back to article Smartphones are becoming like white goods, says analyst, with users only upgrading when their handsets break

The smartphone trade is beginning to resemble the market for white goods with punters increasingly likely to wait until their device is broken before seeking a replacement. In a survey of around 1,000 UK consumers, CCS Insight found that nearly 34 per cent believe they'll hang on to their current phones longer than previous …

  1. mark l 2 Silver badge

    There isn't a lot of new features coming out when companies realise a new flagship phone these days. It all increments such as slightly better camera, a bit faster CPU or more memory. So there is less incentive to upgrade.

    As for security updates, I think the majority of end users don't even know whether they should be getting security updates or not. And that is partly because they have become like white goods like the article mentions. No one thinks about whether their washing machine or fridge needs any updates. And as long as the apps people want to use still work, they will carry on using the phone even if they no longer receive security patches. None of the phones i have had haven't informed me that there were no more security updates when it reached EOL, they just stop coming.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Not a lot of new features?

      Well, the phone companies especially, EE seem to think otherwise.

      What about 5G

      Deathly silence... I guess no one really cares. I don't. If I could get 4G in more than one room in my house it would be great. Thankfully, these days, I make all my calls over WiFi.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not a lot of new features?

        As one who keeps his phone until it starts to die, the new (actually retro) feature that consumers need is a replaceable battery.

        Like that will ever happen.

        1. Ozan

          Re: Not a lot of new features?

          And infrared.I miss using my phone as a remote.

          1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: Not a lot of new features?

            > I miss using my phone as a remote

            There's a plethora of home-automation systems with IR blasters. You can then command it to send whatever command from any device, not just your phone. And you can do it from anywhere.

            So yes, now you can turn your TV on before you get home...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: a plethora of home-automation systems with IR blasters.

              Yeah, that sounds much better than using my phone as a remote for my telly. Loads more to go wrong, lots of fun trying to make it work.

              Fuck tv, I'd rather spend all evening trying to debug IoT devices.

              This is why modern IT is so shit. KISS

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: a plethora of home-automation systems with IR blasters.

                Don't think my tv even has an IR port...

                The remote is almost certainly bluetooth (or something else in the 2.4GHz band.

                If I want to use my phone as a remote then I can, I just need to join the sewer network, and it will work.

            2. Cynic_999

              Re: Not a lot of new features?

              Hmmm - so does that mean that instead of having a remote control with dedicated buttons that will control (say) the TV volume directly via an IR beam, you can instead use your phone and (after entering your PIN or fingerprint) open an app which (provided you select the correct menu item) has touchscreen buttons that allow you to adjust the TV volume. Whereupon your phone will use your WiFi to contact a server halfway across the World and request it to send data back across 6000 miles or so to contact the IR blaster by your elbow and request that it send the IR code to adjust your TV's volume? Which will take a while to get right because the lag means that you are constantly overshooting from too loud to too soft.

              Although if it gets too slow during peak times or internet/server outages, you can always stand up, walk across the room and use the controls on the TV set (not a lot of people know of that alternative).

              1. Shaha Alam

                Re: Not a lot of new features?

                but my tv only has an on and off button.

                and even that i suspect is just a placebo to switch on or off the led.

                1. Cynic_999

                  Re: Not a lot of new features?


                  ... but my tv only has an on and off button.


                  Check behind the bezel or for flip-down panels hiding more buttons. Maybe your TV is an exception, but every TV I have owned has buttons to control basic functions *somewhere*. Otherwise it becomes totally unusable when the batteries in the remote go flat. Or when you can't find the remote. Or the dog uses it as a chew toy.

              2. This post has been deleted by its author

              3. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: Not a lot of new features?

                I have an "IoT" heating system...

                It never goes anywhere the internet, it's purely local control - Because I can VPN into home I can adjust stuff remotely if I want. But having each room be able to call for heat from the boiler is really quite nice - particularly since my office is about the least insulated room in the house. I can turn the heat off in there as I leave "work" and let it drop as far as it wants (I limit it to 10, but that's never kicked in) overnight before turning it on when I wake up so that it's warm when I start work.

            3. illiad

              Re: Not a lot of new features?

              My samsung smart TV has an app for android that will make you phone into a 'TV remote' :) NO IR needed...

          2. NoKangaroosInAustria

            Re: Not a lot of new features?

            My phone has that and I think it's awesome!

            And since I choose it specifically for being an Android One phone, it has the added benefit that I'm still getting security updates even though the phone came out July 2018.

            I'm currently on Security update status of 1. December 2020. Contrast with my previous Huawei that basically stopped receiving updates half a year after i bought it.

            Btw, it's a Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite. Downside - it doesn't have the best Camera. Basically any of the Samsung Galaxy Phones I have owned had a better camera.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Not a lot of new features?

              "the added benefit that I'm still getting security updates even though the phone came out July 2018."

              it's a sad state of affairs and soundly damming of the rest of the mobile phone industry when a phone getting security updates after two and half years is seen as a benefit. Three years ought to be the minimum one should expect.

            2. Stork Silver badge

              Re: Not a lot of new features?

              I have a Nokia Android One, and I am wondering whether to replace it or try to roll back.

              Since the last major upgrade it has become p a i n f u l l y slow. Changing active app can take 10-20 sec, even if I just want to see text messages.


          replaceable battery: does indeed exist!

          Fairphone (Dutch), Shiftphone (German), Librem 5 from Purism (US), ...

          1. Shaha Alam

            Re: replaceable battery: does indeed exist!

            replaceable batteries in good phones. the kind people want to buy and use and that dont frustrate.

      2. Halfmad

        Re: Not a lot of new features?

        You mean you DON'T want a folding phone which will be more bulky and cumbersome to use and mean slightly large images and less scrolling?

        Me neither, in fact I think it's one of the most daft ideas they've come up with since the last re-try at 3D TVs. No doubt that'll come back around again.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Spot on. I only upgraded my old (second hand) phone to another second hand phone when some key apps were going to stop working.

      My old phone is still used as a media player and SatNav.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      >There isn't a lot of new features coming out when companies release a new flagship phone these days. It all increments such as slightly better camera, a bit faster CPU or more memory.

      Its been like that since the iPhone was originally launched. Just that back then the incremental improvements seemed so much more substantive because they were so much more noticeable and actually made the device more usable.

    4. juice

      There's also a third point, which I'm surprised isn't brought up more.

      These days, buying a new phone is pretty much the equivalent of buying a new laptop - or wiping and reinstalling the OS on your existing machine.

      In short, you have to copy (or restore from backup) all your files and data. And accounts. And software. And reconfigure all your preferred widgets. And set up all your icons and folders. And set up faceid/thumbid/kneeid/whatever. Etc...

      Overall, it's a huge amount of faff; there's a lot more personalisation on your phone than many people realise or think about.

      And for all that there's been a lot of work put into streamlining the process of transferring things like data and accounts (e.g. using NFC to trigger a wireless clone), there's still a lot of stuff which has to be done manually.

