Americans are holding on to their smartphones for nearly 3 years on average

Americans are holding on to their smartphones for nearly 3 years on average
Thanks to the demise of the two year contract, and the higher prices of high-end smartphones, Americans are now waiting an average of 2.83 years before upgrading to a new handset. That figure is based on data compiled by mobile device trade-in firm HYLA Mobile Inc., and is cited in a story published today by the Wall Street Journal. Two years ago, the average holding period for a new smartphone was 2.39 years.

Interestingly, the average Apple user holds on to his phone for a longer period of time than the average Android user. HYLA Mobile says that during the 2018 third quarter, a new iPhone was being held by its original owner for 2.92 years, up from 2.37 during the same quarter in 2016. The figures for Android handsets during the same time periods are 2.66 years (Q3, 2018) and 2.44 years (Q3, 2016).

Most smartphones in the U.S. are now financed, usually over a period of 24 months. But many Americans are coming to the realization that after they stop paying off their current phone, there is no reason to purchase a new model right away. While every year manufacturers add new technology, faster chips and improved features to their handsets, unless you're a smartphone fanatic, the phone that you just paid off should continue to handle everything you need it to do. UBS Group AG sees 22.8% of U.S. postpaid subscribers upgrading their phone this year. That is down from the 30% that did so back in 2015.


Citigroup says that this trend toward longer holding periods for newly purchased smartphones is a big boon to carriers. That's because U.S. consumers are most likely to switch their wireless providers at the same time that they buy a new phone.

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29 Comments

1. Landon

Posts: 1248; Member since: May 07, 2015

Still rocking my Note 5....and it's still kicking a** and taking names.

8. Cat97

Posts: 1983; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Except the camera.

15. iushnt

Posts: 3160; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

The Camera of the S6 and Note 5 are great ones. In fact, it could compete latest and greatest in various scenarios.

17. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

In your imagination any scenario is possible, not so much in real life.

25. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Yeah...that's how imaginations work. Did you read that off a fortune cookie?

23. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Agree Note 5 had a very good camera as did the s6. I have some great photos from my note 5.

20. GoTstan

Posts: 386; Member since: Jul 25, 2015

Still rocking the mighty note 4....I've been looking for an excuse to get another phone but nothing has wowed me. 6T almost did until they announced no 3.5jack

2. droiduh

Posts: 101; Member since: Jun 04, 2015

I keep using the same phone for about 3-4 years. The longest was 7 years (before 4G).

3. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

iPhone owners hold on longer, because it takes 3 years for a real substantial upgrade to come that is worth buying. Why newer Android phones offer features sooner, and people want to uograde. I upgrade every year when there is something worth buying I still using my 4S, because for one I can't get a newer iPhone with less than iOS 11, since many apps I us will never be upgraded and Apple dowsnt know how to support 32bit apps on 64bit hardware, like Google and Microsoft have nonissue doing. That alone doe me is enough never tonuograde by joke no matter how much I may want too.

9. Peaceboy

Posts: 640; Member since: Oct 11, 2018

Apple updates their phone every year. Android is a trash and people are buying $200 so they need to buy one every year.

18. iushnt

Posts: 3160; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

@peaceboy, he isn’t talking about the version number’s update. He’s talking about actual update with features. Android could be trash to you but remember it has provided smartphone access to the masses who couldn’t afford premium phones. Because of affordable android’s people with extremely low income from remote areas are connected to the internet and are improving their lives through it. Don’t make fun of cheaper phones and people of low income. Also, premium Android devices like Note 9 equals or exceeds the quality of an iPhone. You might want to argue over it but it certainly not trash. It’s an awesome peace of software that has been widely accepted just like iOS.

16. iushnt

Posts: 3160; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

It’s because iPhones are expensive and also work nicely for 3 years. In case of Android, only the flagships could work nicely for 3 years. Regarding working 32bit apps in 64bit, it’s not that Apple doesn’t know how to support. They had been supporting it since a long time but had to remove it for efficiency and reliability. It’s just that Google and Microsoft couldn’t force their developers to upgrade their apps to 64bit. BTW is it some custom apps you are talking about that you need anyhow? In my case all the apps that I purchased from App Store has been updated to 64bit .

