Research firm Strategy Analytics put out a report last week that, among other things, claims a growing number of folks in the US plan on keeping their smartphones for 3 years or longer.

Given that the US wireless market seems to be built around the idea that users will upgrade every year or two, that seems like a significant change… although it’s kind of tough to say if it’s a chicken or an egg situation.

Maybe people are only holding onto their old phones longer because the costs of new ones seem to be skyrocketing. Or maybe prices are going up (and more features are getting crammed in) because phone makers are trying to convince people to upgrade more often.

So what about you? How often do you buy new smartphones these days?

I’ve had 5 smartphones in the last 9 years, suggesting that I’m still on a roughly 2-year refresh cycle.

The first smartphone I ever bought was the Google Nexus One, which I picked up in 2010 and used for a couple of years before replacing it with an HTC One X, followed by a Google Nexus 5, Nexus 5X, and most recently the Google Pixel 2.

I’m hoping to continue using the Pixel 2 into its third year. It’s still a pretty great phone that offers respectable performance and which has a great camera. The only things that could tempt me to update before the Pixel 4a and/or Pixel 5 are released would be declining battery life and/or a strong desire to move to a phone with a telephoto camera lens (I already feel the call of the upcoming Pixel 4, but I’m going to try to hold out).

 

 

 

Support Liliputing

Liliputing's primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the "Shop" button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we'll get a small commission).

But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you're using an ad blocker* and hate online shopping.

Contribute to our Patreon campaign

or...

Contribute via PayPal

* If you are using an ad blocker like uBlock Origin and seeing a pop-up message at the bottom of the screen, we have a guide that may help you disable it.

54 replies on “How often do you buy a new smartphone?”

  1. I recently bought an international version Samsung Galaxy A20 smartphone for under $200. It does everything I need. I plan to use it for at least 3 years. I’d only replace it if it breaks.

  2. I tend to buy and sell my phone and swap quite often, I’m provided a free upgrade every year through work and then I typically use that and sell it getting something else part of the way through the year, through the last 2 years I’ve had 5 smartphones.

  3. I am still using my original Pixel XL and with Android 10 and the battery still holding up, I hopefully plan to last into year 4.

  4. My last smartphone lasted 5 years. Current one is over 3 years old and still working fine.
    But I don’t use it as much as most people.

  5. I care nothing about status, so every two years unless the tech isn’t attractive enough or there haven’t been big enough changes, then I don’t mind holding out for an extra or however many months with whatever I have, since that generally means it’s paid off and I can sell it or give it to my wife at that point vs. trading it back in. I think it’s safe to say it’ll be every 2 years or less with the iPhone for me. It used to be a year for Android phones because they didn’t have the best track record with updates. This is why I switched to the iPhone, I wanted dedicated updates for at least 2-3 years and of course a lag free experience which I don’t think Android achieved up until about 2 years ago with the Snap 840/855 and similar processors.

    As an example, I got the 7 Plus and skipped the 8 Plus. I was going to completely skip the XR/Xs Max (I prefer larger phones) but for some reason, upon randomly checking a T-Mo store, I was able to get the XS Max with no downpayment on my Jump Plus, so it made sense for me to upgrade, and I did. The only reason I had any interest in upgrading the 7 Plus at all is that I’d run out of space on the measly 32GB of storage. I have 0 issues with the XS Max at 64GB atm (though, that could change) so I doubt I’ll be getting whatever Apple releases in Sep. but I suppose we’ll see. The tech is so mature that it’s going to be pretty difficult (imho) to convince people who don’t care about status to move to a new device yearly. For me it’s about upgraded tech, higher storage and price. If those 3 aspects increase (value-wise, so, better tech, more storage, same or lower price) then I’ll bite, if not I’ll wait.