      Which all means that there's an ever increasing set of reasons for people to not upgrade...

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Again I'm adding on an extra point from the real world. Too many (far too many) people have unbacked-up data - particularly photos- on their Android phones ( or don't understand iCloud) and changing phones is a matter of dread. [Losing phones doesn't bear thinking about - till it happens)

      2. David Hicklin Bronze badge

        These days, buying a new phone is pretty much the equivalent of buying a new laptop - or wiping and reinstalling the OS on your existing machine.

        This is not always the case and Apple are very good here. When I lost my 6 and had a replacement, after restoration it felt like I was on the old one again, and the daughters upgrade when switched on simply found old one alongside it and asked "to you want to transfer ?" a short while later she was up and away.


          that comes for a price ...

          yes, and that comes for a price: Apple knows everything about you.

          For Apple you are not just naked, you are transparent.

    5. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Add to that the "slightly better camera" probably is not going to make the slightest difference to the vast majority, for whom the last phone but one was probably better than they needed.

      1. Shaha Alam

        definitly. not to mention the older phone has a camera, which at the time, probably had rave reviews. so it's not like the new camera made the old camera shit. the old camera is still good.

  2. a_yank_lurker

    New Features

    Bargain basement smartphones have all the features users want. Other than photo and video, they are just as capable as their more expensive brethren at the core functions of a phone (phone calling and texting). They may lack the horsepower to run something Orifice well (memory and cpu limitations mostly). But if you are not running something like Orifice on your phone there is no pressing need to update your phone when new ones are released. And in some cases a mid range phone may have enough horsepower to run something like Orifice.

    The high end phones are (over)sold based on their photo and video capabilities. Physics basically limits the photo and video capabilities for 2 reasons. The lens are fixed focal length. The sensors are very small. Both force the phone manufacturers to rely on more processing to make up for optical deficiencies of the camera which usually does a very acceptable job. So the phones need more horsepower for efficient optical processing.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: New Features

      Google's Pixel magic algorithms originally came from efforts to coax usable images out of the camera on the Google Glass (a camera module which was even smaller than the sensors used on phones at the time or today). And yeah, Google, like Apple and later Qualcomm et al developed hardware accellerators to be baked into their SoCs for this sort of computation.

      I wouldn't let yourself be confused by the mere accident of history that led to us referring to our pocket internet terminals / connected PDAs as 'phones', though. The 'core function(s)' of the general purpose device depends upon the individual user.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: New Features

        Googles "magic' algorithms are just something MS and Nokia on the Winphone were doing

        years before.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: New Features

      I think the problem with phone cameras is every phone has them. We have a few hundred gig of pictures taken on phones here that will probably only ever be seen by my AI experiments.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: New Features

        That is so true. Back in the days of film camera, the vast majority of users would be careful of when an dhow often they took photos because every click of the shutter release cost money. With digital photos, there's no noticeable cost (maybe a bit electricity of such low cost to the user it basically free) so people take way more images than they ever did in the past. The vast majority will probably never be seen again, but people are loath to delete any of them "just in case". Even the really crap ones where they then took a better one.

        My work phone camera gets mainly used for taking photos of tiny, hard to read serial numbers and connector layouts. They get deleted as soon as the job is done :-)

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: New Features

          Yup, I send my phone pictured to the main PC, where there's a backup routine that even paranoics think is a bit extreme*. But I have to force myself to go through and remove the obvious crap/duplicated/unnecessary ones.

          This, though, for me and I'm guessing most others is not simply reluctance to remove pictures "just in case" so much as reluctance to face this chore when there are five times more photos of five times more subjects than I could possibly ever want to see.

          --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------* Everything from when the kids were young was already backed up to a set of DVDs -or two.

          The entire photos' partition (including the early stuff and scans of old paper photos).is now backed up to a second HDD's partition, reserved for photos, then to an external HDD which is regularly swapped so that there is always another drive with the pictures on. A further copy is on a 32gb USB pen drive, which is not stored in our house.

          Then, Since Windows' screen saver routine can't access more than one designated folder I've made a selection of the most important or interesting pictures and saved these to a single folder on the (underused) C: drive- which is regularly imaged to another internal HDD's "images" partition, and also to the external HDD's "images" partitions.

          And then I back up most of the pictures to the various free "cloud" storage, (dropbox,Onedrive, Google and so forth) from time to time.

    4. Greybearded old scrote

      Re: New Features

      You know what? Even a low end smartphone has a CPU, RAM and storage that would have been impossible in the '90s. Usually more pixels in the display too. And yet we had perfectly usable orifice applications.

      Give it a bluetooth keyboard and mouse ⁠— and a magnifying glass* ⁠— and it would run such a thing again. Or could do if anybody cared about bloat.

      * Brazil...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: New Features

        I have WPS office on my phone. With a keyboard and a bigger screen I'd probably use it as an office app. But since I have a laptop too, the phone app is used primarily for tracking my business mileage and expenses because it's always to hand, "instant on" and easy to use while parked up in the car. Likewise, email and opening attachments. The laptop is better, but needs to be pulled out, opened, switched on, the app takes time to load, it's harder use without a mouse (although has a touch screen which mitigates the mouse issue somewhat). I can sort my expenses on the phone quicker that the time it take to get the laptop out and started up. It's horse for courses, but if I was more of an occasional user and primarily only needed access to office stuff at a desk, yes, a dock with screen/kb/mouse for a phone would easily do it for me. My old phone, and my previous, older phone, was more than powerful enough to use as a "desktop" for most of my use cases.

  3. trist

    They all look the same these days....

    Given that they are all just screen on sided and they all pretty much look the same. No matter how slick and sexy you make an add, you are still just selling a big fat choco block device.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: They all look the same these days....

      Form follows function, so yeah, these things that people use for viewing text and video do all look like screens.

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: They all look the same these days....

      I would just like them to fit in the average pocket & not have a screen resolution that makes the text so small you can barely read it.

      Maybe I am just an old fart but this obsession with ever higher screen resolution looks good on paper but people fail to realise that it just crams more on the screen so everything is smaller. Even the the increases in screen size don't make up for it.

      1. Martin
        Thumb Up

        Re: They all look the same these days....

        And yes - why are they all so BIG these days? One or two of my jeans have shallow pockets, and if I sit down with my phone in the front pocket, it can be quite uncomfortable.

        Also, I've only got a small hand and it would be nice to be able to use my phone easily one-handed. Time was when 4" screens were ubiquitous - nowadays, they hardly exist.

        1. Blackjack Silver badge

          Re: They all look the same these days....

          Get a new Nokia, some of their models have small screens.

          A HMD Global Nokia 2.4 may be what you want. If ii is too basic, maybe a Nokia 3.4?

          Just beware that updating the Android version may slow down things by a whole lot.

        2. Andronnicus Block

          Re: They all look the same these days....

