Americans stopped buying new phones when the X landed, guess why

Americans stopped buying new phones when the X landed, guess why
Right around 2017 a perfect storm of events both raised average phone prices, and made them visible for the consumer. The carrier subsidies system removal, general industry cool-off, and ever-increasing competition that made companies chase expensive components all contributed to the phenomenon. 

Nobody asked for the iPhone X Face ID biometry that needed a notch cutout in an OLED display yet Apple decided to set itself apart with it and marked the beginning of the iPhone sales decline. It wasn't just Apple, though - manufacturers then started chasing hole-in-display, sliding, dual-screen, pop-up and other "all-screen" design efforts. In-display fingerprint readers perform worse than the good ol' scanners on the back of the phone, yet they became the pricey norm. 

Just" one camera or 4GB RAM won't do now and we are at the 12GB/1TB limit, as well as hexa-camera phones. Expensive AMOLED displays with a monopolistic supplier have also become ubiquitous, and don't even start us on impractical curved edges. Add to these multilayer glass coatings, reverse wireless charging, ToF cameras, and whatnot, and we got ourselves plenty of marginally better experience that got shoved down our collective throat for ever-increasing amounts. 


How did we react? We stopped buying new phones, of course. The latest "US Smartphone Replacement and Brand Dynamics" report from Strategy Analytics reveals that Americans are keeping their phones for much longer - 33 months on average, to be exact. That figure used to hover around the two-year mark when carrier subsidies were still around, and has now grown to almost three years, creating a vicious cycle for phone makers. To compensate for the drop in sales, they added features and increased prices, reducing the demand even further.

In fact, the survey found that just 7% of the American public is ready to part with a $1000 for a phone (sorry, Apple and Samsung flagships). The other key takeaways from the study is that people are loyal to the two aforementioned brands only, and slapped "second tier vendors LG and Motorola with repeat purchase intentions below 50%." 

As for what the US is actually looking for in a phone? Well, apart from an emphasis on camera quality by women and younger users, nothing in particular: "wow features are important for only 1 in 3 US buyers with Hispanic and African Americans most interested as well as Gen Z." Affordability wins, fatality!

Related phones

iPhone X
  • Display 5.8" 1125 x 2436 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A11 Bionic, Hexa-core, 2390 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 2716 mAh(21h 3G talk time)

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32 Comments

1. Vancetastic

Posts: 1508; Member since: May 17, 2017

Notchurally, the comments should be good on this.

12. Tipus

Posts: 893; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

"Those are screen extensions!!!" :)))

16. sgodsell

Posts: 7416; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

This year we are seeing a minimum of 128 GB of storage, and in some cases like the Note 10 256 GB of storage is the minimum. Last year 64 GB was still the norm for the base devices. The ram increased as well this year in all flagships. Well the verdict is still out on Apple. We will have to see if Apple increases ram and their base storage of 64 GB. At least we know all the Android OEMs increased their ram and storage this year by a considerable amount.

22. mackan84

Posts: 544; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

You all missed that the article brings up stagnating market. If storage, ram and cheaper price were the keys for success, the market would still grow. But it doesn’t. And it won’t anymore, everyone that affords and wants a smartphone already has one. And it probably takes good pictures, works with all apps and has a reasonable speed in web browsing. Because that’s all we consumers want from our phone.

27. bigstrudel

Posts: 604; Member since: Aug 20, 2012

Agree 100% why is it so hard to figure out that Cellphones are commodities not luxury purchases. I used to use flagship phones when it made a difference.

28. bigstrudel

Posts: 604; Member since: Aug 20, 2012

Sgodsell didn’t read the article or can’t read English.

32. gadgetpower

Posts: 265; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

I don’t think apple needs to much ram. It’s fine for what the apps needs. It works well. You don’t need to compare both OS since they’ different. An app may crash mostly on android phones but not in iOS.

35. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Apps actually crash more on iOS than on Android and Android phones dont need 12GB or ram either that's just the manufacturer trying a USP that isn't one

36. sgodsell

Posts: 7416; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Apple use to say we don't need more than 512 mb of ram. Then that changed to 1 GB of RAM, the 2 GB, and now it's 4 GB. Well 3 GB on the XR. Ram is something that all OS's can take advantage of. The minimum is to hold more apps in RAM before removing them. The other thing is you can have multiple big apps running. Plus on OS like Android, you can have split screen multitasking apps, and even windowed apps, like on Samsung's desktop mode (DEX). All of which is missing from the palm pilot running iPhones of yesteryear. Article is talking about a stagnant market. Well Apple is certainly not helping anyone by hold back on the specs or features.