  6. Right now, I am using crap LG V30. I would like to upgrade, but since my needs are not that huge (other than reliability that LG sadly can’t deliver), I am in a “research and not-in-a-hurry” phase.
    I would like my new phone to have the ultrawide camera and decent stereo audio recording as my LG does, I kinda got to love to shoot ultrawide for myself and Google maps and stereo just makes any video 10x better.
    Sadly Note 10 Pro proved to be too big and not good enough reason to upgrade, maybe new Huawei, Google or even Apple can provide something decent.
    2-3 years life cycle seems like a good balance, considering essential battery life – my LG needs a battery replacement, it’s getting a bit too easy to kill (it might be a software bug in latest OS update thou).

  7. My progression has been iPhone 3GS, 4S, 5C, 6s and currently 8. I had the 6s for 3 years before upgrading to a last gen 8 though… no idea when I’ll upgrade next. Maybe to a Pixel instead…

  8. My OG Pixel XL is still plenty fast for my needs. The camera is still great. I’ve had it since January 6, 2017 (ordered it on the previous Black Friday!) and the battery gives me a full day’s charge and then some. I expect to get Android 1 next week, if what I have read is accurate. With security updates for another year thereafter, I hope to buy another phone in the Pixel line in the fall of 2021.

  9. How often do you buy a new smartphone?

    As infrequently as possible.
    My first smartphone was a factory refurbished LG Optimus T (2011), which replaced a Motorola SLVR (2007) that could no longer render web pages is was so out of date…

    Then came an LG G2 (2015), another refurb, because the Optimus was also having trouble rendering web pages and the on/off switch was wearing out.

    The LG G2 is still going strong (after gluing the display back into place), but in the possession of my mother, since I replaced that with a refurbished Google Pixel XL last year (2018). Given that Google has extended support for the OG Pixel for another year, I have no intention of replacing it for the foreseeable future.

    So, the short answer is about 3-4 years, and always with refurbished devices at around 1/2 to 1/3 the original asking prices. It’s quite possible that in 12 years, 4 phones, I still haven’t spent as much as it costs to buy a new iPhone 10 yet…

  10. I have bought phones in the last few years as i find deals and such, but my main is a Moto E 2015 with Android Pie

  11. Still using 7 edge on note fe rom I still use the galaxy tab s10.5 tablet and a ipad 6 for daily use

  12. It’s really hard to say, because even though I am still using my 3 year old Axon 7, I have purchased 2 smartphones and both times I have gone back to my Axon 7. Upgraded performance and cameras just can’t trump front facing speakers, capacitive buttons, and a high fi dac. At least for me.

  13. I’ve got a midrange moto z play w/ sd625, 3gb ram, 3 years old, holding up nicely and plan to keep it as long as possible because of crazy pricing these days. Moto Gs are priced well for their specs, but I’d pay extra for AMOLED if they’d offer it. The gap between $200 moto gs and $1000+ flagships is insane and, IMO, entirely unjustified.

    These days only fxtec’s pro1 is tempting to me, for the keyboard.

  14. I’m on a roughly 5-year plan if the trend continues, but I just bought a battery case for my current phone, so it might go on longer than my previous one.

  15. In Economics terms, the marginal utility of the phone upgrades is declining which leads to reduced demand – This translates into a longer upgrade cycles.

    Each new phones offers proportionately less and less extra functionality (=utility) and are costing more for that a smaller increase (=diminishing returns). It’s like toasters, basic ones are cheap and they all make good toast now – so how much extra would you pay for one with more features? Or like PC’s as an earlier commentator said.

    All new smartphones development now is essentially about the cameras and basic but capable smartphone costs $100, so how much extra will you pay to upgrade your camera every year?

    And its not necessarily about buying a phone for the same or higher price either. If your phone breaks you can now spend half as much to get an adequate replacement having the same functionality.

  16. I voted for every 2 years, but I had planned on my last phone lasting 3 years. About a year and a half in, the GPS completely stopped working on my Moto G (3rd Generation). A couple of months later, the charging port started acting a bit wonky. I could have dealt with not having a working GPS, and replaced the port, but it just seemed worth it to upgrade at the 2 year mark, rather than put up with the hassle. I stayed with the Moto G series, a G5S+, which is now almost at 2 years and going strong. My current plan is to see if there will be a follow up to the Pixel 3a next year. That would put me at ~2.5 years this cycle, or closer to 3 if I decide to wait for a good sale price. (I would probably wait longer, but I’m now on Google Fi, and I think I want a fully-compatible phone whenever I do decide to upgrade.)

