Why you change your smartphone less often


All the studies converge. The smartphone market is plunging. Counterpoint, GfK, Canalys, IDC… all the firms estimate the drop in sales volume at around 9% this summer alone. This is the third consecutive quarter of decline since the beginning of the year.

And analysts are not optimistic about the trend that is coming. As proof, even Apple had to reduce production of its iPhone 14 Plus. Quite a symbol.

While most specialists indicate that this bad dynamic is due to inflation (or even recession) in most Western countries, these are not the only reasons for this lack of love.

In 2022, more than ever, consumers are delaying the renewal of their smartphone. In France, according to several manufacturers, users change their phone every 36 months on average, compared to 24 months previously. And the state of their finances or fears about the short and medium term future are only the tip of the iceberg.

So why do we change smartphones less often than in recent years?

Soaring prices, of course

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The smartphone is not part of what Maslow would describe as a primary need, it is inevitably relegated to the last purchasing priorities of the French in times of crisis. At a time of fuel shortages and rising food prices, smartphone renewal is being pushed back as far as possible.

This is all the more true as the prices of the latter have soared in recent years. According to GfK, the average budget allocated to the purchase of a smartphone amounts to 446 euros an increase of 7% over three years. An evolution due in large part to the policies of the manufacturers.

While a state-of-the-art iPhone traded a few years ago for less than 1000 euros, this symbolic bar is largely exceeded today. As a symbol, the latest iPhone 14s are all offered above this threshold, including the standard model. A first in the history of the iPhone.

But Apple is not the only brand to use the crisis to ostensibly increase the price of its terminals. If Samsung’s Galaxy S22s were launched too early to suffer the effects of the crisis, rumors point to a significant increase in the price of the Galaxy S23, which will be released in early 2023. In the premium segment, it is difficult today to find a smartphone at less than 1000 euros, with the exception of the recent Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. Knowing that Samsung and Apple represent more than 50% of smartphone sales worldwide, we better understand the downward trend (in volume) of the market.

The age of maturity

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If we buy less, it’s also because smartphones are less attractive than before. In an interview with our colleagues from Frandroid, Rajeev Nair, senior analyst in charge of the Smart Connected Devices division at Strategy Analytics explains that “lack of innovation plays an important role” in declining smartphone sales worldwide.

And we want to believe it. In recent years, we can not really say that the manufacturers delight us. With the exception of the first folding and sliding smartphones, the new smartphones are rather improvements of the previous models than real innovations.

The recent iPhone 14 is the perfect illustration of this. Almost identical to the iPhone 13 released a year earlier, it is offered at a much higher price. For consumers, the account is not there. Moreover, the giants of the sector are fully aware of the problem, and have been for a long time.

When the iPhone X was released, Tim Cook already explained that the iPhones would only incorporate a real innovation or design change every three years. Until now, this cycle has been respected at the Californian, but also at many of its competitors.

Yes, but here it is paying more for small improvements is starting to tire consumers. This is all the more understandable since premium smartphones are no longer the only ones to stay up to date for years. Technological developments also allow entry-level and mid-range models to last longer.

Upscaling delays renewal

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If the budget allocated to the purchase of a smartphone has increased, users also keep them longer. First for the reasons mentioned above, but also because their mobiles are not dropped from one year to another.

A few years ago, an entry-level smartphone became obsolete after 1 year, which made it necessary to buy a new one very quickly. The lack of innovation has had at least one benefit: existing technologies are more affordable.

Thus, manufacturers can integrate components with sufficient performance to meet user needs, including in more affordable models. In an interview with Presse-citron, Yan Liu, former CEO of Xiaomi France explained that today a smartphone at 200 euros meets the needs of most consumers. A statement that we confirm after hundreds of tests carried out in recent years.

Proof, according to Counterpoint Research, only 26.2% of smartphones in circulation will be renewed in 2022. This is the lowest figure since 2008, explains Rajeev Nair to Frandroid.

At the same time, the renewal cycle lengthens considerably. In 2022, the firm mentions a change of mobile every 45 months! It is therefore more than the 36 months mentioned by the manufacturers at the start of the year. By way of comparison, five years ago, a French consumer changed his smartphone approximately every 24 months, which is the duration of the commitment to a mobile plan.

In summary, consumers pay more for their smartphones but keep them longer. Faced with the global economic situation and ecological challenges, some consumers are also turning to the booming second-hand market. As proof, while the new market is falling, the refurbished one is exploding. According to GfK, 3.1 million units were sold in 2021, a growth of 20%.

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