Nearly $1bn in mobile trade-ins and upgrades in third quarter of 2022

Just more than halfway into what is always the market’s busiest quarter, quarterly analysis of smartphone trade-in and upgrade industry reveals a third quarter of 2022 with the amount returned estimated at $970m, making this the highest third quarter recorded

Even as the global smartphone direct sales market showed some worrying signs regarding growth in Q2, there was strong momentum for trade-in and upgrade programmes in the US, and the amount of money being put back into consumers’ hands through trade-in programmes has been found to have grown significantly quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year at the end of the third quarter of 2022, according to a study from global business services company Assurant.

Using data from Assurant’s Device IQ analytics platform, as well as industry market data, to provide insights into the device trade-in and upgrade trends in North America, the quarterly Mobile trade-in and upgrade industry trends report for Q3 2022 revealed a steady pace of growth in the secondary device market, with approximately $970m returned to US consumers in Q3 2022 through mobile device trade-in and upgrade programmes. Not only was this the highest third quarter recorded, it also represented a 28% year-on-year increase.

The report outlined the leading smartphones turned in through trade-in and upgrade programmes during the quarter, the average trade-in value of smartphones, along with trade-in trends for Apple Watches.

Among the key highlights was that the average trade-in value for devices was $111, actually down $26 from the previous quarter. For the second quarter in a row, the iPhone 11 was the top device received through trade-in and upgrade programmes. The device made up 38% of the top five devices turned in, closely followed by the iPhone XR, which was the top device throughout 2021.

In an indication of the maturity of the smartphone arena, the analysis highlighted the fact that the iPhone 12 was the first 5G smartphone to appear on the list of the top five devices turned in. Looking at the Android phone arena, the Galaxy S9 remained the leading device turned in, as it has since the second quarter of 2020.

For wearables, the Apple Watch Series 7 continued to have the highest trade-in value at $171, followed by the Apple Watch Series 6 at $109.

The overall number of trades conducted online in Q3 saw an 86% year-over-year increase compared with the same quarter last year. Since the pandemic, more consumers were found to be shifting their trade-in activity from in-store to online.

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The study also found that the average age of devices traded in has dipped slightly across the board, down to 3.46 years compared with 3.5 years in the past quarter. The average age of iPhones traded in is now 3.41 years, while the average age of Android smartphones traded in is 3.56 years.

“We typically see higher volumes for device trade-ins in Q3 and Q4 because of new device launches around this time of year, which prompts consumers to upgrade,” said Biju Nair, executive vice-president and president of global connected living and international at Assurant.

“Though average trade-in value was down, total dollars returned to consumers through trade-in programmes increased significantly in Q3 as we saw more customers taking advantage of trade-in offers.”

Looking more broadly, the analyst noted that many consumers were becoming dependent on promotions for their new device purchases, especially during times of economic uncertainty, such as the current inflationary environment.

Assurant added that globally, its clients and their customers were now paying increasing attention to sustainability initiatives and how trade-in and upgrade programmes enable them to contribute towards those initiatives.

To date, Assurant found that through these programmes there have been 16.5 million devices collected, resulting in more than 3,000 metric tons of potential e-waste diverted from landfills.

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