  17. We’re well past the point in time where the technology changes so quickly that an upgrade every two years is useful. PCs went through the same maturing process.

    My current phone is a mid-range Snapdragon device that is over two years old, and quite frankly nothing new has come out since then that would compel a purchase. One of the new Snapdragon 730 devices might be attractive when they’re available if they have significantly better battery life. But I think my current phone would need to have issues before I switch because I already get well over a 36 hours of battery life.

  18. “New?” Never.

    My house’s standard practice is to get a 1-2 generation old refurbished model whenever the last phone is no longer functional. It averages out to be about every 21 months or so, but we never spend more than $150 for the replacement. We’ve only really had one lemon in all that time, and that was mainly my fault for not being careful with research (the Z2 Force screen-peeling issue).

    There’s nothing we do on a daily basis that can’t be accomplished by our current devices (Z2 Play and LG G5). Some people may ask more of their phones than we do, but slightly older mid-level devices are more than capable enough to keep us content.

  19. Never.

    I bought the latest available generation smartphone with a replaceable battery and a headphone jack earlier this year, and I will never buy a new phone again. I’m done paying $700 every time the planned obsolescence kicks in.

  20. I’m probably averaging every two years or so. This is not a planned upgrade cycle for me. I’m all for sticking with a good phone for longer. But I’m not in the “flagship” segment, so some upgrades(SoC, RAM, storage, radio frequencies) can make a big difference. My last phone, which I now use around the house, had some software or hardware issue where I wasn’t receiving calls sometime, so I had to change quickly. Technically, I downgraded to a low-end phone, but it still performs how I need it too, and I can remove its battery. So far, I’m feeling no particular compulsion to change.

  21. I’ve never purchased a new phone (or new computer or new car, for that matter). I’ve had an iPhone 3G, a Motorola Atrix 2, and now an S5 that I bought in 2016. It’s well supported by Lineage OS and I can replace the battery if it’s starts getting wonky, so there’s no need to change anytime soon. (I also have a Moto G LTE that my work assigned to me in ~2014.)

    I can see myself buying a new Linux phone from Purism or Pine or whoever, but I’ll have to wait for reviews on those to make sure the thing actually functions as a phone.

  22. I have used wired phones until they break after ca. 15-20 years or become outdated due to changed telecommunication signals. All I would need in a smartphone is phone calls, browsing, PDF reading and music listening. My PCs last circa. 10 years. Therefore, I except to use a smartphone for 10 years. I might tolerate 7 years. For me, upgrading a smartphone is as uninteresting as upgrading a washing machine, which nobody upgrades because of newer design or hardware but everybody uses until it breaks and repair becomes unbearable. Save the environment! However, the question of how often I buy a new smartphone is wrong because I have not bought any so far. Missing longevity is one of the reasons.

    I do not buy an Android phone because the longest expected update cycle is 3 years for Android One and because of data theft. I do not buy an iOS phone since the update cycle is 5 years and a working general file management is missing. Both update cycles and battery replacement availability are shorter than my tolerated minimum longevity so I refuse to buy a smartphone. Increasing sizes, tall ratios, notches, missing audio jacks, missing battery replacement etc. are further reasons.

    I might buy some if some suitable one appears with a Linux variant, Pure OS or the like. However, currently such planned smartphones follow the current mainstream fashion, which violates my few mandatory features, in particular not taller than 16:9, unreplaceable battery or maximum price of circa €200 reasonable for my modest usage.

  23. My upgrade frequency is dropping because the market in many respects is moving in directions I disagree with. I loved the Nokia N900, which the major carriers and Microsoft scrambled to kill before it could get a true successor. I can no longer get a phone with a proper Linux OS (although a few niche devices are in the works) or a hardware keyboard (the handful of devices that still have one have other crippling drawbacks). When that phone failed after 6.5 years of use, I settled for an LG V20. And now I’m having trouble even finding phones with removable batteries, storage expansion slots, or infrared emitters (all things the N900 also had). The V20’s secondary display is actually a nice touch, but even the newer LG phones dropped that. The market has abandoned all of those features in favor of thinner and more waterproof devices (neither of which are particularly important aspects to me).

