…or we are too poor to afford new ones. Or both, heck if I know! This is not part of some large study, I have not conducted anything of that sort. It’s the result of looking around at people in my life I am surrounded with, I am in contact with. From the cashier at the gas station to the neighbors I greet, from my gym buddies to my friends and their inner circles.
Everyone’s carrying two-three year old phones (including yours truly, more on that later), with absolutely zero desire for an upgrade. The “new iPhone” is not much more exciting than the “new Galaxy”, and that attracts zero interest.
One could conclude that the entire industry just plateaued, after a tremendous adoption curve about ten years ago. But that would be a very rushed, uneducated guess, and we’d rather explore specific real-life reasons why this became a phenomenon.
Phones are too expensive
…or we’re too poor to afford them. Ever since we broke the $1,000 psychological barrier, things changed. You see, breaking that barrier (thank you Apple – iPhone X, and Samsung – Galaxy Note 8) was more than just that. It screwed things up forever in the minds of consumers.
It’s not easy to comprehend how or why we look at an $800 or $700 dollar phone differently now, post crossing the $1,000 line, than we did before that. Those $800 are suddenly perceived more expensive than the previous $800, if that makes sense. Humans be humans, and there’s a dedicated science trying to understand their behavior.
Add to the above a global shortage of raw materials and components, and you have a serious recipe for price hypes. Throw in the mix the other global thing, called inflation, add a little bit of pandemic financial uncertainty, a pinch of global unrest from events in Europe, and that iPhone 12 or Galaxy S10 in your pocket is looking really good.
Phones are too good
This one’s on the manufacturers, and they kind of, sort of shot themselves in the foot. People are extremely fine with holding on to their money rather than buying a new model because the model they currently have simply does the job. Except the situation where phone meets pavement (and phone usually loses) there’s simply no reason to upgrade.
Software and hardware became so good that a two-three year old phone is still snappy, still takes great pictures, and battery health barely dropped by five percent at worst. If you’re not a geek (or a phone reviewer), you’re completely fine with what you have.
I still own an iPhone 12 Pro Max
…and I have absolutely zero interest in getting the 14. That is, for my private, personal phone. My work phone is always changing depending on what I’m getting in for a review (at the time of writing this, it’s the HONOR Magic4 Pro), but that’s not the topic 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 it, and that’s all one can ask for. It satisfies all my needs, and I have no interest or reason to upgrade.
A global social disinterest
…could also be one reason why we’re no longer attracted to new smartphones. Pretty much everyone got what they wanted, when they wanted it, and the X factor became a point upgrade when it comes to the successor.
We’ve reached a point where there are more smartphones than landlines in the urban western society, and a smartphone is no longer a rara avis like it used to be ten years ago. Those in my generation (that’s Generation X, not Boomers by the way) lived to see the adoption of smartphones in the early days spread like a wildfire. Back in the day it meant something to have a smartphone, people showed off their devices every time they could, inflating their egos every day, feasting on the envy of others who wished they could afford or get access to one.
Now it’s so “normal” to have a smartphone as it is to get dressed before you walk out your home (no disrespect for those who don’t, more power to you!).
While we won’t spend top dollar on a new phone every year, I think we would absolutely go crazy if we lost or damaged our phones, and we’d run to the store to get a new one in the same breath. Losing a limb wouldn’t be a bigger tragedy for some, but that’s yet another topic for another conversation.
Phone makers and carriers have been quick to note and talk about the lengthening of the upgrade/ownership cycle, but that was just the beginning. At the end of the day, regardless of what’s the root cause of the behavior, we simply hold on to our phones much longer than we did, and that’s both good and bad at the same time.
How about you? When did you buy your current phone? Are you planning on upgrading? Agree or disagree, drop a line below and let’s have a conversation.