Refurbished smartphone market poised for growth

Tuesday, 12 January, 2021

Refurbished smartphone market poised for growth

Worldwide shipments of officially refurbished and used smartphones are forecast to reach 225.4 million units in 2020, representing a 9.2% increase over the 206.5 million units shipped in 2019. IDC projects that used smartphone shipments will reach 351.6 million units in 2024, with a CAGR of 11.2% from 2019 to 2024.

IDC taxonomy defines a refurbished smartphone as a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner. Once the device has been examined and classified as suitable for refurbishment, it is sent to a facility for reconditioning and is eventually sold via a secondary market channel. A refurbished smartphone is not a ‘hand-me-down’ or gained as a result of a person-to-person sale or trade.

Much of this growth is driven by mature markets in which trade-in emulates a form of subsidy to push consumers to upgrade. Over the past year, there has been rapid growth in trade-in programs and average selling prices (ASPs) across numerous channels. Premium flagship offerings continue to rely on trade-in programs to make the upfront cost more affordable to consumers.

Apple, Samsung and Huawei have all implemented their own programs with aggressive trade-in offers, compared with other channels. Conversely, telcos are using trade-in combined with bundling (family plans and services) to get consumers to turn over their old device and upgrade.

Although the 2020 volume was not as large as expected, the used market still performed well compared with the new market, where IDC predicts a 6.4% decline for the year. As with its previous forecast, IDC still expects to see double-digit growth during the forecast period, at an average of 11.8%.

Will Stofega, Program Director, Mobile Phones, acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic had posed challenges for secondary market participants around able-bodied workers and logistics. Despite this, most of industry was able to satisfy demand for refurbished smartphones.

“Once the pandemic begins to fade, those that were able to invest in technology will be well poised to prosper during the recovery,” Stofega said.

Anthony Scarsella, Research Manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, predicts that the used market for smartphones shows no signs of slowing down across all parts of the globe, in contrast to recent declines in the new smartphone market.

“Refurbished and used devices continue to provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money when purchasing a smartphone. Moreover, the ability for vendors to push more affordable refurbished devices in markets where they normally would not have a presence is helping these players grow their brand as well as their ecosystem of apps, services and accessories,” Scarsella said.

The IDC report, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast 2020–2024, provides an overview and five-year forecast of the worldwide refurbished phone market. It also provides a look at key players and the impact they will have on vendors, carriers and consumers.

Image credit: © Yemelyanov

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