    I’m sorely tempted to get a Purism Librem 5 once it’s available, but I need to make sure it’s actually usable as a phone before buying one (I got burned years ago by the Trolltech Greenphone, which had major overheating problems and never got production hardware for its software platform). What I really want from a phone (beyond the basics of “works as a phone”) are hardware versatility and control over the software. But I’m afraid I’m in a tiny minority in that respect. (On the other hand, I can show people a 15-year-old clamshell Sharp Zaurus PDA, and at first glance they wonder what company is making such awesome new hardware…they truly don’t make them like they used to.)

      1. I hope it flourishes, but “Alpha version. Calls don’t work, etc. Only suitable for hackers.” pretty explicitly fails my “usable as a phone” criterion for now.

  24. I tend to get a phone every 18 months or so, but I get last years flagship phones that are already 12-16 months old and buy them for around $250 – $300 depending on model, keep them for a year then rince and repeat.

  25. I think that, if I didn’t break my first two phones, I’d have continued to use them until I was dissatisfied for the software library available to them, or until it became clear that using them would make me look too bad. The galaxy s5 sport I have has lasted since it was new. Only reason to replace it now is a desire for a better camera (which I am ignoring because it’s not like I have friends to show pictures to anyway), and, now that the Librem 5 is coming, because I can’t in good consistence continue to feed data to corporations I find detestable.

  26. I upgrade when a new phone is interesting or significantly better. I tried a Nokia 9 and am agonising about returning to my 950 which worked so well apart from its aging battery.

  27. When my android OS is already two generations behind, or the phone itself is already too slow. I had SE P900 , Nokia N95, Samsung S2, Nexus 5 (2013) and currently PH1. Will likely upgrade once 5G is totally deployed in my area.

  28. I usually use them 4 years each. Besides environmental issues it’s been hard to find models with the features I want, mainly a physical keyboard.

  29. I upgrade when something is broken on my current phone. My last upgrade happened when my previous phone had a failure that caused me to factory reset to get it working again two days in a row.

    1. The phone I owned the least long was an LG that died just before it was two years old.

  30. The main question is, how long is, or should your battery in average last in your smartphone? 2 or 3 years? Let’s say the battery lasts for two years.

    The thing is, leading smartphone makers Apple and Samsung are on a 2 year cycle. First year is new outer design (iPhone 6 and Galaxy S8) and the second year is the better internals in the same housing if you want to keep your phone longer (iPhone 6s and Galaxy S9). So let’s say the companies want to entice you to upgrade at least upgrade every two years (even years) while your battery is good for three years (an odd year)… Sorry Americans, we in the rest of the world do not much our phones that much by overpriced carrier contracts.

    So from the hardware or gadget side of things you (at least me) want to upgrade in even years (two or four years) while your battery is good to go for three years (and it’s not too expensive to replace these days). But I’d still find it overkill now to go in 2 year cycles, so here is my strategy I devised to upgrade every 3 years (as long as my battery goes strong) and still goes even year phones. As I never buy the latest (prices for last models are way better deals) sometimes I go with the 1/2 year old model, keep it for 3 years, then go with the then 2/3 year old model and keep it for 3 years. With this strategy I change phones every 3 years and sometimes I get the 2 generation newer, sometimes the 4 year later model – always the even year updates, the beefier “s” versions for me.

    I just recently devised this upgrade strategy so I hope it works out well. I hope you could follow me so far!

    1. When it comes to iPhone’s, then yes, the “S” model is a smarter buy.
      Why? Because by the time the “S” model comes out, you have a greater range of accessories, the Apps are more optimised for the new screen, and many of the imperfections are sorted out.

