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Your Love of Your Old Smartphone Is a Problem for Apple and Samsung (wsj.com) 120

The smartphone industry has a culprit to blame for slumping sales: Its old devices remain too popular. From a report: Flashy phones of yesteryear, particularly Apple's iPhones and Samsung's Galaxy S handsets, are getting refurbished, and U.S. consumers are snapping them up. Many shoppers are balking at price tags for new phones pushing $1,000, and improvements on latest launches in many cases haven't impressed [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. As more people hold on to devices longer, new smartphone shipments plunged to historic lows at the end of 2017. "Smartphones now resemble the car industry very closely," said Sean Cleland, director of mobile at B-Stock Solutions, the world's largest platform for trade-in and overstock phones, based in Redwood City, Calif. "I still want to drive a Mercedes, but I'll wait a couple of years to buy the older model. Same mentality." Another trend borrowed from the car industry that has helped consumers get around sticker shock: leasing. Instead of buying new phones, Sprint and T-Mobile allow subscribers to effectively lease them, allowing them to trade up for the latest device. That option, though, hasn't yet gone mainstream.

[...] Second-hand phones long found their way to Africa, India and other developing markets. But now, U.S. buyers represent 93% of the purchases made at second-hand phone online auctions run by B-Stock, compared with an about-even split between the U.S. and the rest of the world in 2013. Samsung and Apple together sell more than one out of every three phones globally and capture about 95% of the industry's profits. U.S. consumers, spurred by two-year carrier contracts and phone subsidies, were upgrading every 23 months as recently as 2014, according to BayStreet Research, which tracks device sales. Now, people are holding onto their phones for an extra eight months. By next year, the time gap is estimated to widen to 33 months, BayStreet says.

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Your Love of Your Old Smartphone Is a Problem for Apple and Samsung

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  • Too expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Thursday March 01, 2018 @01:12PM (#56203135)

    If I think $1300CAD is too expensive for a MacBook Air, you can imagine what I think about iPhone prices.

  • by Green Salad ( 705185 ) on Thursday March 01, 2018 @01:13PM (#56203143) Homepage

    Want to sell your new model for $1,000? For me it's simple. Put back the audio jack, make it a bit thicker and stronger. Add the capability to routinely swap micro-SD cards and I'll gladly pay $1,200. I feel like the new smart phones are still trying to market sexy styling ahead of swiss army knife capability...much like cars.

    • Why would you pay $1,200 for a phone that costs maybe $250 to make?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you underpay the people that work to make it happen, maybe it does cost $250

    • " For me it's simple. Put back the audio jack, make it a bit thicker and stronger."

      There are rugged sleeves with an audio jack and even an additional battery.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        In theory, yes. In practice, it's a bunch of Kickstarter projects, and if you happen to be there at the right time, you can order one. Otherwise, you're screwed. None of the major case manufacturers have gotten in on the act, unless I missed something, which is a shame, because that might actually be enough to make me consider upgrading my 6s before its last gasp.

    • I'd be happy with two microSD card slots (one internal mainly for storage, one easily accessed externally for backups), and the phone have an unlockable bootloader, or come with a ROM with root ready to go like in LineageOS.

      However, even then, would I pay four digits for a phone? $200 gets me a LG Stylo 3 Plus, which has a fingerprint scanner, SD card slot, and decent overall performance. $600 gets me a HTC flagship phone (which can be unlocked via HTCDev, then S-Off done via Sunshine) that has top tier c

    • Put back the audio jack, make it a bit thicker and stronger. Add the capability to routinely swap micro-SD cards and I'll gladly pay $1,200.

      I can see the audio jack thing, but can you tell me what you need or do with a micro-sd card on a phone?

      I've never had one, and never noticed I needed something like that, so, I'm curious what your use case is for that.

      • by Dwedit ( 232252 ) on Thursday March 01, 2018 @01:39PM (#56203409) Homepage

        You use a micro SD card to not be constrained by 8GB of internal storage which mysteriously has 6GB used with nothing loaded on there.

