In No Rush to Upgrade Your Smartphone? You're Not Alone

The average US smartphone upgrade cycle, as of the second half of 2017, was 32 months, up from 25 months a year prior, NPD Group says. The 5G rollout could help speed that up, though.

US consumers are now holding onto their smartphones for more than 2.5 years, on average, before upgrading, according to new research from The NPD Group.

The average US smartphone upgrade cycle, as of the second half of 2017, was 32 months, the market research firm wrote in its latest Mobile Connectivity report. That's up from 25 months a year prior.

It's also not uncommon these days for people to hold onto their smartphones for more than three years, the firm noted. In the second half of 2017, 22 percent of US smartphone users said they wait more than 36 months to upgrade, up from 18 percent who said the same a year earlier.

prepaid upgrades

Prepaid users are quickest to upgrade. In the latter half of last year, 21 percent of prepaid smartphone users reported upgrading their devices within a year of purchasing them. Just 10 percent of postpaid customers said the same.

"The continuous improvement of device build quality and components, coupled with higher price tags, has motivated consumers to hold on to their smartphones for longer periods than in the past," Brad Akyuz, director and industry analyst at NPD Connected Intelligence, said in a statement.

Carriers' stricter upgrade policies of late have also impacted the upgrade cycle. "Many carriers require that customers fully pay off their devices before trade-in, which has slowed down upgrade cycles for postpaid customers," Akyuz said.

However, the launch of 5G networks offering benefits like faster speeds and lower latency will likely spur many to upgrade quicker than they do today.

"With the debut of 5G networks in the coming years, OEMs and mobile operators will have the opportunity to educate consumers on the benefits of 5G services and convince them to upgrade to devices boasting a 5G chipset," Akyuz said. "This 4G to 5G migration will ultimately result in the acceleration of the device upgrade cycle."

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