      Here’s a walk down memory lane:
      iPhone 2G – quite worthless
      iPhone 3G – with iOS 2.2 it was a serious threat to phone industry, but it’s still early in the game
      iPhone 3GS – major refinements to the above, best phone since 2009
      iPhone 4 – front-camera, new resolution, new form-factor, early bugs
      iPhone 4S – major refinements all over, Siri Assistant
      iPhone 5 – Lightning port, new resolution, new form-factor, early bugs
      iPhone 5S – overhaul refinements, fingerprint scanner, new software stack/64-bit
      iPhone 6 Plus – same as above, new resolution, new form-factor, early bugs
      iPhone 6S Plus – overhaul refinements, new fingerprint, new camera, updated metal unibody
      iPhone 7 Plus – overhaul refinements, no Headphone Jack, Waterproof
      iPhone 8 Plus – smaller refinements, Fragile Glass unibody, Wireless Charging
      iPhone XS Max – smaller refinements, new form-factor, new resolution, no TouchID

      If you bought the iPhone 3GS in early 2009, there wouldn’t be a need to upgrade until Late 2010, almost 2 years later. The iPhone 4 was retired early, whilst the iPhone 4S has been kept alive for notably longer. And the same is true for the iPhone 5S instead of the iPhone 5, the iPhone 6S instead of the iPhone 6. Admittedly there hasn’t been much innovation (or too much compromises) when stepping upto the iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, XS Max, so any of those are decent candidates to upgrade to from an iPhone 6S Plus.

  31. HTC touch Pro 2> HTC sensation> HTC One (which was stolen)> back to HTC sensation> HTC one m9 (lost in an accident)> Xiaomi redmi note 3 pro (snapdragon) (died from failure to charge)> Sharp Aquos S2 premium>ZTE Axon 9 Pro

    I update because either I have extra money and a new phone provides a significant advantage in performance or features or because the previous phone is no longer viable. I bought the ZTE Axon 9 Pro a few months ago because it was dirt cheap at 350 on aliexpress, has flagship grease specs from last year and because it’s waterproof. Although the Sharp S2 doesn’t have OIS and gas a weaker processor that wouldn’t have been enough to justify it. I am now conjuring by bike and the garage door opener is an app on the phone. Mix that with the rainy season in Mexico and a phone with some sort of certified ingress protection was kind of a must.

    I’ll be gifting the Sharp S2 to my father

  32. Nokia 5190 -> Sony-Ericsson Z600 -> HTC Dream (aka T-Mobile G1) -> Nexus One -> Galaxy Nexus -> Nexus 4 -> Nexus 5 -> Nexus 6 …

    …and still using the Nexus 6 (with LineageOS), at least until I get my hands on a Cosmo Communicator; I’ve missed having a physical keyboard since the HTC Dream, and lusted after the Nokia N900 back in the day (but its frequency bands didn’t line up with my carrier at the time)

    The likes of CyanogenMod and LineageOS can really keep Android phones ‘alive’ and useful well past their planned obsolescence – and let’s be honest, in a world with difficult-to-replace internal batteries, thin-at-all-costs (even removing headphone jacks!) devices with wrap-around, easy to break screens and proprietary kernel modules for various SoC components… it’s pretty obvious that planned obsolescence is the name of the game.

    A 10 year old laptop can still run a modern Linux distro and be relatively secure and useful, if not fast. A 10 year old smartphone (think: iPhone 3GS / HTC Dream) is a paperweight, if the battery hasn’t swollen. (At least you can replace the battery easy in the Dream!) Heck, I have a hand-me-down iPad that’s capped out at iOS 9 for some reason, because Apple didn’t want to keep building for the old SoC. I can’t even replace iOS with something else to extend its useful life… at least I can jailbreak it, but yikes.

    How about much like the EU pushing microUSB as a charging standard back in the day, we look at properly regulating things like replaceable batteries, and OS/security updates for X years from purchase, followed by unlocking / open sourcing abandoned devices so they can be maintained? Every year or two is ludicrous to be replacing your devices, IMO.

    1. Cosmo communicator looks wicked, it checks all the boxes really, but my only gripe is that with the size of the device they really could have put a 7″ screen in that chassis. just look at the side bezels on that 6″ screen.