          Agreed. I’m still using an iPhone SE (with another as a hot spare) and Mrs Block is very happy with an iPhone 5S. For me, the phone is just a phone with occasional useful features like the camera, pay by phone parking app, the odd bit of web browsing and so on. But then I’m retired now and when at home would rather use one of several iPads (Pros and also Air 2s - don’t ask) with a far bigger screen and nicer user experience.

      2. Cynic_999

        Re: They all look the same these days....

        There is little point in having better resolution on the screen than the resolution of your eyeball at normal viewing distance.

        1. HausWolf

          Re: They all look the same these days....

          I use mine as a portable magnifier at times, as my 60+ year old eyes can't read the tiny fonts on many devices any longer.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: They all look the same these days....

        "a screen resolution that makes the text so small you can barely read it."

        ...and apps or web pages that don't let you zoom in!!

        1. illiad

          Re: They all look the same these days....

          how to enable 'zoom in' in Android Firefox beta..

          select 'desktop site'.. :) :)

      4. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: They all look the same these days....

        "I would just like them to fit in the average pocket & not have a screen resolution that makes the text so small you can barely read it."

        That's why you go into the phone settings and choose the default font size that best suits your eyesight. Problem solved. You only pick a smaller font size if you can comfortably read it.

        (I realise I'm gradually getting older when, not only do I now need glasses for watching films at the cinema, but I also can't comfortably crank the font size down to the smallest size any more, so second smallest size it is, then. I realistically expect that I may have to increase it again at some point in the future.)

  4. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Interdependent variables

    ... and self-fulfilling prophecies.


    User in 2018 needs a new phone for whatever reason. They notice that the latest phones don't represent a massive upgrade over their last phone, compared to the advances that they saw in their past upgrades. The user can't imagine any near future phone as suddenly introducing a 'must have' new feature or being leaps and bounds ahead of existing phones.

    Therefore: they decide that whatever phone they buy will do a good job for next few years. Having decided that they will be buying a phone for next several years they spend a bit more on it (to get full features, wireless charging, waterproofing, nice screen, better camera, whatever). Knowing it is a pricier model that has to last them for years, they use a good case, screen protectors, and generally take good care if it.

    In short, some variables may be independent, some variables interact with each other.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Interdependent variables

      Exactly, to users, circ 2~4 years ago smartphones became white goods, events of the last year have only helped to reinforce that perception; it seems the analysts are just starting to catch up.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Interdependent variables

        > the analysts are just starting to catch up

        They are just blinded by the wishful thinking of the industry, for whom phones are consumables, as in: You pay for them (through the nose), then open the box and throw them away to go pay for a even newer model.

        For most users they have always been white goods, and no amount of attempts to force them to change phone every year (fixed batteries, difficult repairs, no upgrades) could change that - especially at this price range. Who would throw away a year-old laptop, just because a new model (with identical specs) was just released? Nobody sane, I think.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interdependent variables

          I have had 4 phones in the last 14 years.

          * Sony Ericsson K800i which was bombproof. Lasted for years. Only retired when I need to run an app on a smartphone for work purposes.

          * HTC, can't remember model. I managed to lose it.

          * Lumia 630. Great phone. Would still use it if an app I needed was still supported on Windows phone.

          * Forced to move to Huawei Y7 Pro 2019 last year to run an app I need for work. Cheapish, cheerful, does the job. I don't like Android, but dislike iOS even more. Cant see any reason I will be replacing it anytime soon.

  5. Richard Jones 1

    No Surprises

    My previous mobile lasted 8 years and was only replaced in 2016 because I wanted to link it to a new car. Apart from using Bluetooth the linking has been largely ignored.

    More recently I downloaded an activity application, on second thoughts about 3 years ago.

    I have just realised the mobile is now about 5 years old, I barely care about OS updates since I do not use it for financial or other sensitive work.

    The battery is still OK, it lasts all day, other than it is a bit slow so, just where is the replacement incentive?

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: No Surprises

      People who think "I barely care about OS updates since I do not use it for financial or other sensitive work." are the reason we have botnets.

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

        Re: No Surprises

        No it's not. The reason we have botnets is solely because of the criminals and scumbags that build them.

        1. rd232

          Re: No Surprises

          You're both wrong (to the extent you insist your reason is "the" reason). There are a plethora of reasons that botnets exist, you've each mentioned one. Others include, to pick at random, the invention of electricity and the fact that some people think some of their devices can't really get infected.

      2. DevOpsTimothyC

        Re: No Surprises

        > People who think "I barely care about OS updates since I do not use it for financial or other sensitive work." are the reason we have botnets.

        Why should end users care at all about OS (security) updates? OS (security) updates SHOULD be a thing that the end users are completely oblivious of because they "just happen" without interrupting the end user, possibly with the exception of a nagging "you need to restart your device"

        The real problem is that manufacturers can decided to EoL a perfectly viable product so they can sell something else. If manufacturers were liable for all security issues resulting from their lack of patching and had to deal with any remaining devices as e-waste, possibly having to buy back any outstanding devices things would be quite different.

  6. Snake Silver badge

    Been [there] for years

    I generally keep my phone until it either dies or is no longer supported by the apps I want to run (which I consider an extremely displeasant choice by the developers).

    Anyway, who buys "new"? I buy last season's best models as new leftovers off eBay at a fraction of what the greedy telco carriers want to charge me for this year's hype.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Been [there] for years

      I know what you mean.

      I gave up on the telcos years ago when I had a sudden epiphany. In my case, it was signing on to a new contract, then a decent new phone would be launched that I really wanted, but I had to wait until the contract ran out, by which time it wasn't new anymore. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      I realised - and I fully accept that a lot of others will have sussed it way before I did - that if I bought an unlocked phone and went for a SIM-only contract, I was miles better off and I could upgrade whenever I felt like it. In the long run, it was a lot cheaper, especially when the phone still had a resale value with Mazuma.

      I have been a long-time HTC devotee, and starting with the M8 this was how I did it. The SIM-only bill was half what I paid before, for five times more data, and at each phone iteration the old one had a resale value of up to a fifth of the price of the new one. Overall, it worked out much better - with the not easily monetized upgrade-whenever-I-wanted benefit.

      Since HTC gave up with the flagships (AFAIK), and with my U11 getting old (it's now my FPV for my drone), I recently got a spanking OnePlus 8 Pro from Aliexpress (a configuration not available in Europe) for about 70% of the cost of the lesser versions available here. If HTC springs any surprises, then I can switch, and the OnePlus will have a decent resale value. If not, I keep the OnePlus until it, too, gets old, or something dramatically better appears.

      I understand not everyone can afford to buy new phones, but I reckon a lot might consider it if they realised how much they could save.

      But everyone has a different motivation for what they want or need.

      1. juice

        Re: Been [there] for years

        > I understand not everyone can afford to buy new phones, but I reckon a lot might consider it if they realised how much they could save.

        I think the key point is that people aren't upgrading because they don't understand how cheaply they can do it; the existing kit they have is Good Enough.

