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Quarter of all devices sold last year were used or refurbished says GfK.

Staff Reporter
February 28, 2024

A quarter of devices sold last year refurbished or second-hand models up from 19 per cent in from GfK UK’s Tech360 survey reveals.

Demand for refurbished mobile phones is up 36 per cent since 2021 according to analysis of GfK UK’s Tech360 survey

While the vast majority of consumers chose a new handset, the UK’s used handset market is on the rise. Most used handset buyers cite finance as the primary motivation for their choice,. Around half of over 35s are more likely to state this as a key consideration. Price is important for buyers under 35 years old but they are more likely to mention the impact on the environment as a reason to buy a refurbished phone.

Longer replacement cycles for new mobile phones are also contributing to the rise in used sales,.

Last year was the first time that the largest share (35 per cent) of new buyers had smartphones that were two to three years old. In 2022, buyers with devices that were one to two years old were still dominant.  

GfK UK Director for Telco at  Lizzie Bailey says: “GfK’s long-term sales and consumer behaviour tracking shows that consumers will pay more for advanced features. But if the innovation leap is not far enough, they will wait for something new before buying their next device. This helps to explain the rise in demand for secondhand and refurbed phones.”

Bailey: if the innovation leap is not far enough, customers will wait for something new before buying their next device

The most common reason someone buys a new mobile handset was they felt it was time for an upgrade.

GfK says in 2023, when it was time to upgrade their phone, roughly 32 per cent of buyers chose a brand new model. Twenty five per cent chose refurbished, and just over 15 per cent opted for a second-hand device.

GfK’.s analysis is that UK’s used mobile phone market is split into second-hand and refurbished. The refurbished market is aimed at buyers wanting to upgrade their phone to one with newer features but for less than the cost of a new handset. Buyers of these devices tend to be affluent, and younger and shop online at specialist retailers who offer warranties.

With a cost of living crisis, new mobile phone buying patterns are emerging. In 2022 we reported that smartphone contracts were seeing a comeback as subscribers committed to longer terms to manage rising prices and lock in the best tariffs”, says Bailey.

Now we’re tracking rising demand for used handsets, whether refurbished as a way of upgrading to a superior model for less or picking second-hand devices to keep costs down. They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and with mobile phones so vital today, canny consumers are finding cost-effective ways to upgrade and replace their devices. Manufacturers, operators, and retailers need to stay ahead of these behaviours and respond to the opportunities they present.”

Last year, the global smartphone market was fairly stable, with a slight increase in revenue of 0.1 per cent versus 2022. By the end of the year, the market began to recover, with revenues in the second half of the year up 4.2 per cent year-on-year


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