Used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9M units by 2023

Smartphone users choose affordability over new features, IDC found.

The best ways to recycle or sell a used smartphone

The used smartphone market is forecasted to reach 332.9 million units by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 13.6% between 2018 and 2023, according to IDC research

The data found that used smartphone sales already saw tremendous growth in 2019, reaching a total of 206.7 million units.  

SEE: 5G smartphones: A guide for business professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

IDC's research, released on Thursday, only took into account used or refurbished smartphones. The press release defined a refurbished smartphone "a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner."

A big reason for the rise in used smartphones is the high price point of new ones, said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. 

Even just in the past few years, the prices for premium flagship smartphones have risen from $700 or $800 to more than $1,000. Used and refurbished devices allow customers are cost-effective alternatives, and also allow users to trade in and lessen the price of a new phone, Scarsella said. 

The growth in used smartphones shows a public leaning toward affordability over new features. OEMs have attempted to find a balance in new smartphones between features and price points, but it seems the features haven't been worth the money for many smartphone users, according to the data. 

This movement away from buying new smartphones isn't a new idea: In August, Ting Mobile's Phone Upgrade Survey found that the two-year smartphone upgrade cycle is over . Nearly half (47%) users said they keep their mobile devices at least three years before upgrading, with the top deciding factor being price, Ting Mobile found. 

Some of the most common "new" features over the past few years weren't revolutionary, but mainly improvements to elements already in place. "Either better refresh rates, smaller bezels, or faster processor. And then the big thing is also being around camera," Scarsella said. 

"Looking forward, perhaps we could see something around the form factor," Scarsella added. "We've seen a lot around around foldable displays; Samsung and Huawei did that, and Motorola rereleased the Razr. But it's still yet to be seen that those will make a considerable impact, considering that the technology is new."

Scarsella also mentioned the possible impact of 5G deployment . 5G's promise of high speeds and low latency might be appealing enough for people to buy new, refurbished, or with credit from trading in their  4G devices.  

For more, check out 17 ways to recycle or sell your iPhone X on TechRepublic. 

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mobile smartphone in electronic store


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