Every quarter, we analyze the millions of data points we’ve collected regarding the mobile device trade-in market. We examine the most-traded devices, the devices with highest trade-in values, total amount of money returned to U.S. consumers, and more.
While there are certainly peaks and valleys across each category, there’s a certain degree of consistency across quarters. Still, it’s great to have a baseline of analysis to understand growth in the secondary market.
The second quarter tends to come with a larger dip in performance than other quarters. It’s the lull before the rush to new iPhone models in Q3 and holiday shopping in Q4.
Despite the lull, there are plenty of signs that the secondary market is evolving. Here are a few key insights from this past quarter’s data.
1. Consumers Are Holding onto Devices Longer
It’s been a gradual shift, but the data is clear over the last couple of years.
Throughout 2016, the average age of a trade-in device was 2.38 years. Then, in 2017, that average jumped to 2.59 years.
Now, in Q2 2018, the average age of a trade-in device has reached 2.80 years, with iPhone owners holding out for nearly 3 full years.
In the early days of trade-ins, elongated device lifespans may have disrupted the secondary market. However, we still saw nearly $415 million returned to U.S. consumer hands in Q2 2018. This total was less than in Q1, but that’s to be expected during the typical lull of Q2. More telling is that it was $30 million greater than the same quarter last year.
Despite the fact that consumers are holding onto their phones longer, the secondary market has reached a point of sustainability as devices move on to second, third, and even fourth lives.
2. iPhones Still Most Traded Devices
For the last 10 quarters, we have seen the iPhone 6 as the most traded device and for the last three quarters the top five traded devices have all been different generations of iPhone.
While the iPhone 6 was the most-traded device, the iPhone 6S came in a close second. These models are 4 and 3 years old, respectively, so it’s not surprising that consumers were ready to upgrade.
While we’d typically advise consumers to stay on top of the annual release cycles to get the most value for their devices, there’s a wise adage for the secondary market—your device will never be worth more than it is today.
Even if your device is past usefulness for a second life, it’s best to trade it in for whatever value you can get.
3. The Shift to Equipment Installment Plans Continues
It’s been a couple years now since the major mobile carriers shifted from two-year contracts to equipment installment plans (EIPs). However, when the shift occurred, there were still plenty of consumers grandfathered into their old contracts.
Each quarter, we see more consumers adopt the EIP approach to purchasing (or leasing) a new device.
While the jump between Q1 (84% EIPs) and Q2 (86% EIPs) seems negligible, it’s a sign that the mobile device market continues to evolve. This point, combined with the fact that consumers are keeping devices longer, speaks to the ever-growing ability for tech to retain value over time. That means trade-ins won’t always be recycled—they can go on to thrive in an increasingly diverse secondary market.
Learn More About the Secondary Market
These are just three of the key insights we’ve noticed from our quarterly trade-in data. Whether you’re trying to get more value out of your personal device or improve a trade-in program, there’s more to learn from the complete data set.
If you want to see all the new insights we gained in Q2 2018, check out our full mobile trade-in infographic for this quarter.