Each quarter, we publish insights into the most-traded devices, which devices have the highest trade-in values, how old devices are when they’re returned, the amount of money returned to consumers through trade-in programs, and more. The Q4 2019 data can be reviewed here and shows this past quarter to be the strongest quarter of the year.
We also look at the year as a whole to spot trends in the trade-in market. Comparing the data between 2017 and 2019, we’re left with a few key takeaways and a similar conclusion to 2018’s recap—that the secondary market for mobile devices continues to show promising growth.
Steady Growth for the Trade-in Market
While there was a time when trade-in programs were largely unfamiliar to consumers, the growth, year after year, has proven that the pre-owned device market continues to grow.
In 2018, we saw that $2.26 billion in trade-in value was returned to consumer hands. That was a 4.8% increase compared to 2017. And in 2019, we saw a similar jump as money returned to consumers grew another 4.7% to $2.37 billion.
The two biggest quarters contributing to this growth were Q1 and Q4. The holiday season is always a busy one for trade-in, so it was no surprise that $758 million was returned to consumers in Q4 2019 compared to $744 million in Q4 2018. The real surprise was the difference between Q1 2018 and Q1 2019. While Q1 2018 was one of the first in years to show a year-over-year decline with $415 million returned to consumers, Q1 2019 started the year off much stronger with $527 million in trade-in value returned.
Seeing such consistent growth makes us confident in the long-term value of trade-in programs for carriers, retailers, and OEMs.
Trade-In Devices Continue to Get Older
One trend we’ve been tracking for the last few years is the steadily increasing age of devices at trade-in. Back in 2016 and 2017, the average trade-in device was around 2.5 years old. More recently, we’ve seen the average age at trade-in for iPhones eclipse 3 years old. And 2019 was the first full year that we reached the 3-year mark for devices overall, iPhones and Androids combined.
Though trade-in is growing, it’s still clear that consumers are hanging onto their devices longer, in part, due to devices becoming more expensive. Aggressive promotional offers to get consumers to upgrade within one or two years will continue to work. Additionally, newer, pre-owned devices sold into the secondary market will return greater value to carriers, retailers and OEMs while creating greater sustainability for the environment. It’s a win-win-win for all involved.
Stay Ahead of Mobile Device Trade-In Trends
These two takeaways from 2019 speak to the trends we spotted each quarter throughout the year. While we may not see massive spikes or lulls in activity, the steady growth of the pre-owned device market makes it clear that trade-in programs are a valuable tool for any organization in the mobile device industry.
We’ll continue to publish our data quarterly throughout 2020 to help you stay ahead of mobile device trade-in trends. In the meantime, you can check out the 2019 infographic for more insight into how the trade-in market performed last year.