5G drives surge in mobile trade-ins in Q1 2021

The latest quarterly HYLA Mobile trade-in and upgrade research has revealed not only the secondary device market continuing its lucrative path, but the significant impact that mobile trade-in programmes are having in supporting 5G smartphone upgrades.

The Q1 Mobile trade-in and upgrade industry trends report from the Assurant subsidiary revealed that in the first quarter of 2021, the mobile trade-in industry returned more than $668m to US consumers – 25% more than was taken in the equivalent quarter a year ago.

The study revealed that the average age of a device when turned in was 3.15 years and, as has been the case for a while, iPhones accounted for the top five devices received during the first quarter of 2021 from trade-in and upgrade programmes. The most popular device was the iPhone XR, followed by the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and iPhone 7. The Samsung Galaxy S9 was the top Android device of Q1 2021.

The average trade-in value for an iPhone in Q1 2021 was $192, while the average trade-in value for an Android smartphone was $96 and the average value of a smartphone at trade-in was $134. By contrast, the highest-valued smartwatch at trade-in in Q1 2021 was the Apple Watch Series 6 at $212, followed by the Apple Watch Series 5 at $176.

Assessing the key trends highlighted in its survey, HYLA noted that for carriers, retailers, OEMs and cable operators, 5G offers an opportunity to drive additional revenues and gain market share, and that strong trade-in and upgrade promotions have also demonstrated results in higher net additions, increased protection programme attachment rates and higher net promoter scores.

“The growing availability of 5G smartphones, combined with the enticing trade-in and upgrade promotions being offered, means we are seeing US consumers take full advantage of these programmes to purchase the latest and greatest 5G devices,” said Biju Nair, EVP and president, global trade-in and upgrades at Assurant. “This presents an opportunity for those offering strong trade-in and upgrade programmes to capitalise on consumer demand for 5G.

“Pre-owned devices can be resold into markets where demand for high-quality devices is strong, while those in emerging markets can benefit from connectivity that is integral to everyday life. This enables our clients to recoup promotion costs, while supporting sustainable practices – a win-win opportunity for the entire ecosystem.”

The HYLA report came just as a similar survey from mobile device diagnostics firm Blancco Technology Group found that 57% of global consumers expect to upgrade to a 5G device in the next 24 months. Of these, almost half intend to trade in their old device as part of the process.

The report demonstrates an opportunity for operators, retailers and OEMs to drive device trade-ins outside traditional retail store walls if consumers can receive the assurances they need. And although 69% of consumers have never engaged with an online trade-in process, consumers are open to the idea. Just over two-fifths said they would be willing to use an online trade-in process in the future, and 31% said they would consider it.

Blancco said the findings demonstrated that online device trade-ins can grow if consumer confidence is improved through greater transparency and appropriate data management.

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