        • Actually, I use a Micro SD card to avoid using MTP (Android's Media Transfer Protocol) because MTP is far slower, and doesn't behave like a normal file system. It doesn't work with rsync and moving files from one directory to another seems to actually require copying them instead of just moving as in a traditional FS.

        • You use a micro SD card to not be constrained by 8GB of internal storage which mysteriously has 6GB used with nothing loaded on there.

          Hmm, i just checked, my phone has 128GB storage....guess that's why I never found I ran out of room.

          Mine is pretty much pictures....what else do you store on your phone?

      • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
        I don't know about the OP, but my complete music library is about 80GB. I don't want to put _all_ of it on my phone, but certainly a lot more than manufacturers seem to think I'd want. Plus i often use my phone is an impromptu USB drive to transfer files. And of course there's also ebooks, photos, and videos.

        My phone has 32 GB storage internally, in theory. In practice i'm currently using 19.5 GB of the 21.7 GB available. I'm also currently using 80 GB of the 119 GB available on the SD card.
      • by dasunt ( 249686 )

        I can see the audio jack thing, but can you tell me what you need or do with a micro-sd card on a phone? I've never had one, and never noticed I needed something like that, so, I'm curious what your use case is for that.

        I'm on a metered data connection, and I like listening to music, so I use a cheap 32gb card to store all of my mp3s.

        I also have pictures, etc on the card. But mostly for music.

      • This "storage" of which you speak... pray tell; what is it good for??

        Are you for real?!

        • Are you for real?!

          Actually, yes.

          I have like 128GB on my phone, and I've not come close to filling that up, even with pictures and some music.

          I mean, its a phone, what else do you store on it that takes up THAT much room?

      • My use-case is getting around the annoying iTunes ecosystem. I want to use simple file-system level organization and commands. For a bunch of reasons, I like full tower desktop computers and the command line as the very first icon on the desktop. I travel a lot and keep a full tower desktops in several cities. iTunes seems to think I only need to be tethered to one computer AND THREATENS to ERASE ALL my data because it's synching with a computer other than my "home" computer, which is typically in a com

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Want to sell your new model for $1,000? For me it's simple. Put back the audio jack, make it a bit thicker and stronger. Add the capability to routinely swap micro-SD cards and I'll gladly pay $1,200. I feel like the new smart phones are still trying to market sexy styling ahead of swiss army knife capability...much like cars.

      Since you haven't noticed, your opinion as a consumer as to what you want no longer matters.

      Manufacturers don't give a fuck what you want. You'll get what makes them the most profit, and like it.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Correction. I won't get what makes them the most profit, and they'll just stand around slack-jawed wondering why sales are soft.

      • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

        Manufacturers don't give a fuck what you want. You'll get what makes them the most profit, and like it.

        TFA seem to imply that people don't like it, and that it goes in the way of profits.

  • The marketing makes one feel attached (emotionally) to their Phone Choice. The people now are "invested" in that particular phone. They spend money customizing it with a case, and stickers, and become even more emotionally attached. It is a very "personal" device.

    Now you (Apple, Samsung) want to take it away from me? What are you thinking???!!!!

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Thursday March 01, 2018 @01:13PM (#56203157) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand consumers. The iPhone 8 is so much better than the iPhone 6. It is 2 better. Who wouldn't drop $800 for 2 better?
    • I would gladly upgrade from my iPhone 6 to an iPhone X if the damn thing didn't cost $1,000. Maybe they'll have a reasonably priced model available next year.

      • To 110010001000's point, that would be 4 better 4!!!!!! BETTER!!!!. Buy 2 of them...you got yourself 8 better, for only $2000. Is there a better deal right now? "Some men, you just can't reach..."
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday March 01, 2018 @01:14PM (#56203159)
    They could release OS updates, that intentionally degraded performance of old phones, and when caught they could just claim that they did it to help out people with old batteries?