        My dad's a case in point; he had a Samsung S6, and his telco sent him an S8 which sat in a kitchen drawer for months. He only upgraded to it once it got to the point where things started refusing to work on his old phone. Such as the National Lottery app ;)

        To be fair, he's not techie, he doesn't really use social media, and the camera quality was good enough for his purposes (aka: taking photographs when working, to document repairs - of the need thereof).

        > The SIM-only bill was half what I paid before, for five times more data, and at each phone iteration the old one had a resale value of up to a fifth of the price of the new one

        That's an approach I've taken in the past, but I ended up back on a contract in the last cycle, since photo quality is a significant factor for me, and the best cameras are found on flagship/expensive handsets. Aka the Samsung S10+ (then) and the S21 Ultra (now).

        Saying this (and as expounded on elsewhere on The Reg), I did feel like I was somewhat underserved by the Samsung S10+; for the most part, it wasn't measurably better than the LG V30 which it replaced, while costing significantly more.

        Still, the contract's finally run out, and in some ways, it's kinda all worked out, as Carphone Warehouse are offering some fairly ridiculous trade-in deals if you're upgrading to something from the S21 range; by default, my S10+ is worth £265 in trade in, but I'll get an extra £100 if I trade it in against an S21.

        Which is more than a third of the handset's original value - and probably more than I'd get from Ebay (especially after fees, etc), with much less risk or hassle.

        And even without the trade in, Vodafone and ID (Carphone's in-house virtual telco) are only lobbing around £200-£300 atop the cost of the handset for a 2 year contract. Which works out at between £5-£10 per month for the SIM. Which is a whole lot less than EE charged for data when I purchased my S10+!

        So, I'm in the odd but welcome position of being able to both get the latest shiny - with additional freebies worth a couple of hundred quid by themselves - and reduce my monthly bill by about a third!

        Admittedly, I could have just dropped to a SIM-only deal and dropped my monthly bill to virtually nothing. But I also suspect this is the best deal by far that we're likely to see for a while...

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: Been [there] for years

          > it wasn't measurably better than the [...] which it replaced, while costing significantly more

          You resumed perfectly the phone industry marketing strategy...

          1. juice

            Re: Been [there] for years

            > You resumed perfectly the phone industry marketing strategy...


            It's not the phone industry's strategy. It's the standard strategy for virtually any non perishable goods: there's a very finite market for first-purchases, so the emphasis is generally on trying to persuade people to leave their old (but generally still functional) goods behind and buy something new and shiny.

            You see it with cars, fridges, watches, washing machines, running shoes, toothbrushes, room deodorisers, etc.

            So I'm never sure why people have such a disapproving view of the phone industry...

            At least with smartphones, there has been a clear improvement in capabilities over the last few years, and a measurable delta between the bottom and top ends of the market. Even if this delta has started to narrow as the rate of improvement at the top has started to slack off.

            For me, the S10+ wasn't measurably better than the V30, because I have relatively simple use-cases: I browse social/work media, read ebooks, take lots of photos and do some light editing of said photos when travelling.

            But the S10+ had a bigger screen, a newer CPU which was about 10% faster, a GPU which is around 30% faster and a bigger battery.

            And those things would make a measurable difference to someone who plays games on their phone, for instance...

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: Been [there] for years

              > why people have such a disapproving view of the phone industry

              Because its behavior is caricatural. I admit they aren't the only ones to do so, but in the phone industry the whole process was both condensed and exacerbated.

              Phase 1, "Ecstasy": Mobile phones are the best, they will solve all problems of humanity, they are a license to print money. Only problem is we can't build them fast enough. At this phase improvements are noticeable, prices tend to get cheaper as production scales up, and everybody wants one, because "cool", "new" and "shiny".

              Phase 2, "Climax": Top of the world! A pity there are so many competitors around, but we're still better than them. Technology is about to peak, improvements get smaller and less critical, price is the new factor, separating the wannabe Veblen Goods from the wannabe Bargains. Market segmentation tries to improve penetration.

              Phase 3, "Stagnation": There is no money to be made in mobile phones. The market is sluggish to non-existent. Technical improvements are not noticeable by the average user anymore. Everyone has a phone, and it has totally lost its prestige: People choose them like they choose a washing machine, and keep them for as long as possible.

              An example of this evolution are personal computers: In the beginning they went like hot cakes, then sales slowed down, and (according to El Reg) the market has all but died until Covid-19 gave it a new lease of life. I have at home computers 10 years old which could compete with any modern one: Technologically there have been few improvements since, none the average office/home user could notice (except SSDs). Phones aren't fully there yet, but the writing is on the wall.

              So it's just funny to see the panic of the phone makers, who mentally are still wallowing in Phase 1, while slowly slithering into Phase 3. It's not like they couldn't know that the phone/tablet market wasn't eternal & infinite, and that some day everybody would have as many phones and tablets as (s)he ever needs or wants.

  7. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    My current mobile is an iPhone 7, before that it was an iPhone 3. I have no intention of 'upgrading' until it fails to do what I need.

    1. ThomH

      I'm still on the iPhone 6s; unless and until it breaks or stops receiving security updates I expect to continue to be. It runs the current version of the OS (i.e. 14) without any obvious performance issues, and Apple released a security update for the OS two versions ago (i.e. 12) as recently as this month so I'm optimistic I'll get to 2023...

      Which I like because in 2023 my iPhone 6s will be as old as the original iPhone was when the 6s came out.

      I can think of a world of reasons why an original iPhone would have been next to useless in 2015; I can't think of anything an iPhone since 2015 adds that I actually consider to be worth an upgrade here in 2021. And even then, 2015 is an arbitrary pick just because that's the vintage of my current phone. If I still had a 6 (from 2014) or a 5s (from 2013) with no performance issues I think I'd be equally happy...

      1. Steve K


        I believe that iOS15 will remove support for the 6s and original SE models - not a bad run though!

      2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

        Me too. I had had the same iPhone 6 for about 3 years until last summer when it ended up at the bottom of the Solent just outside Yarmouth. I just got the cheapest free replacement I could from Vodafone which was a reconditioned 6s for about £25.

        No reason for me to upgrade until this one breaks or goes swimming like its forebear.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          On thumbs, up and down

          I see that three factual posts in this side thread have been down voted, without explanation. I am bemused, but at least I'll stop worrying about upvotes and downvotes. (Maybe someone has an aversion to Apple products.)

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Wait till Apple trigger the gravity-inverter which causes it to jump out of your hands and smash itself on the floor

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    in store sales

    "You can blame the pandemic for this. Lockdowns, and a wariness to venture outside by some consumers, has had a profound impact on retail mobile sales"

    You can also blame the carriers. AT&T at least seemed to be trying to make the phone purchase experience similar to that of buying a car. Browse inventory for a while, then sit with a sales droid who wants to upsell an extended warranty, at least an hour ordeal before you got out of the store. No thanks guys, I bought online and swapped my SIM card the last two times I bought a phone.

    1. ThomH

      Re: in store sales

      AT&T exec 1: Revenues from phone sales are dropping. What can we do?

