Upgrade? No Thanks. Americans are Sticking with Their Old Phones

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Once upon a time, Americans would happily line up to get the latest, greatest new version of their existing phone.

Those days are gone.  Americans are sticking with their old phones longer than ever.

According to device trade-in company, HYLA Mobile Inc., just 2 years ago Americans would retain their existing phones for an average of 2.37 years.  But this year, that time period has increased to 2.92 years for iPhone users.

As for the Android set, 2 years ago they’d hang onto to their devices for an average of 2.44 years.  That time period has now increased to 2.66 years.  So, while they’re turning over their Androids more quickly than iPhone users, there’s a clear trend toward increased retention.

For all phones, the average retention time for Americans is now 2.83 years.

How Come?

In terms of Smartphones, with phone subsidies on new 2-year plans a thing of the past, users are choosing to defer starting a new round of financing. The price point of Smartphones has risen and in response, carriers have declined floating the end user for their business.

With the new style of phone contracts, the user agrees to pay a set amount up front, with monthly payments following.

Then, there’s the innovation gap.  Users are asking why they should upgrade when this year’s model offers nothing of any great utility or novelty. Nowadays, when consumers notice a substantial reduction in their monthly bills once their devices are paid off, they ask themselves why they should start another cycle.   There’s little motivation to do so.

American mobile customers are saying, “Nah!  This phone will do me just fine!” in the absence of any compelling new technology.


5G on the immediate event horizon may well be the acid test of Americans sticking with their old phones.  5G will no doubt see a concurrent spike in manufacturers aligning with its new reality, perhaps shaking loose the current trend.

Some time in 2019, 5G will be here.  But will users come along for the ride?  That’s entirely up to how carriers sell it.  Will they innovate sufficiently to get an increasingly sophisticated mobile device consumer interested?

5G is a technological shift of epic proportions, so if anything can dislodge consumer skepticism, this is probably it.

Let’s face it, hanging on to your existing phone is probably the most fiscally prudent way forward.  Unless you’re a monolithic tech geek who can’t exist without the most up-to-the-minute model clutched in your hand, there’s little point in upgrading for the sake of minor innovations.

Once your device is paid for, unless you’re aching for the latest thing, there’s little need to upgrade.  So long as it’s fully functional and meeting your business and personal needs, why fix it if it ain’t broke?


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