    Naw... too far fetched.
  • I wonder if I'd be more likely to buy an iPhone 7 or 8 if it had a headphone jack. I wonder if I'd buy an S8 if my finger wasn't covering the screen and registering false touches when I hold it. Just because something looks good doesn't mean it functions well for me. I'll be staying on old tech for a while simply because the newer options are more concerned with design than functionality.
  • Sprint and T-Mobile allow subscribers to effectively lease them, allowing them to trade up for the latest device. That option, though, hasn't yet gone mainstream.

    How is this new?

  • Swappa (Score:2, Informative)

    by ArhcAngel ( 247594 )
    I've been buying and selling devices on Swappa for several years now. I encourage anyone who wants a quality device at a fair price to check it out.
    • Just remember to factor in the price of a replacement battery in the equation. Unfortunately batteries degrade naturally over time due to the cathode oxidizing. The number of charging cycles and temperature conditions greatly affect this process.

      FYI If you are storing a device with a battery charge it to %50 and leave it in cool place. Unfortunately even under ideal conditions the battery will continue to degrade

      • I'm sure most people are aware of this. That said I have an original Barnes & Noble Nook Color I bought in 2010 that still has excellent battery life. I also have a Galaxy S with the original battery that holds a charge fairly well. But I've also had two Galaxy SII that needed multiple battery replacement during their time with me. So YMMV is the golden rule on such things.
  • It is more of the fact that consumers are balancing their need for features with the price they are willing to pay for those features. Once the price tag zoomed over $900 for a smartphone, a lot of people started waking up from the reality distortion field. Why pay $1000 for something when you can get the features you need at a price you find a lot more reasonable?
  • by M0j0_j0j0 ( 1250800 ) on Thursday March 01, 2018 @01:17PM (#56203191)

    It's funny because the car industry now looks like the old smartphone industry!

    • The average car age in the US is 11.6 years or something like that -- people keep cars for half a generation.
  • My phone is primarily for calls, texting, taking photos/videos and putting on social media and a limited number of emails (mostly in the cases of business emergencies). I'm not a big app guy.

    My iPhone 5 (no letter extension) works perfectly for this and I am still getting decent battery life - except for the case where it gets dropped in a blender, why would I consider anything else?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      You are 5 (iPhone X = 10 - 5 = 5) behind. You don't want to be behind. You want to be at the forefront. When Apple comes out with their next phone you will be 6 behind. You are falling even further behind.
    • "My phone is primarily for calls, texting, taking photos/videos and putting on social media and a limited number of emails (mostly in the cases of business emergencies). I'm not a big app guy."

      Ditto here and I don't even do calls. It's good enough and now I even can get a new battery for around 20 bucks.

  • obsolescence (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    My Nexus 6 is only 2 years old and Google decided it won't get security updates in Oct of 2017. Their suggestion was to pay $900+ for a new pixel phone, so I gave them the middle finger and breathed new life into my N6 by installing LineageOS. I'm glad I did, it has been working great. Google's attempt to forcefully deprecate my phone ahead of its time just hardened my resolve to fight tooth and nail to keep it alive as long as possible.

  • $200 limit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    $200 is my limit for a smartphone.

    I want:

    -replaceable battery
    -headphone jack
    -usb and bluetooth, WiFi and 4G
    -Camera
    -GPS

    It just has to be "good enough". The camera in the smartphone is crap, the speakers are crap, the software is crap, even on the so-called high end models.

    I don't need NFC, I don't need to Pay Apple, or Pay Samsung, or Pay Google to pay for things.

    I need to make and receive calls.
    I need to take "good enough" photos, I have an SLR for everything else, or even an old point-and-shoot
    I would like

    • My workplace doesn't have an open guest Wi-Fi access point because they are paranoid about security, and they also have a strict "no devices from home on our network" policy as well. In that case, having a smartphone with a good data plan comes in handy.