      Exec 2: You mean long-term?

      Exec 1: Hahaha.

      Exec 2: Hahaha, yeah, let's just start bombarding them with upsell and warranties and whatever. Run this nonsense into the ground. That should protect this year's bonus.

  9. TheRealRoland

    It's only that apps would not support older versions of Android anymore that I had to leave behind my Passport and KeyOne :-(

    Damn, i love me that physical keyboard.

    1. AK565

      Same here. I'd still be using my Q20 otherwise. What I REALLY want is my old 9900 with a slightly longer screen and upgraded internals. I FLEW on that keyboard..... Almost as fast as I did on the previous phone with SureType.

    2. Evil Scot

      Which begats the question. What Planet are you on Blackberry Fanatic.

      3/4 size keyboard with number row and cursor keys. Plus Ctrl and shift key for copy paste. My cosmo wa the best purchase ever.

    3. keith_w

      still using a Key One.


      go for a custom-ROM

      Android? What Android? My Sony Xperia XA2 came with Android 8.1.

      I swapped that for LineageOS 15.1.

      Currently I am on LineageOS 17.1 (~Android 10.1) and get weekly updates. Nothing to worry about.

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I with

    the hold on to it crowd.

    My last phone (galaxy S3) lasted until the battery died and the USB charging slot was knackered (I could replace both and have a usuable phone ) and I went for a samsung galaxy J3... based not on technical capabilites , or on contract price etc etc , but based on what was the smallest phone that could safely live in my jeans pocket.

    Its worked very well and even though its coming up on 4yrs old, still holds a charge, does the job and I see no reason to change.

    But then I'm an old fogey and not impressed with the need to have the latest 'bling'

    And it can play missile command too ... eeekk smart bombs :D

    1. David Woodhead

      Re: I with

      I support a number of people locally with Galaxy S4s, which you could not remove from their owners' cold dead hands with a chisel. They all make phone calls, communicate on WhatsApp, and do internet and email stuff, with no desire to do anything else. New battery: no problem. £3 flip cover: no problem. SD card: no problem. Fits in the average pocket: no problem.

      What the vendors want to sell and what these users need do not intersect at any level. We all understand that they are not the target market, so we local support people look after them. Hello out there. Someone has to do it.

      Sorry, /rant. Have a good evening y'all.

      1. illiad

        Re: I with

        soooo damn right!! why spend MORE money on a phone that has *minimal* extra features, and then the confusing changing of all the ways to use it!!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Becoming like?

    Given that the average smartphone is as exciting as the average fridge, and has been for a decade, this is not news to anyone except the people who make smartphones, including a former employer of mine who I'm not allowed to name, who thought that smartphones would permit humans to transcend their physical limitations, or some such utter shit. I"m not fucking joking.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Becoming like?

      Fridges are not that boring!

      Our Fridge Freezer is over 20 years old, and still works.

      I also improved its looks by careful application of car polishes.

      I hate buying stuff, and swapping stuff. I am starting to need a new TV (want 4K & HDR), and a bit shocked to find the lack of SCART on new ones.

      Almost a case of "Why is your TV so old when you use it so much?"

      Answer "Because it was best on the market back then"

      1. Big_Boomer Silver badge

        Re: Becoming like?

        Buy a SCART to HDMI adapter and get whatever TV you like. :-)

      2. 9Rune5

        Re: Becoming like?

        I bought a TV two years ago.

        FWIW, don't bother too much with the "smart" TV features. You are going to end up with some kind of box that replaces the built-in shite anyway. (I use an nVidia Shield).

        Also: They still have not landed on a standard, so you either get DolbyVision or HDR10+. And if you get a panel that is bright enough to do HDR some real justice, you'll probably not have low enough latency to play games on it.

        TL;DR: Planned obsolescence is still a thing.

      3. Martin

        Re: Becoming like?

        ...shocked to find the lack of SCART on new ones.

        But what have you got that still delivers anything via SCART? If you want 4K and HDR, you'll have HDMI input and that's it. If you're still using your old VCR, I imagine that might need a SCART - but honestly, apart from that, surely SCART is totally obsolete now?

        1. Martin

          Re: Becoming like?

          Why the downvote? I don't think I was rude or condescending; I don't think what I said was incorrect.

          If I'm wrong, tell me why. If I'm stupidly wrong, tell me why and downvote me, if you must. But don't just downvote me for no reason, please!

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Becoming like?

          My DVD player uses SCART, it works well, why swap it out?

          Got 3 SCART and 3 HDMI on this TV but it is 11 years old.

          Had a look at current plugged in items.

          HDMI - PVR, 2xconsole

          SCART - DVD, console, VCR

          Composite - VCR occasionally

          Component - video camera in HD

          Most tapes are now on the PC hard drive at DV compression levels.

          I tried DVD on a console, DVD player is better ergonomically.

          Just because I buy something new doesn't mean I dump the old.

          30-35 year old Betamax tapes hold out surprisingly well.

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Becoming like?

      A fridge is way more exciting, how do you know the light goes off when you close the door.

      There there is the mystery of the pot at the back with contents that don't look like the label.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: Becoming like?

        "how do you know the light goes off when you close the door."

        There's an app for that and thus all mystery has been drained from life.

  12. FatGerman Silver badge

    "You can blame Lockdowns for this"

    No, phone maker, *You* will blame lockdowns for waking people up to the fact that when they don't venture into your emporia of tat they don't feel the need to "upgrade" to something that is the same as they already have but slightly less scratched.

    Your unsustainable business model has been called out and found wanting. Now try making monkey by not ripping people off. What's that? Your products are so indistinguishabke from each other that you can't charge premium prices any more? Boo hoo poor you. Go sit on a hot spike.

  13. Gene Cash Silver badge


    I spend a lot of time and effort setting up my phone the way I want it. For example, I need to root my phone, because my garage door app needs to turn the GPS and cell data on/off when I leave or come back home.

    A new phone means I have to redo that several weeks of work, and also with the new versions of Android means I might have to do it differently or not at all.

    So I keep my phone as long as possible because it represents a not insignificant investment in something other than money.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Customization

      Or you need a different way of opening your garage door. ;)

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Customization

      You can get your car in a garage?

      Is it a Peel?

  14. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Not just the Jesusphone neiver..

    Oneplus are also pretty goof update-wise: My 5 got Android 10 the other month and now everything including call recording, works as advertised - it had stopped at their first attempt at the 10 update... but they persisted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just the Jesusphone neiver..

      I agree.

      I've only had mine for 3-4 months and it's had two major updates already (one out of the box, and the other a few weeks ago). I can't recall any phone I've had having more than one a year.

  15. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    It's time to upgrade?

    I'm sure that the manufacturers can fix this "problem" by making the batteries die sooner. Over the years I've upgraded multiple working Android phones because each new software "update" breaks features. The latest Android is so "secure" that my Pixel-3 is becoming difficult to use but luckily my old Nexus hasn't had any upgrades for a while so I'm thinking I might simply go back to using it when the Pixel battery quits.

