Used smartphone demand soars in 2022, expected to continue through 2026

The analyst company IDC has found that refurbished and used smartphone global shipments reached 282.6 million in 2022, up from 253.4 million the year before; this represents an increase of 11.5%. With companies like Apple, Google, and Nokia providing updates for longer on their devices, even two-year-old phones can be running the latest software.

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According to IDC, this growth rate is expected to continue through 2026 where it predicts shipments will stand at 413.3 million with a compound annual growth rate of 10.3%.

"The used market was able to grow 11.5% in 2022 thanks to the 6.1% rebound we witnessed in the new market for 2021," says Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "Used devices demonstrate more resilience to market inhibitors than new smartphone sales as consumer appetite remains elevated in many regions. Attractive price points are critical for growth as cost savings remain the primary benefit. However, a high-end inventory struggle due to elongated refresh cycles in the new market has used prices growing over 11% in 2022."

It’s interesting to note that used smartphones make up a larger market share in the rest of the world compared to North America. In 2022, used device shipments made up 26% of all shipments in North America but in the rest of the world, this figure stood at 74%. This is likely down to the fact that second-hand devices are cheaper than buying new ones. By 2026, IDC expects second-hand phone shipments to decline to 25.1% in North America and grow to 74.9% in the rest of the world.

Aside from the obvious benefits of buying second-hand, there’s an environmental factor too. While the environment may not be what people are thinking about when they buy second-hand phones, the practice of buying second-hand keeps phones out of landfills for longer. In some cases, when phones are returned to OEMs, the materials are reused, as is the case with Apple and its disassembly robots.

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