5G Smartphone Upgrades Could Trigger 810 Million Used Devices Collected Globally In 2020

Secondary device market poised for a used device deluge: existing processes must be streamlined to meet consumer expectations and ensure ecosystem copes

Results of an exclusive global consumer research study examining consumer sentiment towards 5G smartphone upgrades and preparedness for trading in used mobile devices was released today by Blancco Technology Group, the industry standard in data erasure and mobile device diagnostics.

Blancco’s study, titled 5G Smartphone Upgrades and the Secondary Device Deluge, found 68 percent of the 5,000 global consumers surveyed would be willing to trade-in their used device at the point of 5G upgrade. Based on this number and looking at the total number of global smartphone users today, there could be as many as 810 million used devices collected at the point of 5G upgrade this year.

This is good news for mobile operators, OEMs and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) who stand to gain significant additional revenue by unlocking the latent value in used smartphones – a market that, according to IDC, is set to be worth $67 billion in 2023.

The research study concedes that owing to the relative infancy of the secondary device market globally, it is likely that the collection of 810 million devices will be difficult. Should half this number be collected, however, it will still represent nearly double the number of used devices shipped for re-sale in 2019 (206.7 million devices, IDC).

“The global momentum being built by the secondary device market shows no signs of slowing down,” says Russ Ernst, Executive Vice President, Products and Technology, Blancco. “The widespread global availability of 5G in 2020 is going to significantly increase the number of used devices coming back to operators and OEMs through buy-back and trade-in programs. Secondary market stakeholders must be ready to deliver an excellent customer experience, and that means securely and efficiently processing devices through various customer touchpoints and processes—from the retail store and back through to the reverse supply chain.”

Currently, the reality for operators and OEMs is that device buy-back and trade-in is just one reason why they might receive used smartphones from their customers. Other channels they must manage include diagnosing and processing devices received from warranty programs or repair requests, expiring lease deals or insurance claims. The ability to receive and successfully process all these devices securely and efficiently, while preparing for a huge additional influx from buy-back programs will require careful planning and partner selection, particularly when evaluating these devices in preparation for resale.

Ernst continues: “It is clear therefore, that most consumers engaging in the secondary device market in 2020 will be doing so for the first time. It is critical that the operators, OEMs and 3PLs provide the best possible experience by offering customers the maximum amount of money back for their devices, thereby maximizing their chances of repeat business. To do this, they must consolidate existing procedures and improve visibility of every stage of the mobile device journey, while committing to data security and erasure best practices and trustworthy diagnostic, grading and valuation solutions.”

According to the Blancco’s global study of 5,000 consumers:

  • Half (51 percent) of all respondents admitted that unlocking credit to put towards a new smartphone was the main reason they would trade in their old device.
  • Global consumers expect to receive, on average, 35 percent of the original purchase price for their old smartphone. Achieving this valuation is reliant on the efficiency of the secondary ecosystem and the accuracy of device diagnosis and valuation.
  • More than a third of global consumers (36 percent) still haven’t heard of the secondary market, and 62 percent have never traded in a device. Even fewer (46 percent) have traded in their used device.
  • More than half (51 percent) of global consumers have been waiting for 5G networks and devices to become available before upgrading. This number extends to more than 70 percent of people in India and the Philippines.
  • 45 percent of U.S. consumers have held onto their current device for longer than usual in anticipation of 5G availability, while 61 percent intend to upgrade to a 5G device, 42 percent in the next 3 to 6 months.
  • 54 percent of U.S. consumers would be willing to trade-in their used device at the point of 5G upgrade.
  • 60 percent of global respondents wanted assurances over the secure management of their data before handing over their old device. This number was higher in the U.S. with 62 percent of consumers wanting assurance on data management.
  • More than three quarters (77 percent) of global consumers are at least somewhat concerned that data stored on their old device might be compromised after trade-in, while 70 percent of U.S. consumers are equally concerned.

For full analysis, read the report 5G Smartphone Upgrades and the Secondary Device Deluge here.

About the research

The study was commissioned by Blancco Technology Group and conducted independently by Sapio Research in November 2019. Respondents were 5,000 consumers divided equally between the UK, the United States, Germany, India and the Philippines.


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