Late Upgrade: Why Smartphone Owners Delay Buying New Devices?

Average smartphone life expectancy has dramatically increased over the years. Users don't seem to switch from one model to another as often as they used to. What is the reason for this newly established tradition? And how soon a global mass upgrade is coming?

Almost a family member

One of the reasons why Apple suffered its recent stock value decrease was that people weren't enthusiastic about upgrading their phones anymore. Customers seem to hold on to the devices they own for a longer time. And it's estimated that a smartphone life cycle has increased to 24.7 months averagely, according to Kantar Worldpanel [1].

Why it's happening can't be explained by a single factor only. In fact, there are a few significant reasons:

  1. Smartphone prices — a decent gadget with a reliable battery, unbreakable glass and solid chipset costs at least $150.
  2. Technological impasse — newer device generations don't tremendously overshadow the older ones.
  3. Overall market maturity — clients prefer searching for a smartphone that'll be capable of satisfying their needs for long. It's not seen as just a daily used thing anymore, but almost as a life companion (to an extent).
  4. Long life cycle — such brands as Apple, Samsung and partly Xiaomi tend to use longer 'longevity' of their products as a selling point. For instance, older iPhone models are still supported by the manufacturer.

With these factors combined, it's obvious why people are reluctant to part with their gizmos.

However, there's another a bit obscure reason why smartphone upgrading is stuttering these days: customers seem to abandon mobile plans, which imply instalment payments. Instead, people prefer paying the whole sum upfront. As a result, the natural phone upgrade cycle, when you'd be offered a new payment plan on a new model as soon as you're done with the previous plan, is broken.

When are the tides going to turn?

The big chance for the smartphone makers to cash in will come when the 5G network expands. The catch is that existing phone models cannot accept 5G signal. Once the network marches in triumph over the globe, customers will have no other choice, but to empty their wallets once again. In the long run, it will garner billions of dollars for the manufacturers.

Another reason is that mobile gaming is gaining momentum. With such top PC/console titles as PUBG and Fortnite migrating to the portable gadgets, players will need more stable and reliable connectivity. This is what 5G is striving to provide: seamless, quick and undisputable connection. Moreover, scenario, in which other popular games — GTA, Elder Scrolls, Dota, Devil May Cry and other AAA titles — will be available via smartphones isn't unlikely. Google announced launch of its game-streaming platform Stadia.

For the monthly subscription fee, clients will get access to the top games, from any device, through the cloud-based service [2]. Sony and Microsoft announced the same plans recently[3]. And obviously Apple, Samsung, Steam and Nvidia won't want to miss the slice of that money pie.

Though it's worth noting, it won't happen tomorrow. Or a month later. The new network's expansion will take at least a few years from now. Especially when certain countries have banned Huawei's 5G technology [4] indefinitely.

With 5G and the likes of Stadia, a regular smartphone can become a real game station. Naturally, it will require a new generation of Snapdragon processors to come. A whole myriad of new services not supportable on older devices will appear as well. And that's when the great generation change in the mobile industry will finally happen. Prepare for the historical upgrade.