Record high returned to US smartphone consumers through trade-in

Report reveals record $4.3bn returned to US consumers through mobile device trade-in programmes in 2023, with $1.6bn in the last quarter alone

The latest investigation of the US mobile device trade-in market by Assurant has found it gained fuel as businesses and consumers alike continued to face the harsh headwinds of economic slowdowns and cost-of-living crises in 2023, with record industry-wide highs in the value of the returns market.

The Assurant 2023 Mobile trade-in and upgrade trends report tracked continuous growth in the secondary device market, outlining the top smartphones turned in through trade-in and upgrade programmes, the average trade-in value of smartphones, along with trade-in trends for Apple watches.

Key findings from the report were that a total value of $4.3bn was returned to consumers through mobile device trade-in programmes for the year – a 13% increase over 2022, marking an industry high. The average age of devices at trade-in was 3.46 years and the number of trades conducted online in 2023 increased by 10% on 2022.

As much as $1.6bn was returned to consumers via trade-in programmes in the final quarter of the year – a fourth-quarter record and a 25% increase in value compared with the same quarter a year earlier. For the third quarter of 2023, $999m was returned to US consumers through mobile trade-in programmes.

During the 2023 fourth quarter, four of the top five returned devices were 5G-enabled, and iPhone trade-in values were the highest on record, at $218, up from $186 in the third quarter.

The iPhone 11 was, for the seventh consecutive quarter, the top device returned through trade-in and upgrade programmes, making up almost 30% of the top five devices. Variations of the iPhone 12 made up more than half (51%) of the top five devices turned in during the year. Following the iPhone 11, the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone XR and iPhone 12 Pro were the most popular devices turned in. By contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S21 was the top turned in Android device of 2023.

“2023 was a record-breaking year for device trade-ins, highlighting the growing appetite for these programmes for increasingly cost- and eco-conscious consumers. With holiday sales throughout Q4 and major retail events such as Black Friday driving demand for new devices, we saw a jump in engagement with trade-in programmes during this period,” said Biju Nair, president of global connected living and international at Assurant, commenting on the research.

“Looking ahead, we expect to see the demand for trade-in and upgrade options continuing to grow, but this can only be made possible through the support of carriers, OEMs, retailers and MSOs that offer attractive trade-in promotions and upgrade programmes. Cross-sector collaboration is crucial to expand the secondary device market and make current smartphones more accessible and sustainable.”

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