Every quarter, we analyze the millions of data points we’ve acquired and filtered from the mobile device trade-in market. Our research examines data points about the most-traded devices around the world, the devices with the highest trade-in values, the total amount of money returned to consumers in the United States, the average value of traded devices, and more.
Throughout 2018, we saw the market mature as adoption rates for equipment installment plans continued to grow, devices enjoyed longer lives, and more money was returned to consumer hands through trade-in.
Trade-In Programs Continue to Return More Money
It seems that every year, Q3 and Q4 see higher activity in the mobile device trade-in market. One reason is the annual Q3 release of new iPhones. And another reason is that the holiday season gives consumers more incentive to upgrade their devices.
In the past, Q1 would see a dip in activity after the large amounts of money returned to consumer hands in the previous quarter. But last year, we noted that the $479 million returned to consumers indicated a strong performance.
In Q1 2019, the post-holiday trade-in market performance was even better than in 2018. This past quarter, $527 million was returned to U.S. customers through trade-in and buyback programs. This is significant year-over-year growth that points to the increasing appetite consumers have for trade-in.
Finding the Right Timing for a Trade-In
One of the most consistent trends we’ve seen in the secondary market is that trade-in devices continue to get older. Ever since standard two-year contracts gave way to equipment installment plans (EIPs), consumers have been holding onto their phones longer.
Last year, the average trade-in iPhone was 2.76 years old. This year, for the first time, the average age has eclipsed 3 years (3.03). And for the average mobile device (regardless of model), the trade-in age has jumped to 2.94 years.
While it’s great that mobile devices are enjoying longer lives than ever before, it’s important to remember that smartphones are much like cars—they’re a continually depreciating assets. The sooner consumers trade-in their devices, the more money they can expect to receive. And on the carrier, retailer and OEM side, enticing consumers to trade their devices sooner rather than later can mean receiving higher prices when those devices are sold in the secondary market. It’s a win-win situation.
However, timing is everything and it’s up to carriers, retailers and OEMs to help consumers find the perfect time for a trade-in. By monitoring individual customers more effectively, deals can be presented to maximize trade-in value and maintain a steady supply for the secondary market.
Staying Ahead of Trade-In Industry Trends
Consistent, year-over-year maturity in the secondary market helps support a circular economy while improving the cost-efficiency of smartphone purchases for customers.
But there are many different factors that contribute to secondary market growth. Staying ahead of the quarterly trends can help you improve the efficiency of your own trade-in program and capitalize on new opportunities.
If you want to learn more about the mobile device trade-in trends from Q1 2019, check out our latest quarterly infographic.