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Smartphones: Where Cash-Strapped Millennials Spend Money

NEW YORK – Fifty-six percent of millennials have owned at least three smartphones in the past five years, and 12 percent have owned at least five during that time, a survey found.

Because the median average selling price of smartphones in North America was $531 between 2011 and 2015, 56 percent of all millennials spent at least $1,593 on smartphones during that time, said SellCell, which commissioned the survey., a cellphone trade-in price-comparison site, commissioned research company Research Now to survey 1,000 millennials in the first half of May. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed were iPhone owners, and 46 percent were Android owners.

The survey also found that 69 percent of millennials have used early-upgrade programs when they get a new smartphone, and 47 percent upgrade early to be considered first adopters, the company added.

“Among millennials, being first is a badge of honor, which is driving early upgrade adoption,” said founder Keir McConomy. “The shelf life of a smartphone is really shortening for that reason, which will drive interest in recycling devices or trading them in.”

Millennial women were more likely than millennial men to have owned at least three smartphones over the past five years, with 59 percent of millennial women having done so compared to 52 percent of millennial men.

Early upgrades: Most of these consumers are taking advantage of early-upgrade programs, the survey found. Sixty-nine percent of all millennials have done so when purchasing a new smartphone, and there was little difference in the rate between Android and iPhone owners. Sixty-nine percent of millennial Android owners have done so, compared with 70 percent of their iPhone counterparts.

When early upgraders were asked why they decided to switch early, 47 percent said that they did so because they “like having the latest technology as soon as it’s available.” Among early upgraders, iPhone owners and men were more likely than Android owners and women to switch early to get the latest technology. Fifty-four percent of iPhone-owning early upgraders said they got an early upgrade because they wanted a new phone as soon as it became available. Only 40 percent of Android-owning early upgraders switched early to be first. Among early upgraders, 50 percent of men upgraded early to be first adopters, but only 45 percent of early-upgrading women did it to be first.

Other reasons for upgrading early were to get money or credit for trading in a smartphone (16 percent), getting a discount on a monthly service plan (16 percent), and being able to finance the smartphone in monthly installments (16 percent). Thirteen percent cited the ability to get service without a contract, and 11 percent said it was because they wanted to switch carriers.

An overwhelming majority of millennials (84 percent) said they stay informed about early upgrade options available through their carrier, but men are slightly more aware of early upgrade options than women. Nineteen percent of millennial women were unaware of their upgrade options, while only 13 percent of men were unaware.

Where old phones go to die: Android owners are more likely than iPhone owners to hoard their previous phone when they upgrade even if they don’t use it (44 percent to 35 percent), the survey found. Trading in a phone for cash or credit was the second most-frequent option for millennials buying new phones. Thirty-four percent have traded in phones, the survey found.

The other most preferred options for unused smartphones were giving it to a family member or friend (16 percent), donating the device to charity or recycling it (7 percent), and throwing it out (3 percent).

Among iPhone and Android owners, devices can be worth as much as $500 when recycled online, said SellCell in referring to its own experience. iPhone and Android owners accounted for 97 percent of all survey respondents.