UK: A fifth of consumers want to use their smartphones for over half a decade
March 29th, 2023, Rishad Dsouza

UK: A fifth of consumers want to use their smartphones for over half a decade

As the smartphone market and underlying technology has matured over the years, an increasing number of brands have turned their attention to device longevity in a bid to woo new consumers. A number of Android manufacturers, from Google Pixel to Samsung, have increased the number of years they provide software updates, indicating their intent to produce phones that last longer.

Recent YouGov Surveys data shows why this might be a prudent move. A fifth of consumers in the UK say they want to use their smartphones for more than five years (19%). Another 13% want to run with the same device for between four to five years, while just under a quarter say they want to use their devices for between three to four years (23%). As in the US, the most popular time-frame for desired smartphone usage is between two to three years at 27%. Cumulatively, a whopping 82% of all consumers in the UK want to use their phones for at least two years.

Note that ‘consumers’ in this piece refers only to those who have indicated an intent to ever purchase a smartphone, which represents 91% of the overall UK population. (About a tenth – 9% – of respondents said they wouldn’t buy a smartphone at all).

Overall, only 1% of UK consumers say they would use a phone for less than a year. About a tenth of them say they would run with a device for between one and two years (11%).

But significant differences emerge in the length of time for which consumers want to use smartphones when controlling for the amount of money people intent to spend on their next device.

Ultra-premium smartphone buyers (spend over £1000 on their next smartphone) are nearly four times likelier than other groups to want to switch their phones in under a year, which is still only 4%. Roughly one in seven of them also say they will use their phones for between one to two years (15%), which is similar to those in the premium bracket (14%). A third of ultra-premium users say they would use their smartphones for more than two years but less than three years (33%).

Meanwhile, only a tenth of ultra-premium buyers (10%) say they would use their phones for more than five years, which is half that of the overall average. By contrast, a quarter of budget phone buyers say they would use their phones for more than five years (24%).

Relative to other price groups, mid-range buyers show a particularly strong proclivity towards the four to five years usage cycle (20%), with a fifth of them saying they would use their devices for that period.

Upper mid-range buyers, on the other hand, over-index on the other groups in the three to four years smartphone usage bracket. In fact, this is the only group where the two to three year usage bracket doesn’t get the highest percentage of the vote share.

An opportunity for marketers

Even though four-fifths of consumers in the UK want to use their smartphones for over two years (82%), only a fifth of them consider the number of years of software updates available an important factor when buying a new device (20%). Meanwhile, nearly two-fifths of them (36%) rate “durability” as a key aspect in the list of smartphone features they consider important. 

This indicates that a large share of consumers still only thinks about physical durability of their device when purchasing a new device. Brands that emphasise the role software plays in keeping phones snappy and functional over long periods of time might have a crack at gaining market share in the competitive smartphone market.

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YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. The data is based on surveys of adults aged 18+ years in the UK with an overall sample size of 2,018 adults. All surveys were conducted online in December 2022. Data for UK uses a nationally representative sample. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.