2. yalokiy

Posts: 1043; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Funny how from Huawei only mate x was included. Could've included mate 10 pro

5. Cicero

Posts: 1136; Member since: Jan 22, 2014

Yep, Huawei is at 1k mark from 2 years ago.

6. yalokiy

Posts: 1043; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Which Huawei smartphone was at 1k 2 years ago?

3. Whitedot

Posts: 823; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

So true. And who is the winner, rising star now? Those who managed keep best value for money value avoiding unnecessarily adding features that inflates phone price. I also don't buy $1000 price tag is correlated directly to all R&D work. It is natural cycle of of technological evolution that happens but not necessarily becomes more expensive. Opposite things get cheaper too. I believe it is coorptorate greed and blantantly stupid confidence by management " we can flog you any phone for a grand" . 1+ knows the recepy though dangerously approaching overpricing. Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Nokia, Huawei is winning . In comparison LG, Sony HTC lost it long time ago. Samsung surprisingly readjusted its mid range segment quickly enough. Pockets vote manufacturers bow.

4. OneLove123

Posts: 1161; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

I only buy $1000 phones if they have a BOGO deal.

7. ECPirate37

Posts: 337; Member since: Jul 14, 2011

I'm in that small percentage that doesn't care about the phone price being over $1000 if I think it's a value. Like I got the Galaxy Note 10+ on Wednesday and I think the one I bought was $1100. I'm ok with that because I'm on my phone all day every day for work. Got the Huawei Mate 20 Pro the day it came out. I'll probably skip the Galaxy Fold because the 2nd one should come out next year with a bigger front screen. However I'll buy the Foldable Mate X this year to replace my Mate 20 Pro. I know I "Waste" money getting new phones so often, but they seriously make me happy. I like new toys, and since it is something I use so often, I might as well have something that makes me happy.

10. cmdacos

Posts: 4248; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

I feel the exact same way. As long as value is there it's a good purchase.

29. bigstrudel

Posts: 604; Member since: Aug 20, 2012

There’s no value in paying 1000 dollars for 99% the same features and performance as 2 or 3 years ago.

14. Georgio

Posts: 257; Member since: Nov 21, 2016

A phone makes you happy? That's sad...:-))))

34. cybertec69

Posts: 32; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

If you need an electronic device to make you happy, you have some serious issues to begin with. For the price you paid for that overpriced piece of slab you can buy a decent laptop, even build a real good PC. No one needs a $1K phone. So you are telling us your previous phone stopped doing it's everyday functions, or that a phone at half the price would not be able to do the same job. Another one falling for the marketing nonsense.

8. inFla

Posts: 126; Member since: Aug 17, 2018

Used to be a phone with a camera, now its a multi lens camera, with more junk than you will ever use and some phone qualities.

9. User123456789

Posts: 996; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Notch is why apple is losing clients.

33. gadgetpower

Posts: 265; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

They’re not losing. Maybe people are holding on to their phone much longer. It began when apple gives a cheap battery replacement. It makes their phone brand new again.

15. Charlie2k

Posts: 136; Member since: Jan 11, 2016

And where is Xiaomi and One in this chart?

17. CDexterWard

Posts: 85; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

I would love to see a different take on the graph - cost in proportion to sales volume. I know there are other factors at stake, but I'd really like a visual representation of of the relationship.

18. c.m.s

Posts: 236; Member since: Dec 10, 2017

The reason I (and alot of people with me i’m sure) have no plan to update as often as before is simply because there is no need. My iPhone X is great, it does not feel one bit old and nothing in the latest models from any manufaturer has anything new that I feel that I need. The phone development has slowed down, simply no reason to upgrade like it use to be.

19. DFranch

Posts: 551; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

Most I ever paid was $800 for the Galaxy S7 Edge when it first came out. I vowed never again would I spend that much again. my next phone was the LG V30 which I paid $640 for. My current is the OnePlus 7 Pro was $700 (i'd have gotten the regular OP 7 is it was available in the US). I will likely have to drop from flagship to high midrange specs at some point, but with midrange phones like the Pixel 3a XL, that is becoming a real option.

20. KingSam

Posts: 1465; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

Why should I buy anything else when I can get an LG G8 for sub $300 on eBay. I'm spoiled. There's so much to love on LG phones and I just stopped upgrading impulsively.

21. yalokiy

Posts: 1043; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Totally agree on LG g8, it's even a better deal than Xiaomi mi9.

23. VariableCheapskate

Posts: 166; Member since: May 29, 2019

Samsung also proved one of the points they made poking fun (hypocritically) at the cost of flagships by making the A-Series. Where even the A10/A10E as basic as it is has the notch gimmick for under $150.

24. rkoforever90

Posts: 459; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

Besides there are now phones like Mi 9T pro which makes $1000+ phones look pointless

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