The race between Apple and Samsung to come out with new phones with innovative new features is intriguing as always. What doesn’t grab as many headlines is the used smartphone market, which is really big in China, India, Southeast Asia and in Africa. The used smartphone market makes the most advanced technologies available to those living in emerging economies at affordable prices.
How big in the international used smartphone market? Quite big – an industry forecast by Gartner predicts the worldwide sales of used smartphones to go up to 257 million by 2018, which is up from 53 million in 2013, largely because of the soaring demand for used phones in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The worldwide growth in used smartphones sales over the next few years is projected to be 60 percent, which is way higher than the growth in demand for new smartphones. In fact, according to Gartner, the international used smartphone market is expected to generate revenue equal to $14 billion by 2017, compared to $7 billion in 2014 – which is a massive jump in just 3 years.
Buying used smartphones is becoming popular internationally because the smartphone revolution has slowed down significantly and there isn’t much of a difference between smartphone models released 2 to 3 years ago and those released this year.
For this reason, consumers in developing countries would rather buy, say an iPhone 5S for $150, rather than an iPhone 6S for over $1000 – it just doesn’t make sense for them to spend a significant part of their income on a brand new smartphone. So used smartphones look increasingly attractive to consumers around the world.
Gartner has found that 60 percent of smartphone users in America and Germany upgrade to get the latest phones from iPhone or Samsung. And 64 percent sell their old devices to the used smartphone market. Less than 7 percent have given away their phones to a recycling program.
Where is the demand for used smartphones coming from?
China is the epicenter of the used smartphone market. There is a great demand in China for older iPhone models available at a discount. There is a significant demand for used smartphones from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Demand for used smartphones is also very strong in Latin American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.
In Africa, used smartphones are a life saver – they have made smartphones accessible to a vast majority of Africa’s population at affordable prices. There are several startups in Africa that cater to the growing used smartphone business in that continent. South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya have witnessed the fastest growth in used smartphone sales in Africa.
India is another country where there is a huge demand for used smartphones. India has a population of 1.25 billion, of which there are 950 mobile phone users, including 250 smartphone users. Upgrading to a smartphone from an ordinary mobile phone is a natural progression for most people, but many are put off by the high cost of new smartphones from Apple and Samsung. That’s why used smartphones are so population in India and contribute to at least 20% of the smartphone sales.
The demand for used smartphones in emerging countries is so strong that even Apple has started buying its used devices in the US and reselling them in other markets. Apple is very serious about dominating the used smartphone market, and rightly so given that used devices account for 5% of the worldwide smartphone sales.
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