    2. SSDs have really extended the life of old laptops. I had to go back to an HDD for a few days when my upgraded SSD crapped out on me, and I couldn’t believe how slow it was. I spent hours trying to figure out whether something was wrong but was forced to conclude that was how slow my computer was before I had upgraded.

      Still waiting for my Thinkpad T430 to die, but it just won’t!

    3. I couldn’t agree more!

      Although, since hindsight is 20/20, here’s how I would’ve upgraded smartphones:
      (placing extra emphasis on ecosystem, battery life, feature-set, typing, screen, camera, and less emphasis on marketing, price, durability)

      HTC TyTN II, HTC TouchPro, Motorola Cliq, Motorola Droid, Motorola Droid 2,
      Samsung Galaxy SII, Samsung Note, Samsung Note2, Samsung Note3,
      Samsung Note4-Exynos, ZTE Axon7, Samsung S7 Edge-Exynos,
      Samsung S8 Plus-Exynos.

      (afterwards, there are major issues with Exynos on S9 and S10, Snapdragon is locked)
      (alternatives are 2018 Razer Phone 2 or Pixel 3XL, and 2019 OnePlus 7 Pro or LG V50)

      1. Whilst its fun to play with other phones like:
        Nokia N900, Jolla, Tizen, Palm Pre, Blackberry, Windows Phones, and iPhones…

        …In the long-run, I would happily trade the exotic features from those devices to get a more polished and user-friendly ecosystem via Google/Android. And on top of that, I would trade some of the perfect-polish of iOS Ecosystem for Android’s more robust and less restrictive (custom rom phones) properties.

        So it really is “God-Hindsight” to jump from; Nokia/Symbian, to HTC/Windows Mobile, to Samsung/Android. Moving from 2002 Flip feature-phones, to 2007 Slide smart-phones, to 2011 Slab super-phones. Who knows where we will transition to next in 2030… maybe Fold ultra-phones from Huawei running a NewOS-Ecosystem will become the defining swiss army knife of technology.

  33. I upgrade when my camera pictures look significantly worse than my friends pictures. Life is relative.

    1. That’s not a bad metric, really. If you value photos, but don’t want to blow a ton of cash on the newest phone every time it drops, you can follow the tide of early adopters at a healthy distance.

  34. My first was iPhone 4, which I gave to my wife less than a year later and switched to Samsung S2. Then, it was S4, S6 and Huawei Mate 9 which I still use and will probably keep using for a 3rd year since it is still powerful and snappy.

    1. *smart phone. My veey first phone was Nokia 8210. The good old days when you could only store 8 SMS messages 😊

    1. I’d assume that “33 months” was the average answer to the question “How long will you keep your current phone?”

      The average active times are how long people have had their current Apple/Samsung phone. They might replace it tomorrow or in ten years, but that’s a different question

    2. It wouldn’t surprise me that Apple and Samsung users replace more often than others. They haven’t discovered that it’s no longer necessary to buy a flagship phone, so it would be safe to assume they also haven’t discovered that the tech has matured to the point where it’s not necessary to buy every two years.

      1. People willing to fork out for flagships of the top tier brands of Apple and Samsung are also more likely to treat their phones as fashion accessories, and like other fashion accessories, it isn’t done to be see with something that’s “out of date”.

        1. Kary, Tactilus,

          You didn’t seem to get Corporal Lint’s explanation of the original analysis and other industry reporting that indeed, yes, Apple and Samsung users too by and large tend to upgrade less frequently these days than they did so previously.

  35. I’ve had my OnePlus 5 for a bit over 2 years now. I see no reason to replace it. I am hoping it lasts forever. It’s the best phone I’ve owned. The problem for the phone makers is that phones have gotten so good that there’s no reason for most people to get a new one very often. There’s not much innovation happening so there’s no killer new feature they can convince everyone they must have. They’ve become appliances now.

  36. I have an Android One phone so I should be getting security updates for three years. I plan on using it as my primary phone for at least those three years.

  37. [ I’m hoping to continue using the Pixel 2 into its third year. ] Please send me your old phone when you no longer need it. Recycling saves the world. I’ll pay for postage.

Comments are closed.