Waiting longer between phone upgrades? A lot of users are, and installment plans may be to blame

What’s it take to get you shopping for a new smartphone? If you break or lose your existing one, sure: it’s time to get a new phone. But what about if your old phone is still perfectly functional? It may have a few scuffs and scrapes, and software updates may not be guaranteed for much longer, but when do you decide to take that step and go out and get a new phone? Time was that users were on service contracts that dictated update schedules, and we’d regularly find ourselves approved for new phones. But the smartphone-buying landscape has shifted greatly in recent years, and subsidized on-contract phones are on their way out. That may be driving users to keep their old phones for longer and longer, according to a recent analysis.

While something like a 24-month to 26-month upgrade cycle used to be the norm, users appear to be keeping their phones significantly beyond that two-year mark. As 2015 ended, 28-month cycles were the most popular, and estimates suggest that’s only lengthening for early 2016, with users now waiting an average of 29 months between new phones.

Beyond users no longer feeling the influence from a fixed upgrade schedule, sources point to a leveling-off of technology in modern phones failing to provide a tantalizing reason for many to upgrade; when this year’s newest model doesn’t offer a ton of new features your old phone lacks, it can be harder to justify that purchase.

Subsidized on-contract upgrades may be out, but phone leasing is catching on with a number of carriers and manufacturers alike, and may be the solution that gets customers upgrading with more frequency once again.

One interesting aspect to this discussion is who benefits from new-phone sales. While manufacturers obviously do, and we would likely assume that carriers do, too, that may not always be the case. It turns out that while few users are tempted into switching carriers while keeping their existing phone, a larger number consider going with a new network when they’re also out shopping for a new handset – in that light, carriers might prefer that we keep our phones for as long as possible.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!