone sales in the industry.

"It's been a challenging run for the smartphone market, even when looking at the years leading into the pandemic," said Ryan Reith, group vice president at IDC's Worldwide Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers. "While the world continues to face a challenging macroeconomic environment, several device categories that compete for a share of wallet are seeing a return to growth, including personal computers.

"IDC firmly believes the smartphone will remain the quintessential device for most, but ongoing price increases and the improved durability of today's smartphones supports an already lengthened replacement cycle, which will dampen new shipment growth."

Sales cycles are stretching to 40 months now, according to average estimates – many see no reason to upgrade earlier. IDC believes that on-device AI, and to a lesser extent, foldable models, could entice more consumers to purchase new phones.

Around 170 million AI smartphones could be shipped this year, 15 percent of the total, and 25 million foldable, which would represent 37 percent more than 2023.

Some 40 percent of European shoppers that could afford to buy a brand new handset in Q4 opted for devices in the $800 or above bracket, but for many others the secondhand market is the way to go.

Sales of refurbished devices grew 9.5 percent last year to 309.4 million and are projected to grow 8.8 percent between 2022 and 2027.

"Customers are now considering refurbished devices more than ever," said Nick Dutch, Vodafone global head of device lifecycle services. ®

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