Cast your mind back to the first time you picked up a mobile phone. While it would be considered primitive compared to today’s devices, it seemed magical back then. Without wires, it was able to make and receive calls, send text messages, and (depending on your age), take photos, play music, and connect to a basic version of the internet.
Former owners of Nokia 3310s still have fond memories of that phone, which seemed to be indestructible, have a battery that lasted forever, and the greatest mobile game of them all: Snake. Little did they know what was in store just a few years later.
Now jump forward in time a little to the Macworld conference of January 2007. Steve Jobs got up on stage and pulled out a strange-looking device from his pocket: the iPhone. It was a mobile phone, but without a keyboard. It connected to WiFi, could surf the internet, play music, and more.
When it went on sale later in the year, people lined up outside stores for days, often pushing and shoving others out of the way to be sure they were one of the first to get their hands on one.
As Apple released follow up iPhones like the 3G, 3GS, 4, and 5, the same media and consumer frenzy surrounded their launch. Each time, the company added new features: 3G, 4G, a selfie camera, a better screen, and Siri, all of which people were prepared to hand over their hard-earned cash for.
This wasn’t limited to iPhones either. Android devices developed and progressed at similar rates, with companies like Samsung building strong positions in the market.
But in the last five years or so, things have changed. iPhone sales continued to grow until 2015, peaking at 231 million units shifted that year. They’ve not been able to get close to that record since, though they have reached a plateau by 2019.
Multiple news outlets, including the BBC, CNBC, and The Guardian, have all reported on the fact that consumers are keeping hold of their smartphones for longer than they used to. On average, most smartphone owners keep their handsets for three months longer than they did just a few years ago, with many now opting to keep the same device for three or even four years instead of just two.
But why is this? Have smartphones become boring?
Smartphones are More Expensive
In 2020, the iPhone 12 will set you back $799, that’s $300 more than the original iPhone from 2007. Even when you adjust for inflation, it’s still nearly $200 more. On top of that, if you want the extra features or the bigger screen of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, you’ll be handing over more than $1,000.
This isn’t just an Apple problem, the prices of Android phones have increased at a similar rate.
Since consumers are paying significantly more for their smartphone, they’re likely to keep hold of it for longer so that they’re spending less overall.
Old Phones Still Work Fine
With the exception of battery life problems, smartphones that are three to five years old will almost always work just as well as a new one. Even new apps that are released today are usually compatible with older smartphone OSes.
For example, new mobile games like Call of Duty: Mobile works on Android devices that run version 4.3, which was released back in 2012. Meanwhile, in the casino industry, for example, players are also able to continue playing over 10,000 different slots in platforms as VSO as it still works on Android 4, 5, and 6.
The same is true for social media apps, productivity apps, and most online banking apps, giving consumers no reason to upgrade.
New Phones Don’t Have Exciting Features
In the early 2010s, smartphones got exciting new features each year. People got giddy about Siri, fingerprint scanners, Apple Pay and Android Pay, selfie cameras, and 4G. This meant that they were willing to hand over their cash for a new device.
However, more recently, manufacturers have struggled to replicate this hype with features like wireless charging and optical zoom.
Not even gimmicks like foldable screens have been able to do this, particularly since early models like the Samsung Galaxy Fold was prone to breaking after a few days and its successor costs around $2,000.
Overall, phones just aren’t as exciting as they once were, and we’re expected to pay twice as much for them.