29. midan

Posts: 3128; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

"Why newer Android phones offer features sooner, and people want to uograde." Want to upgrade? :D give me a break, So why every year flagship Android phone sales are so low? Why Samsung strugling with their galaxies and notes sales If people want to upgrade? It's exactly opposite, people don't see reason to upgrade.

4. Awalker

Posts: 1986; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

If I'm holding onto a smartphone for a year that's a long time for me.

6. Not_Amused321

Posts: 66; Member since: Jan 06, 2013

Iphone 6s not changing till it's f**ked

7. Rigmaster

Posts: 234; Member since: Jan 22, 2018

It's this simple - phones aren't changing enough to give people a reason to buy. iPhones looked and operated very similarly from models 6-8. Galaxies have operated similarly from S5/Note5 to the current S/Note lines. Each year is a little faster, but improvements have been marginal at best. Basically 2014 - now hasn't offered much. Phones have become the new tablets. In that same timeframe, many have bought/upgraded TVs, including multiple purchases/upgrades. In that same timeframe, TV standards have gone from standard def to 720/1080p to 4k and for largely LESS money with a year of new tech's introduction. The lesson is make something worth buying sooner and buyers will buy.

10. libra89

Posts: 2316; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

All true points!

11. libra89

Posts: 2316; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

I'm not really surprised at all, it makes sense. I haven't ever had a phone for more than 2 years so I don't know what that's like really.

12. MrFreeman

Posts: 63; Member since: Jan 29, 2016

It honestly depends on your priorities. For example, someone who loves mobile photography is more inclined to upgrade their smartphone every year than a productivity user. I have the money to upgrade every year but I would rather enjoy the phone for two and change. What's said above is true as well, upgrades are incremental for users. If it checks all the boxes for your needs, keep it.

13. Jrod99

Posts: 778; Member since: Jan 15, 2016

3 years on the 6s plus and could of went more. Looking at 4 years this go around.

14. domfonusr

Posts: 1094; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

Now we just need to know the percentage of the US population that has at least one mobile phone, and the average selling price of all phones sold in the US, and we could deduce the average annual expenditure per mobile phone per person, on average, in the US, as well as the average number of mobile phones owned per person in the US. Those would be an interesting couple of numbers to know right now.

19. cmdacos

Posts: 4333; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

6 months for me. 12 months at the absolute most...

21. GoTstan

Posts: 386; Member since: Jul 25, 2015

Why so short amount of time

22. cmdacos

Posts: 4333; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Because the latest phone of my preferred OEM comes out every 6 months and I need to have the latest in tech although one plus has been taking on the lead tech game for a bit now. Just can't take a notch yet even if it's a small water drop. It's just lazy design.

24. BGChicago

Posts: 227; Member since: Nov 16, 2014

Industry is planning to change this - hyping up for "5G" that nobody needs but everyone will be let to believe the opposite.

26. ECPirate37

Posts: 347; Member since: Jul 14, 2011

I was trying to think about my buying trends. When I do buy a new phone, I get it the day it comes out (or sometimes a day before, thanks T-Mobile). I got the LG V10, then Huawei P9, the Mate 9, the Samsung Galaxy S8+, and then this past Friday the Huawei Mate 20Pro. I was going to hold off on getting a phone but the S8+ stopped charging through the port for some reason, and only wireless charging blows on it. However, I used my Mate 20Pro to Charge my S8+ last night while at dinner, and that was cool! I thought it was a feature I'd never use, and already used it in the first week. The V10 came out October 8th 2015, so I've had 4 phones in 3 years. However, I gave my wife the Mate 9, and when I got my Mate 20 Pro last week, got her one too. As long as these phone don't break, I could see my trend of lasting 9 months with a phone being extended for a while.

27. geordie8t1

Posts: 314; Member since: Nov 16, 2015

American contracts are 3 years anyhow aren't they? Or a lot of them

28. tokuzumi

Posts: 1961; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

If the battery hadn't died in my HTC 10, and someone could work on the phone in my area, I'd still be using that phone. It's hard for me to find that one device that I really like and stick with it. I'll go through 4-5 phones before finding one I want to stick with. I'm currently that way with my first gen Pixel I just bought. I'm passively looking for a replacement for my S9, though. Good phone, but not terribly impressed overall.

30. skwy1963

Posts: 50; Member since: Aug 10, 2013

what happens when carriers go 5g ? they will pushing us to buy newer devices. hello

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