Study Finds Consumers Feel
Stuck with Obsolete Smartphones
If you could upgrade your phone right now without paying a penalty, would you go ahead and get that new iPhone or Android smartphone? If you answered yes, you wouldn’t be alone, in fact Retrevo recently discovered that a large number of U.S. phone owners say their phone is either currently out of date or will be soon. The fact is, consumers are justified in feeling their phones are obsolete and frustrated by the fact that they can’t upgrade them more frequently than every two years.

New Smartphones Are Released Faster Than Owners Are Allowed To Buy Them

Manufacturers are flooding the market with new phones at a very fast rate. Retrevo counted more than 120 new smartphones from major vendors over the course of about a year. The problem is that most carriers require you to hold onto a phone for two years before you can upgrade which has created a condition where new phones appear much faster than consumers are allowed to buy them.
Smartphones Become Obsolete In About a Year
Retrevo’s Technology Life Cycle analysis engine looked at smartphones from March 2010 to March 2011and found that smartphones increased in power and added new features that moved many of last year’s phones one phase over from new to mainstream. At the current rate, we expect to see new smartphones with higher resolution displays, faster processors, and other new features displace the current phones by this time next year.

Do Consumers Feel Their
Phones Are Obsolete?

The Retrevo study found that almost two thirds of U.S. smartphone owners perceived their phone to be obsolete now or will be obsolete before their contract runs out. The problem is the phone carriers don’t want your old phone and don’t want to subsidize a new one sooner than every two years.

When the Retrevo study asked smartphone owners whether they would consider changing smartphones before their contract was up, 48% said they would if the terms were favorable while only 20% said a two year contract on their device was fine with them. Others were not sure or might buy an unlocked phone.

What About a One Year Contract?

We're sure the carriers have valid business reasons for sticking with a two year contract, but as phone buyers we have to ask wouldn't a shorter contract be more in sync with the pace that new smartphone technology arrives which begs the question, “would consumers pay more for a one year contract?”

When we asked smartphone owners if they would be willing to pay extra for a shorter contract we found most buyers would not however some owners would pay extra and $100 seems like the most popular price point.

How About Today’s Early Upgrade Programs?
We wondered if any of the carriers make it easy to upgrade a phone before the contract is up and found little definitive information and lots of comments like “you can sometimes negotiate with representatives.” Verizon recently scrapped their New Every Two program and currently does not offer any early upgrades before 20 months. AT&T offers a discount after 20 months but that is practically 2 years. Sprint has the most attractive arrangement. Any Sprint customer paying more than $89.99 for a contract can get a fully discounted new phone after one year along with a contract extension. We feel this is a model other carriers should adopt and could help give consumers more peace of mind when purchasing a product in such a fast paced market. Unfortunately for consumers it appears there is virtually no practical way for most phone owners to replace their phone before the contract is up.
Don’t Write Your Congressperson
If smartphone owners are frustrated buyers of new devices and vendors are bringing new products to market faster than consumers are allowed to buy them why isn’t anyone complaining? We don’t imagine any government regulation could change this situation after all, consumers can always pay the early termination fee or buy an unlocked phone but just maybe if enough consumers made their frustrations known the carriers might make it easier to change phones sooner than every two years.
About Retrevo Gadgetology
Data for this report came from a study that was conducted online recently with over 500 Retrevo users responding, distributed across gender, age, and location in the United States. Responses were weighted based on reported demographics to gain accurate estimations of gadget ownership and usage within and across demographics. All data is therefore reported as weighted data in which most responses have a confidence interval of +/- 4% at a 95% confidence level.
About Retrevo
Retrevo.com is one of the largest consumer electronics review and shopping sites in the world, helping people decide what to buy, when to buy, and where to buy. Retrevo uses artificial intelligence to analyze and graphically summarize more than 50 million real-time data points from across the web to give shoppers the most comprehensive, unbiased, up-to-date product information they need to make smart, confident purchasing decisions for electronics.

For more information contact:
Jennifer Jacobson
Director of Public Relations
press "at" retrevo "dot" com

*Please note, if you write about this study for the press, please reference Retrevo.com as the source.

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well that's true and i also

well that's true and i also think similar on that some times we are just going to by sell phone's but in some days its going to be out of date we need to make it change.
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Fairly low bar for "Obsolete"

In your evolution chart you have picked an opportune time, as we are on the cusp of changing from 3G to 4G, even so only one carrier is offering true 4G LTE in small geographic pockets, and the rest are being allow to market their 3.5G as 4G phones as of March. This seems a bit of a strawdog. Further last year's cutting edge is this year's bargain or free handset, again demonstrating last year's models are not obsolete, just not bleeding edge. Really, other than a 2-core processor, the changes are just incremental spec creep on the same features that make little difference in performance of a SmartPhone or its functionality. They are really more about bragging rights and marketing levers for upgrading. Certainly your survey subject's phones are out of date as the survey questions asks, but I wonder if your sample would have responded in the same manner if you had actually asked the question as you have recharacterized it in this posting. eg. "Do you feel your current smartphone is obsolete or will be before your contract it up?" "Out of date" and "obsolete" are not semantic or emotional equivalents in a consumer study.

You do present some interesting data, and given that the most rapid and prolific releases were on the Android platform it would be very interesting to know how these feelings of having an "out of date phone" aligned with platforms. ie. there have only been three iPhones released in the last 24 months and all can run the most recent OS, whereas the nearly eighty new Android handsets, outside of bug fixes, have remained locked into the feature set and OS version they were launched with.

Note: this is not an attempt to say one OS is better than the other, so please do not consider this an invitation to turn this thread into yet another Android vs. Apple posting war. They are both fine smartphones with large groups of genius users.


this is not an attempt to say one OS is better than the other

Phone update

I find myself willing to pay some money to upgrade (especially when the telephone they sold you such as the Blackberry 9000 which is junk)
"It sometimes takes me 10 minutes of trying to retrieve an E mail", but what really bugs me is that a new customer "say at Rogers"
will get better deals than I will ,even though I have been a customer for 6 years and 2 contracts ago. The problem, it seems exist with all phone companies. We as customers need to react to this, the Phone Companies don't really care once they have you on paper for 3 years. Even when you are up for upgrade they will try and get you to renew our contract for another 3 years with some additional discount and other.
I am fed up with these Companies that are only looking to increase their customer base with no care for after sale service.
The only time you can get their attention is when your contract is up.

you right

I have been a customer for 6 years and 2 contracts ago. The problem, it seems exist with all phone companies. We as customers need to react to this, the Phone Companies don't really care once they have you on paper for 3 years. that's sad

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