New phone models arrive monthly. Most phone product lines get an annual refresh.
Apple usually does its annual iPhone upgrades all at once.
Top Android phone makers like Samsung, Huawei and Nokia have a few product lines. Each line gets its own annual update. The phone makers tend to stagger their launches.
Add in the smaller brands and yes, we see a dozen launches of note each year.
Goodbye two year refresh cycle
Phone makers expect you to hang on to a device for at least two years even if they refresh their model lines every year.
New Zealand’s Inland Revenue Department depreciates phones at 67 percent a year. That implies a life expectancy of under two years.
We’re holding on for longer
Most of us now hold onto phones for longer than two years. No-one forces us to operate on a fixed timetable.
There’s still a difference between Apple and Android phones. Android phone users tend to keep their phones for less time than iPhone users. Apple’s sales figures reflect this. iPhone revenues peaked two years ago. Apple is now focusing on selling services to its customers to make up the shortfall.
Five years ago Benedict Evans reported Android users keep phones for under two years. Back then, Apple iPhones stayed in use for more than two years. There are interesting theories about this in the comments on Evans’ post. This also explains why second-hand iPhones hold their value better than Android phones.
One reason people hold on to phones for longer is that upgrades are more incremental than in the past. A few years ago there would be dramatic changes from one year to the next. Now the emphasis is on cameras and cosmetics.
Phone hardware can live for years
Phones can take a beating. Owners handle them many times each day. They get dropped, knocked, scratched and soaked.
If you look after your phone and it doesn’t pick up too much moisture, the battery is the first part to wear out. Constant use and charging cycles mean they degrade over time. After about three to four years use they hold as little as half the charge they managed when they were new.
Although it may seem expensive to pay someone NZ$100 to replace a battery, it’s cheaper than buying a new phone.
Screens last three to ten years depending on the technology, build quality and your use. Often the screen backlighting goes first. Again, repairers can fix these problems.