  16. low_resolution_foxxes

    Ever since I bought a decent cover for my phone, I've stopped smashing the bloody things on a night out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Whichever phone I buy always gets a Noreve leather case.

      I remember someone getting an HTC U11 shortly before mine arrived, and I was admiring it. Brand new, beautiful - and it had the U11 flaw of possessing a curved back which was as slippery as an eel, and which could only be safely put on a surface once you'd checked it with a spirit level first, otherwise it facetimed the floor.

      Once we'd done, he stuffed it in his pocket with his keys and loose change.

  17. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Featurephone won't quit

    Still using my (secondhand) 10-year-old Samsung Ch@t 335 here. I do have a smartphone inherited from my daughter ready for when it finally dies, for the moment it's wifi-only, not rooted but all Googly stuff is disabled and I only use F-Droid apps.

  18. Jim-234

    As expensive as flagship phones are they should be grateful anybody ever upgrades.

    Considering that most flagship phones blow right past the $1000 mark, I think it's a bit disingenuous for anyone to complain about people wanting to keep their phones as long as possible.

    Apart from marginally better cameras each generation, there is no real reason for many not to simply use their phone for 4 or more years.

    Then if the phone's batteries happen to magically die after 2 years, most likely anybody not locked into apple will pick a different brand.

    Going to a "phone store" to get the phone or a service plan is probably the worst idea ever.

    Call up the customer support line on most major carriers here in the USA and they will tell you pretty plainly NOT to go to (their own) branded stores for a phone unless you enjoy being a chump.

    1. Drew Scriver

      Re: As expensive as flagship phones are they should be grateful anybody ever upgrades.

      Do those execs really believe it is realistic to expect consumers to spend $10,000 on phones in 10 years? Or even $5,000 in 10 years? For every person in the household?!?!

      Even whitegoods don't cost that much - and you only need one of each appliance for the entire household...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: As expensive as flagship phones are they should be grateful anybody ever upgrades.

        People don't spend $1000 on a phone - they get a "free" phone upgrade every 3 years with their $100-150/month phone plan

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: As expensive as flagship phones are they should be grateful anybody ever upgrades.

          And they don’t know how to multiply $100-$150 by 36.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: As expensive as flagship phones are they should be grateful anybody ever upgrades.

            >And they don’t know how to multiply $100-$150 by 36.

            If idiots could do maths capitalism would collapse

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: As expensive as flagship phones are they should be grateful anybody ever upgrades.

              The National Lottery would, at least.

      2. hoola Silver badge

        Re: As expensive as flagship phones are they should be grateful anybody ever upgrades.

        Whilst more upmarket phones cost a bit more in parts, it is not that much. Phones are priced for what the market will stand and at the moment it appears any "Flagship" device can safely demand a very high premium. Whether this will continue will be interesting to see but at the moment there looks to be enough people clamouring to buy the very latest device to justify the high prices.

        The other thing is that for those buying on contract where the only thing they care about if the monthly price, the term has crept up from 1 year, then 2 years and now 3 years. This should equally reduce demand unless of course people just pay the contract off after 18 months to start again.

        Like others, I generally buy an older model outright for a fraction of the release price and keep it until it no longer works or something will not run. I do have some concerns over the built-in obsolesce due to Android not being updated. It really is not that difficult to do but the manufacturers put so much unnecessary junk in the image the turn a simple task into a nightmare.

        The computer manufacturers manage it with Windows so maybe Google should do something to allow the core OS to be updated the same way. At least then the overall security position would improve.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: As expensive as flagship phones are they should be grateful anybody ever upgrades.

          I share your Android built-in obsolesce concerns. My Moto G6 released in 2018 had it's last security update in April 2020. With 4GB RAM and 64GB storage it runs everything I need and the camera is quite good. It seems wasteful of resources to keep replacing stuff because the software is not updated and has vulnerabilities . I would even pay a small fee for updates. Android One phones do get updates but only guaranteed for 3 years I think.

          If you don't drop or loose your phone then an iPhone is seeming less wasteful in the long term.

  19. Lost in Cyberspace

    Ill upgrade when there's a new killer feature

    I upgraded early from iPhone 7 to XSMax because of dual sim... genuinely useful for me for work/personal.

    But this XSMax will keep going until the battery dies.

    Slightly better cameras, MagSafe and 5G isn't enough to warrant another £1300 yet.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Ill upgrade when there's a new killer feature

      “Will keep going until the battery dies” - the battery can be replaced. Not that cheap, but cheaper than a new phone. And an XS max will be a decent phone for quite a long time.

  20. DS999 Silver badge


    Apple provides patches for phones all the way back to iPhone 5S that came out in 2013. The 5S and 6 aren't on iOS 14, but are supported by iOS 12 which still receives security (but not feature) updates.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Actually

      Actually, the iPhone 5s and 6 just got an update that makes the Covid tracking work on iOS 12; that used to require iOS 13.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Actually

        Didn't know that. Hopefully some countries are actually making use of that, we certainly aren't in the US!

  21. spireite Silver badge

    Just off S8

    ...and only because the USB charging port is playing up badly. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered.

    In the end, migrated to a top end Xiaomi which was substantially cheaper than the usual suspects

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Just off S8

      At least you can fall back on wireless charging on the S8

  22. Blackjack Silver badge

    Still using my Samsung Galaxy S5

    Was gonna upgrade last year but with Lockdown there is no point as 96% of my phone time is using WiFi nowadays.

    My newest phone is a New Nokia 1 that I got two years ago and that has basically become mostly useless after upgrading to Android 10.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still using my Samsung Galaxy S5

      I only upgraded my S5 recently as there was some issues with the latest Lineage OS and I did want a camera upgrade. I grabbed a Pixel 3a which I hope will last a few years like the S5.

      We really need to go back to replaceable batteries and more serviceable devices so we can stop ramming tons of usable equipment into the ground or even recycling perfectly functioning equipment that just has out of date software. I'd happily even pay a small amount occasionally to keep it upto date.

    2. AK565

      Re: Still using my Samsung Galaxy S5

      Agreed, my BBerry 9900 had 3G service almoat literally everywhere until 4G showed up. Then I started finding weak signals and dead zones. A year or two after that all these mysterious problems made an appearance.

      I had a Razr M until the third or fourth upgrade which caused battery life to go from 2 days to half a day, if that. Judging from the uproar it appeared to happen to almost everyone. Motorola never acknowledged it.

      1. Julian 8 Silver badge

        Re: Still using my Samsung Galaxy S5

        Bit like HTC when they upgraded I one of their phonee (HTC 10 I thnk) to the latest Android at the time and it killed the phone - no roll back and I managed to brick it before I found out about a fork of android that would have probably kept it working

  23. Allan George Dyer

    Am I an outlier?

    I only replaced my first smartphone last year, and that was when it died.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I an outlier?

