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How Often Do Users Purchase a New Mobile Phone?

Mar 15, 2022
3 min.
Why do we change our smartphones so often and what is the impact on our environment? Read more here:
Alina Fill

Technology fans go on an annual pilgrimage to their smartphone manufacturers’ sales outlets where they queue for hours, stay up all night and sometimes even sleep outside the shop just to get their hands on a precious new mobile phone. The excitement sets their pulses racing. But is all the hype about new devices justified? And how often do we actually change our smartphones on average? Read on to find out.

Never change a winning Team? Why do users change their smartphones?

How often do we buy ourselves a new mobile phone? A survey conducted by Nevis Security on LinkedIn reveals that 62 per cent of users change their smartphones every three to four years. For the majority of device manufacturers, this cycle skips two to four mobile phone generations. However, almost 20 per cent of those surveyed replace their smartphone once per year, at a guess whenever their favourite brand launches a new model on the market. There are many reasons for making the change. The design effect, for one thing, plays an important role. A manufacturer that brings a new design for their smartphone to market provides the first visual incentive for users to make a change. Naturally, anyone thinking about replacing their mobile phone should also remember the appeal of new hardware and software. With each passing year, cameras become sharper, storage space expands and screens are ever more colourful. What’s more, many manufacturers are now improving the technology in the devices to enable them to use 5G networks as well.

Germany’s digital association, Bitkom, launched a survey that reveals the eight most frequent reasons for changing one’s smartphone: 

  • Battery performance 

    The most commonly cited reason, at 75 per cent, for changing a smartphone is battery deterioration in the devices.
  • Screen damage

    Damage to the screen came second at 55 per cent. The cost of repairing a cracked or broken screen on some models is almost as much as a new smartphone, which is why many users opt to replace the entire mobile phone instead.
  • Keeping up to date

    Thirty-eight per cent can’t bear to miss a trend and will change their smartphone as soon as a new model is released. 
  • Smartphone no longer works

    Subjecting a mobile phone to large volumes of data and 24/7 use will sooner or later cause it to stop working as smoothly as users would like. No less than 38 per cent of those surveyed gave this reason for buying themselves a new device. 
  •  Image quality

    Technology is constantly changing, especially when it comes to cameras. New sensors that can detect day or night and digital assistants to sharpen up your favourite snaps flood the market every year. For 24 per cent of users, this is important enough for them to reach for a new device.
  • A prettier smartphone

    Seventeen per cent of those surveyed just bought themselves a “prettier” smartphone because it offered greater visual appeal. 
  • Too slow

    Unlike a fine wine, technology does not usually age well and its performance gradually declines. Thirteen per cent of users bought themselves a new smartphone because their old one had become too slow. 
  • App compatibility

    Five per cent of those surveyed decided to buy a new smartphone to combat the pandemic by downloading the “Corona-Warn-App”, Germany’s COVID-19 contact tracing app. 

A recent study by credit insurer Euler Hermes also confirms the trend reversal already highlighted in the Nevis Security survey: More and more users are holding onto their smartphones for longer. For example, Europeans replace their devices after around 40 months on average. However, American users are far less patient and change devices every 24 months. 

Time for a new smartphone – one that uses new security features

However, replacing a smartphone is by no means always just a matter of aesthetics but can also provide software benefits. An obsolete mobile phone may no longer receive critical software and system updates, which can lead to security vulnerabilities on the device.

A new smartphone, therefore, gives us an opportunity to use new security systems based on updated technology. Switching to a new device allows us to do one thing above all else: protect our data better by choosing new passwords and methods for password protection. Since almost all apps require an account before they can be used, you should use the opportunity to come up with new passwords – or even better biometric authentication – that will enhance the security of your personal data.

Does being trendy come at a cost?

Or put another way: if we want a shiny new smartphone, the planet suffers. After all, precious and rare earth metals are used to produce these little pocket-sized wonders. At present, users are rather reluctant to recycle mobile phones that they no longer use. A Bitkom survey from 2021 revealed that there are almost 200 million devices lying unused in drawers in German households. Right now, it is possible to recycle up to 150 grams of gold from just one metric ton of unused smartphones. This is thirty times more than the yield from the same amount of ore from a gold mine and would conserve our planet’s valuable resources. So, the next time you purchase a new smartphone, consider recycling your old mobile phone to do something good for yourself and for the environment. 

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