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People are now holding on to old iPhones as long as they did pre-COVID

The age of retired phones is increasing once again

New research data suggests that people are holding onto their iPhone for longer periods before upgrading, a shift from the trend observed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the years, the average age of the last phone owned by iPhone buyers has steadily increased. For example, in March 2019, 26% of iPhone buyers held onto their previous phone for three years or more.

This trend began when full-price installment purchase plans replaced two-year subsidized-price contracts between 2015 and 2017 and has continued to grow, according to the latest report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP).

From 2019 through the COVID-19 pandemic, the length of time that iPhone buyers kept their retired phones continued to rise. As of March 2021, 34% of iPhone buyers replaced a phone at least three years old.

However, the trend took a turn in the year ending March 2022, with only 20% of new phone buyers having a previous three-year-old or older phone. Conversely, 38% reported having a last phone that was two years old or less.

The age of previous phones
The age of previous phones

Then, by March 2023, the trend reversed again, and the age of retired phones increased. As of the year ending March 2023, 31% of buyers owned a previous phone that was three years old or older.

That age profile is nearly identical to the year ending March 2020, which marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. CIRP has an explanation of what could've happened.

During the pandemic, people were likely interested in obtaining or upgrading to the most current mobile technology since they were locked down and started working remotely. This, in combination with government financial assistance and generous trade-in initiatives, made it feasible for consumers to afford newer smartphones.