How Often Do Mobile Users Upgrade Their Devices?

Tablet adoption is slowing, and findings from November 2014 research by Accenture suggest that the large-screen mobile devices aren’t the only members of the “big four”—smartphones, tablets, laptop computers and HDTVs—that will see slowing growth rates in the coming years.

While these four devices still led in purchase intent, fewer internet users worldwide planned to buy them in 2015 than the percentage who said they would do so in 2014. Smartphone purchase intent among respondents fell 4 percentage points year over year; 54% planned to buy such a device in the next 12 months. Tablets saw an even larger drop of 6 points, down to 38%. Fully 36% of respondents intended to purchase a laptop computer or HDTV, down 5 and 8 points, respectively.

Accenture reported that growth was especially slowing in more mature markets, and other research supports this. In the UK, for example, there are signs that the tablet market has reached maturity. Meanwhile, September 2014 polling by AYTM Market Research indicated that many US mobile phone users intended to wait at least a year until their next upgrade.

Among US internet users polled, 29.1% said they were most likely to buy or receive a new phone in the next six months, while 39.6% planned to do so in the next year or two. Fully 12.8% of respondents didn’t intend to upgrade for at least two years, and 18.2% didn’t own such a device and had no intention to. Just over 30% had bought or received a new mobile phone in the past six months, compared with 39% who had done so in the past one or two years.

When it comes time to finally make a new smartphone purchase, brand plays a bigger role than fancy features, according to Accenture. About half of internet users worldwide said they planned to buy a specific smartphone because they liked the brand, and nearly one-third intended to do so because they already owned a device from the same brand. Looks also mattered more than other features: 32% said they would choose a smartphone because they liked its design, compared with 27% who cared about operating system and 20% who chose a smartphone brand because of the model’s superior battery, screen or keyboard.

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