  • by RobertNotBob ( 597987 ) on Thursday March 01, 2018 @01:21PM (#56203233)
    I'm sitting here with a Galaxy S5 on my belt... It would be interesting to learn if the obvious nature of this article has reached the actual decision makers, or if it's still perking up. -- and by the way; If you're out there decision makers, the proper conclusion is that your "new features" are not compelling. Higher res screens that are thinner just don't draw customers. ( if they did, the lifecycle would still be 23 months). Nothing, but nothing, beats actually knowing what your customers what. -- Of course, who am I kidding... the obviously take away they will make is that they should make shotty products that fall apart after 23 months.
    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      The S5 was the best phone, and I too have it. If they sold a Galaxy S5 with a newer OS, 32GB, and a slightly faster CPU then I might buy that. But the newer phones actually lost features. The higher-res screens are really worse, not better. The resolution is pointless and it consumes more battery. I won't buy a new phone if it is *worse* than the prior model. If you lookup reviews for each new phone, the review is basically asking "Is this phone better than the prior one?"

      Part of the problem is that t

      • Actually the Note 4 is better then the S5. I have yet to find something to upgrade to as I like my replaceable battery headphone jack, and SD Card slot.

    • Can you still get security updates for the S5? It seems that Samsung cuts you off after three years after the product was originally released, which kinda sucks for those people who buy it on clearance after the new model comes out.

  • Why is this a bad thing, other than for Samsung's and Apple's bottom lines? Keeping devices longer is a green option -- less e-waste being exported and dumped in developing countries. Also, manufacturing itself has environmental and energy costs. Same with shipping. Glad the industry is finally going green, even if it's against its will.
  • by LS1 Brains ( 1054672 ) on Thursday March 01, 2018 @01:26PM (#56203267)
    Apple and Samsung are now eating a big ol' dose of reality.
  • Is it a bigger problem for Apple and Samsung if consumers don't like their latest and greatest products, or is it a problem for consumers that Apple and Samsung are out of touch with what consumers want?
  • It's a phone. I don't need it to do run a million apps or have the computing power to spy on me, I need it to make calls, and it doesn't do that right half the time. Why would I give them more money? It took a year for the lease on the current one to be paid off, I'm sure as shit not committing to another $70+ price tag on a mobile phone bill (let alone $150/mo with the price of a new phone factored in.) Hell, this thing has a screen that cracked the day I got it 2 years ago and the new ones are even mo
  • ... fail to shed any tears for these companies.

    What did you expect people would do when they shell out upwards of $700 for a smartphone? Toss it after a year--maybe two--just so you can keep your shareholders and some financial industry analysts happy?

  • Smartphones reached their peak several years ago. Today's phones are simply overpriced. There's just no need to ever buy a new smartphone for more than $400 or $500 dollars and there's certainly no reason to spend $1,000 on one. This is why I think the best new iPhone today is the SE, a $350 phone that's good enough for almost anyone who wants to use an iPhone. I'm sure things are similar on the Android side. I'll continue using my 4.5 year old iPhone 5S until it dies.
  • http://www.asymco.com/2018/02/... [asymco.com]

    Dideu argues the average life of a cellphone in large part represents the satisfaction of the user with that device. And in particular, the long life of each Apple device represents the substantial satisfaction of the great majority of users of those devices. So if Apple makes money from the use of any iPhone in their Services and app sales, Apple doesn't see this as the problem that a handset maker such as Samsung sees it.

    He quotes Deming:

    Dr. Edward Deming once said that

  • Newer phones are getting increasingly over-priced while removing features and making anti-consumer design changes. Meanwhile, manufacturers are trying more and more underhanded tactics to try and encourage/force users to upgrade sooner than they want/need to.

    So yes, fuck you right back, Apple and Samsung.

