So why do we keep talking about old phones anyway? Well, the US wireless industry has changed over the last five years (Happy b-day, iPhone) in that 1) it is nearly at full penetration and 2) high-end devices continue to dominate the market (smartphone adoption is around 50% of total), so the players in the industry, including the carriers, need to find new and creative ways to extend the life of these high-end consumer electronics (i.e., improve carrier device economics). In fact, if done correctly, reuse and recycling can create goodwill with the customer via money, incentives or charitable donations offered to them. And, in turn, the transaction allows the carrier to buyback devices that are either placed back into the ecosystem or properly disposed of—it’s a win-win for both parties. Not only is this another opportunity to promote sustainability, but it is a more efficient way to approach the industry to get the most of the device.
Some other items to keep in mind:
- Compass Intelligence estimates that by the end of 2012 there will be 324 million idle (non-active, unused) devices sitting in junk drawers in the US.
- However, selling back or even recycling these idle phones has not gained real traction with end users, either because they want to keep them as a back-up or they are just not informed about the process.
- In our study, only 21% of the over 7,000 respondents had even completed a trade-in or buyback recently.
- Those low take-rates leave us to estimate that only about 40 million used devices will be recycled this year.
In response, AT&T and Verizon recently revamped their in-store trade-in programs to improve the customer experience and capture devices at the store. Look for more changes in this space as the wireless industry looks for more efficient and sustainable ways to empower the customer.
Kate Pearce is a Research Strategist and Sr. Consultant at Compass Intelligence where she participates in custom consulting projects and develops content for the wireline and mobility subscriptions and other device-related research. You can contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org