      I suppose it depends when you got your first smartphone - if it was last year then probably not! ;-)

  24. Snowy Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Security updates

    Does not getting security updates count as the phone being broken if you need the phone to be secure?

    1. Spanners Silver badge

      Re: Security updates

      Most users don't care about that geeky stuff. Those of us who require our phones to be secure are in the minority. For proof of that, try telling a relative why they have to have a secure password at work or for their banking app. This is all seen as tecchie nonsense...

    2. ivan5

      Re: Security updates

      I think it all depends on what you use your phone for. If it is just for making phone calls or sending the odd text message then security isn't all that important. As for cameras I have taken 4 photos with a phone in the last 5 years, so again not a security problem. Those people that must have a phone full of apps are the problem looking for a security solution.

  25. DenTheMan

    Welcome to the Fold.

    That is worth the upgrade, but not at that price.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I expect a decades use out of my computers -and that's what "mobile phones" are - pocket computers, Except they're poorly designed for use as computers and crap as phones. IMO. YMMV.

  26. AlvordSky

    Too Expensive for Clear Up-Tick in Value

    The ever-growing inflation in top- and near-top-tier phones strongly discourages my buying a new Samsung. If the price was more reasonable, I'd strongly consider one of the new ones - as it is, nope.

    1. Spanners Silver badge

      Re: Too Expensive for Clear Up-Tick in Value

      I stopped using Samsung a long ago when the amount of crudware went from "excessive" to "you have to be out of your mind!"

      By the time Bixby arrived, I didn't even have an old phone in my drawer in case the current one broke..

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Too Expensive for Clear Up-Tick in Value

      Our company supplies phones and we keep getting Samsungs, yes full of abslute crud.

      Boss moans because I will leave it months to swap to new phone, then gets annoyed when I say to stop getting these crap phones full of bloat.

      Used to have a Nokia, really got it in the neck for remaining on it so long.

  27. Lucy in the Sky (with Diamonds)

    Nokia 2730

    The last time I had to replace my phone, circa 2010, I have upgraded to a Nokia 2730. It makes calls, receives texts and the battery lasts for a good week between charges. It is covered in war wounds from living in a pocket next to a bundle of keys and such, but luckily a couple of years ago the place I have worked at decided to ditch five pristine examples and I offered to save them from the dustbin of history.

    So, when that day comes when the original one perishes, as I am sure it will, I have five complete spares to mine for parts. I guess, they will see me through until the 2G &3G networks are shut down for good and then I will upgrade yet again.

  28. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    which are often only changed when they stop working

    Why would anyone change anything that's still working (asks Mr Outlier, who cheerfully runs cars for twenty-five years)?

    How does one get infected with the 'form over function' virus that causes you to lust after the latest new shiny?

    But manufacturing has not been based on 'build something that will last, fix it when it breaks' for years or decades; the whole concept is to make something with which the customer will initially want but which will with time have some flaw that causes the customer to be vaguely dissatisfied; something to make him want a new one.

    c.f. Douglas Adams and the Shoe Event Horizon.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: which are often only changed when they stop working

      I talked to my car dealer once who said about 50% of his customers would come to the store once every 12 to 15 years and buy a brand new car.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: which are often only changed when they stop working

      > 'build something that will last, fix it when it breaks'

      That's engineer pride, and marketing is here to bash it out of them. The point of a manufacturer being to make money, the idea is rather 'build something sounding desirable, make sure it doesn't last'. And also, 'make it so expensive insecure people can buy it as a status symbol'.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: which are often only changed when they stop working

        An update perhaps on the 'we want something with red and transparent plastic, a shiny metal bit, build cost under a buck, retails for $24.99' approach?

  29. Captain Hogwash

    Why upgrade?

    That's just one of the things LineageOS, /e/, etc is for.

  30. ecofeco Silver badge

    Price vs performance

    I have yet to see any phone over $200 that has a compelling reason to buy it. As another poster pointed out, this year's hot pick tech, is next years discount and the year after, budget phone.

    After 2-3 years, I can get this year's hot tech for $200 or less. And that's how I'll continue to base my purchases. Becasue no damn phone is worth the stupid money being asked these days.

  31. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    I'm not sure I saw it in the article...

    If 34% responded by saying that they will hold onto their existing device until it breaks, what are the remaining 66% doing?

    1. Allan George Dyer

      Re: I'm not sure I saw it in the article...

      Obvious, their device breaks when they drop it.

      OK, I'll get my coat.

  32. 0laf

    Survey says...

    They could have saved some time and money and just visited El Reg a few years ago when every commentard had already called the switch of phones from shiny to utility.

  33. Julian 8 Silver badge

    Going the same way as laptops. In the older days you wanted an upgrade as processors were changing at such pace, could take more RAM, better screens and improved battery life, but now, the incentive is not there. A newer processor is great, but in real day use how much more beneficiail is that or the extra battery life ? certainly these are useful for some users, not everyone.

    I have an S9+ and would upgrade, but I am doing nothing with it that warrants that and the only thing that makes me ponder is a better camera, but until we can actually get out and about again what is the point ?

    Also now disappointed that the latest samsung has no microsd so that is another consideration (all my music is on a microsd card with a local player)

    1. Adelio

      Being a luddite, well I am 61 I still consider hhone cameras toys, I have a proper camera and am quite happy with it and would never replace it with a phone camera.

      I watch a film made on an iphone. What was the point, the image was rubbish, but they trying to make a film using a $20 camera (which is what it probably costs Apple) is not the brightest idea.

      1. ivan5

        Here, here. I totally agree.

  34. Adelio


    My main Gripe is that now most phones have sealed batteries it is no longer easy to replace them.

    Also I would never buy a phone without a headphone socket or micro sd card slot. Which means that I would have trouble upgrading now my phone is 2 1/2 years old.

  35. 9Rune5

    covid-19 a factor in this?

    More people in lockdown at home: Less reason to use an awkwardly tiny device and spend more time with a laptop (or better yet a desktop)?

  36. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    People will upgrade when they have a reason to upgrade. For years the industry got away with the 1year/18month/2year upgrade cycles as phones were constantly getting new functionality, but that is now over and has been for years. People who like to have a phone that is "considerably better than yows" will carry on buying obscenely priced ego extensions, but the rest of us will buy a phone that is adequate for our use. The industry is currently thrashing around like a fish in a drying out pond desperately trying to find the "next big thing" but there may not be one for a while.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      If they can crack folding screens, they may well be on to something. (see what I did there?)

      I can see folding or rollable screens, if they ever become robust enough, being a killer feature. (Oops, did it again)

      Getting back to smaller, easily pocketable phone which can fold or roll out to a usable screen size would be something I'd have. Something the size a marker pen or the old flipphones.

  37. DrBobK


    I'm surprised there are so many comments suggesting people change their phone when the battery dies. I have got another 18 months to 2 years out of replacement batteries which cost a fraction of a new phone. I bought smartphones in 2008, 2014, and 2019. The first two had 3rd party battery replacements (1st one done by me, second one done by a bloke in a tiny shop) that extended their lives by said 18 month to a couple of years. All iPhones if you care. Apple have, finally, come out with a new feature that tempts me - a small size option. I'll still probably wait, do the battery replacement for the XS in a year or two and get a new phone in 2024 though.

