… or we are too poor to buy new ones. Or both, heck if I know! It’s not part of a big study, I haven’t done anything like that. It is the result of looking around me at the people with whom I am surrounded, with whom I am in contact. From the cashier at the gas station to the neighbors I greet, from my gym buddies to my friends and their loved ones.
Everyone wears two- to three-year-old phones (including yours, we’ll talk about that later), with no desire to upgrade. The ‘new iPhone’ isn’t much more exciting than the ‘new Galaxy’, and there’s no interest in that.
One could conclude that the whole industry has just plateaued, after a tremendous adoption curve about ten years ago. But that would be a very hasty and uneducated guess, and we’d rather explore the specific real-life reasons why this has become a phenomenon.
Phones are too expensive
…or we are too poor to afford them. Since breaking the $1,000 psychological barrier, things have changed. You see, breaking that barrier (thanks Apple – iPhone X and Samsung – Galaxy Note 8) was more than that. This has screwed up everything in the minds of consumers.
It’s not easy to understand how or why we look at an $800 or $700 phone differently now, after crossing the $1,000 line, than before. That $800 suddenly feels more expensive than the previous $800, if that makes sense. Humans are humans, and there is dedicated science trying to understand their behavior.
Couple the above with a worldwide shortage of raw materials and components, and you have a serious recipe for price crazes. Add to that the other global thing, called inflation, add some pandemic financial uncertainty, a pinch of global unrest due to events in Europe, and that iPhone 12 or Galaxy S10 in your pocket looks really good.
Phones are too good
This one is about the makers, and they kind of shot themselves in the foot. People are fine with saving their money over buying a new model because the model they have now just does the job. Barring the situation where the phone meets the curb (and the phone usually loses), there’s simply no reason to upgrade.
Software and hardware have gotten so good that a two- to three-year-old phone is still snappy, still takes great photos, and battery health has barely dropped by five percent at worst. If you’re not a geek (or a phone reviewer), you’re totally fine with what you’ve got.
I still have an iPhone 12 Pro Max
…and I have absolutely no interest in getting 14 – like I skipped 13 too. That is to say for my private and personal phone. My work phone is constantly changing based on what I get for a review (at the time of this writing it’s the HONOR Magic4 Pro), but that’s not what we’re exploring today.
At 99% battery health after almost two years, it does everything it did on day one, the same way it did, and that’s all one can ask for . It meets all my needs, and I have no interest or reason to upgrade.
A global social disinterest
…could also be one of the reasons why we are no longer attracted to new smartphones. Almost everyone got what they wanted, when they wanted it, and the X-factor became a one-time upgrade as far as successor goes.
We have reached a point where there are more smartphones than landlines in urban Western society, and a smartphone is no longer a rare notice like ten years ago. Those of my generation (meaning Gen X, not baby boomers by the way) have lived long enough to see smartphone adoption spread like wildfire. Back then it meant something to have a smartphone, people showed off their devices whenever they could, inflating their egos every day, feasting on the envy of others who wished they could afford it or y have access.
Now, it’s so “normal” to have a smartphone than to get dressed before leaving the house (no contempt for those who don’t have one, more power to you!).
While we don’t spend top dollar on a new phone every year, I think we’d be absolutely mad if our phones were lost or damaged, and we’d be running to the store to buy a new one in the same breath. Losing a limb wouldn’t be a greater tragedy for some, but that’s yet another topic for another conversation.
Phone makers and carriers were quick to note and talk about the longer upgrade/ownership cycle, but that was just the beginning. Ultimately, whatever the root cause of the behavior, we’re just keeping our phones around much longer than we used to, and that’s both good and bad.
And you? When did you buy your current phone? Are you planning an upgrade? Agree or disagree, drop a line below and let’s chat.
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