  • Not long ago, you HAD to buy a high-end phone to get a decent user experience. But now, any midrange at $200-$300 has what it takes to run very well and do everything 99% of the users need.

  • My iPhone 4 was a great advance over my original iPhone. My 5S was a big improvement over my 4. My 5S still works nicely, with the latest iOS, and there isn't really that much in the new iPhones that entices me. (In the meantime, they made everything but the SE too big to fit in my shirt pockets.)

    We reached a point where four-year-old computers were good enough for almost everyone, and PC sales flattened or dipped. We're doing the same thing with smartphones.

  • I'm considering upgrading from the 6+ that I got new 3.5 years ago to a two-year-old 6s+ with more storage than my current model. I think the inductive charging on the 8+ is cool, but that's not worth losing a headphone jack over.
  • If they already know that, plus the invasion of cheaper chinese brands, why the fuck would they launch an entire new wave of phones that are too expensive for most people to buy?
    Fuck you Apple and Samsung, you brought this on yourselves.

  • I know the headline is tongue-in-cheek, but if smartphone makers actually blame customers it is very much Who Moved My Cheese? [wikipedia.org]

    They're going to have to focus on delivering improvements at reasonable cost, rather than the best technology at no-matter-the-price.

    To use the car analogy, Apple and Samsung have been lucky enough to have a Ford-sized market with Mercedes-sized prices until now. Now that customers have realised that smartphone technology is mature enough that the improvements are small and increment

  • As the title suggests, Stop replacing features people use with features people don't care about.
    • You got rid of my IR port, traveling or using devices is great with that. One of the main reasons I have not upgraded my Note 4.
    • You got rid of my built-in RF modulator. Great for traveling, just tune radio to what your phone is set... even talk over radio. N900
    • Find a way to support replaceable batteries while being waterproof
    • Stop changing the form factor, let our cases, screen protectors, charging cables, ot
  • Generally, this is the reason I refuse to upgrade phones other than price. If the new phone is $1,000 I expect that much added feature to replace what I have. I'm rocking a Samsung Note 4 and it does literally everything I need, and until it fails/cracks/stops performing in some way I'm not going to switch. I got that phone new, it's 4 years old and still does everything a Note 8 would do as far as I can tell. That's the reason you can't sell new phones - their is a dearth of innovation and the old ones are
  • A nasty problem for Apple and Samsung. A wonderful problem for my bank account. I am fine with this trade-off.

  • All this analysis seems to have missed one very big factor. US carriers used to subsidize the phones to the point where the phones used to be free or near-free every 2 years or so. Today those subsidies are gone, or at least are not keeping up with the prices of phones going up. My family used to upgrade with Verizon to new phones every 2 years. Today that will run us ~$500/phone, so we don't do it (even with buy one get one free, a two $1000 phones cost $500 each). A family of 5 would have to spend an aver

  • Its not a love for old phones its hate for the new phone prices. Unless your a narcissist who's self worth is driving by the image of having the latest phone why get one. Aside from the price there is little difference between a 5 year old phone and todays phone, There is NO killer apps that only works on a new phone. New version of the OS offer little features and security fixes for most of us.
  • These apply to the majority of phones out there...

    Multi-day day usage with single charge - Removed
    Hardware keyboards - Removed
    User replaceable batteries - Removed
    Hardware buttons - Removed
    Phones that are actually think enought to hold - Removed
    Phones that can be used in one hand - Removed
    3.5 Audio Plug - Removed

    Here are the features that are on the chopping block:
    Expandable Memory Card Slot - Removal Pending....

  • BRING BACK THE REMOVABLE BATTERY! I keep replacing my aging Note 4 with the same model because I'm not going to buy another phone of yours that won't let me swap the battery out. The recent Note 8 issue never would have happened if the battery was removable. Sure I have to buy branded OEM versions like Anker or Powerbear because Samsung batteries are counterfeited to death but being able to simply swap the battery when it is low is a critical feature. Otherwise you have to lure people like me with better

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