  38. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    I change my phone when I change my lover

    It's the only way to be sure.

  39. andy 103

    Like second hand cars

    In 2019 I went into an Apple store and paid £749 for an iPhone XR on a finance agreement that was £31/month, which is just the phone without a data/call plan. I pay about £10/month on a SIM only deal which I change when I want as there's no contract.

    Fast forward to today and a family friend managed to get a refurbished (read: same quality as mine is now) XR - including airtime - for about £17/month. I'm still paying over £40 for the same thing.

    The analogy I use is what I did is like buying a brand new car. Why would anyone do that when you can get one 18-24 months old for a fraction of the cost, and effectively get the same thing? I bought it on a whim because I genuinely thought it was a good phone that would last me 4-5 years (and hopefully it will). But of course had I have waited and just gone for a second hand one that could still have been the case.

    The point being that "new tech" isn't good enough when compared to tech from a year or two ago to justify the cost. Manufacturers know this and that's why you get these crap adverts from EE and such about "envy" when in reality everyone thinks you're a bit stupid for spending £80/month on a phone just because it's shiny and supports 5G. We all know in a year or so what customers will actually be prepared to pay for that.

  40. Uplink

    Breakage as a feature

    I'm not a Samsung fan, but I got a Samsung phone now after Google kept making the call volume go really low after a while on their phones and their suggestion was to clean the ear grid - done it, no effect.. Dudes, what?

    Samsung also flipped a flag in an update and made my Dream View stop working (just another Samsung thing to do), but while annoying, I can live with it.

  41. Keith Oborn

    Broken business model-

    For phones, and most of the "smart/IoT" gadgets on the market.

    If you sell a device that relies on external resources (cloud/web services for IoTs to operate, OS/security updates for all devices) you should either:

    A: Include a sensible sum in the purchase price that is then escrowed to fund X years of support for those resources (where X is at least 5, preferably 10)


    B: Only sell a subscription-based model where regular payments are made for the use of the device (mobile operators in the UK please note: you are basically doing this but washing your hands of the "ongoing support" bit).

    You will sell fewer devices. But you will keep the customers you have, and have a recurring revenue stream from them.

    As for who does it best in the current free-for-all, I'd vote for Apple. As a household we have three Macs, ranging in age from 7 to 13 years, a 9 year old iPad and a 5 year old iPhone. Out of that lot, only the older two Macs (10 and 13 years) are not able to run the current OS, but even those still have decent security and are entirely usable for most day to day tasks. And out of all that lot, we've had one replacement HDD and one replacement battery.

    Of course, Apples current crop may fall down on the "hardware fixability" front, but I don't think they are alone.

    I have a Samsung S8. Prior to that had two HTCs, neither lasted more than 2 years (the hardware - and I am gentle with it). The Samsung is now 3-1/2. The battery is down to about 85%, but that can be replaced. It does everything I want and will only be replaced when it ceases to do so.

    In my local government work I've recently been issued with an M$ Surface. It doesn't even work properly out of the box! And my experience of Windows laptops is that they never survive more than 2-3 years. Hardware is ropey (I'm talking HP, Dell here, not no-names) and software is often unusable. One honourable exception from way back: Thinkpads pre-Lenovo. Designed to be repairable, and brilliantly supported. But that was when IBM still made computers--.

    It's been noted that "smart" domestic appliances are a trojan horse, in that your lovely new fridge may suddenly stop working after a couple of years when the manufacturer pulls support. I will be very interested to see what happens to long term support for (EG) Tesla vehicles, although I think they are doing OK so far, they've been around ten years now and the old ones still seem to work!

  42. Shaha Alam

    with phones costing as much as white goods, i should expect so. imagine buying a new dishwasher every 2 years!

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Shush, you'll give them ideas!

  43. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

    "query their contract or bill"

    You're 'avin' a larf, right?

    Shops I've been in to just sell phones and contracts. Account queries are only handled on-line, or via the telephone support prevention system.

  44. Yugguy

    Yep. Paid off my device plan on my oneplus 6t, down to a cheap sim only.

    No need or desire to change it until it breaks.

  45. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Elephant in the room

    All consumer hardware advances are driven by the market for first-person-shooter games and, uhm, movies. Sales will talk about the first one but the second one is all wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Since I don't use my laptop or phone for either of those things, *of course* any budget laptop or budget phone is more than good enough for my needs. Not wanting the latest hardware doesn't make me smarter than the market, it just means I'm not in the same market. I let other users tackle the monster wave and trail sedately behind, riding my board safely to the beach. Plenty of "excitement" for them, more than enough fun for me. Then just paddle out and do it again.

  46. Mattuk2021

    No insentive to upgrade

    There are no insentives to upgrade these days.

    upgrading can be very costly if you are stuck in a long term 24 to 36 month contract and having to pay an early upgrade fee which most providers charge, just for the latest model of handset that hits the consumer market which is quickly superseded by the next model.

    If it ain't broken or can't be repaired there is no need to replace it.

  47. Buddzoo

    Simple Cost vs Benefit Issue

    I used to upgrade my phone every 2 years, but now, if I want to keep up with the latest and greatest, that upgrade is going to cost me over $1000. I’d rather upgrade my computer every few years and get more bang for my buck. Or spend it on upgrading my TVs so I can watch my movies on 4K 70” display. Yeah, the processing power of a phone is pretty amazing these days, but I don’t want to do my analytical processing or photo management on a phone screen.

  48. Colin Bain

    Why I don't upgrade

    The mobile company I use stopped giving me an upgrade every couple of years. They keep offering "bargains" if I upgrade my plan. Understandably since I pay $45 CAN per month for unlimited texts, free long distance in Canada, and a cheap rate to the UK. Data? 400mb! I mainly use wifi, so use it when when I'm nowhere near a coffee shop and need to find my way because I'm lost.

    I could go with buying a phone from them, but they don't seem interested. I have a Moto G8 currently (twin SIM) so my employer supplies up to 3G without questioning it, and I rarely use that anyway.

    So the mobile industry is facing a crossroads. They basically have an everlasting income stream until something really disrupts access to the internet or whatever it will become. Up until now they had total control of how wide that revenue stream was. It was a smoke and mirrors deal with a manipulation of numbers and social engineering to make us believe something (normal sales behaviour)

    Now customers have a certain amount of control of the width of that stream. At the same time they have caught themselves out. I can buy an reasonably good phone at a price less than they will charge. It will be mine from the start. As opposed to a monthly payment scheme which generally make me pay more for a limited range of phones and then try to make me buy some extra insurance.

    Unless they really offer more value for what we are paying, then the big companies will stagnate. The may try to buy out upstarts and then raise prices again, but this is not a long term future.

    They have to offer more or diversify for success imho.

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