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Regular Cellphone Upgrades Becoming a Thing of the Past

Tamara E. Holmes
Regular Cellphone Upgrades Becoming a Thing of the Past

While your mobile phone service provider may try to convince you to upgrade to a new phone at the end of your two-year contract, a new survey suggests consumers are saving their money by hanging onto their handsets for longer periods of time.

Nearly half of consumers — 47% — kept their phones for three to five years before upgrading, and another 8% hung onto them for more than five years, according to data from mobile service provider Ting Mobile. Ting surveyed 3,640 mobile phone users to learn how often they change their phones and the thinking behind their choices.

When it comes to upgrading, consumers are not impressed enough by the gee-whiz factor to reach into their wallets — only 10% said they upgraded because they wanted the newest phone model.

The largest percentage of respondents — 32% — said they upgraded because their previous phone wasn’t working as well as it used to. By contrast, only 5% said they upgraded because their carrier offered them an upgrade.

Once they’ve decided to upgrade, though, selecting a new model seems to come down to the basics more than fancy features. Only 5% of respondents said they cared about the phone’s screen, 4% cared about the life of the battery, and just 2% fixated on the phone’s “cool factor.” (Still, at least for some consumers, there are features out there worth shopping for. Among young adults age 18 to 24, 17% said the phone’s camera was an important factor in their selection.)

Instead, 35% of respondents said they were most influenced by price when they bought their last phone, followed by 30% who said the operating system was the deciding factor, and 14% who said the phone’s specs were most important to them.

In terms of where they shop, 47% said they purchased their phone from the vendor offering the best deal. Meanwhile, a strong majority of respondents — 82% — said they would rather pay for the phone upfront rather than finance it, and 42% said they spent between $150 and $300 on their most recent upgrade.

And although 65% majority of respondents were Android users, Apple seems to be luring a sizable portion of them away. In fact, 22% of respondents upgraded from Android to iPhone, compared to only 6% who upgraded from iPhone to Android.

Cellphones have become such an integral part of life that it seems difficult to go without one. Still, there are ways to make them more affordable, like delaying upgrades and ensuring you have the cheapest cellphone plan possible. When deciding which new phone to buy, you should also consider not only the retail cost, but other fees like the cost of insurance.