Just like a new car starts to lose value the second you drive it out of the dealership, phones start to depreciate as soon as you take them out of the box - and some depreciate in value much faster than others.
Our Annual Phone Depreciation Report uses our own trade-in data to compare the values of the most popular mobile phones from Apple, Samsung and Google for three years from the date the device was launched, creating a definitive guide to phone depreciation.
We’ve crunched the numbers to help you reduce the amount of money you lose from depreciation and help you make smarter choices for the environment too.
Key Highlights of This Year's Report:
Money lost over time to depreciation
We asked 2,000 phone users in the US about their trade-in habits. We then combined this insight with our own depreciation data to find out how much money is typically lost in a lifetime through mistimed trade-ins.
Our survey revealed that 46% of people do not trade-in their device at the same time as upgrading, waiting an average of 10 months to do so. During this time, their device will lose a third of its value.
During this 10 month period, the average phone will decrease in value by $73. With an average of 38 upgrades throughout a person’s lifetime, approximately $2,700 is lost on average simply due to waiting too long to trade-in.
23% of people delaying trading in their old phones are not aware of the effect it will have on the value of their phone, and a further 11% think that they will get more money for their phones if they wait longer.
31% of phone owners in the US don’t trade-in their old mobile phones at all, losing out on thousands of dollars. Phones sitting at home losing value also have the potential to contribute to e-waste piling up in landfills across the globe. Older generations, in particular, are most likely to hold onto devices rather than trading them in.
Which brands are holding onto the most value?
From trade-in data, we can see which phone brands retain their value the best - and it’s good news for iPhone fans, as Apple continues to hold the top spot.
On average, iPhones lose 49% of their value in the 12 months after they are released and 66% by the end of a standard 24-month contract period.
Samsung takes the number two spot with their mobile phones losing an average of 65% of their value in the 12 months after launch, a figure that rises to 79% after 24 months.
Google phones experience the highest rates of depreciation, losing an average of 80% in the 24 months after their release.
Which mobile phones are retaining the most value
5G-enabled iPhones retaining significantly higher value than 5G-enabled Samsung devices
Of all the 5G phones released, the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro managed to retain their value the best in the six months after their release, dropping by just 23% and 24% respectively. When comparing this to Samsung’s first 5G-enabled phone release, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, this device lost 70% of its value in the first six months of its release, giving it the second highest depreciation rate in the last three years of Samsung devices, the first being the Samsung Fold 2, which lost a close 71% of its value in the first six months.
Across all devices, iPhone performs better on average in terms of value retention, losing an average of 40% of their value after six months, whereas the typical depreciation rate across all Samsung devices is 57% during the same time period.
Value lost in the first year after release
The top eight phones which held their value most at 12 months are all iPhones. The iPhone 11 has held onto its value the best, depreciating by 37% in the first 12 months. The iPhone XS Max and 11 Pro Max, take the 2nd and 3rd positions, losing 43% and 44% of their value respectively after 12 months.
The Google Pixel 3a and the Pixel XL are the best performing non-Apple mobile phones, losing 52% and 53% of their value in their first 12 months on sale.
Which mobile phones are losing the most value?
The Google Pixel 2 was the worst performing mobile phone in our 2021 report, losing a huge 77% of its value in the first year, followed closely by the Pixel 3, which lost 73%.
So, when is the best time to sell your phone?
Our data tells us the trade-in values of mobile phones throughout their lifespan. Using their price at release, we have calculated how much each mobile phone has depreciated each month.
We know that the longer you wait to trade-in your device, the less you are going to receive for it. New releases also impact the value of your phone so if you are planning to upgrade, it’s important to trade-in your phone as soon as possible, rather than hanging on to it. We offer a 28 day price guarantee, so you can lock in your price while you’re waiting for your new mobile phone to arrive.
Looking to upgrade to the latest mobile phone?
Selling your old phone is a great way to raise some extra cash.
How will the new iPhone release affect the value of your mobile phone?
In the past few years, the launch of a new iPhone has heavily impacted the value of its predecessors, dropping by 12% in the first month alone, and by an average of 20% after 3 months.
When the iPhone 12 was released in 2020, it caused the iPhone 11 to drop in value by 15% in just one month and by 20% after 3 months.
The table below demonstrates what could happen to the value of the iPhone 12 if it were to drop by the averages of 12% after one month and 20% after 3 months.
Decluttr CEO, Steve Oliver
Our data shows that trading in your old device as soon as you upgrade is the way to get the best value from it, which can then be used to help fund the purchase of an upgrade or to be spent as you please. Our trade-in offers are valid for 28 days, giving people time to ensure their new device has arrived before they send their old one to us.
By regularly holding on to unused devices, people are losing out on the value they hold, which adds up to a considerable sum over time.
The factors fueling the demand for upgrades
Why are we upgrading?
Our survey of 2,000 US mobile phone users reveals that the reasons for getting a new phone is due to being eligible for an upgrade (33%) or a new phone coming out (19%). As opposed to 36% who will get a new phone as their existing one is damaged.
The data also shows that the release of new models plays a big part in driving upgrades, as 21% of iPhone users stated they will be upgrading to the new iPhone 13 as soon as it is launched.
The primary driver behind upgrading is access to 5G (45%), followed by a better camera (41%) and improved battery life (40%). That said, some may be holding out as a superstitious 22% think Apple should avoid using the number “13” given its reputation for being an unlucky number. The biggest factor deterring purchases, however, is the perception that the price will likely be too high.
A growing interest in 5G
The availability of 5G-enabled phones has given rise to a greater understanding of the technology from consumers and a higher level of interest in upgrading to devices that have this feature. 36% of American mobile phone users said they already own a 5G enabled device, while 37% report that they plan to upgrade to a 5G-enabled device in the next 12 months. Of those already on the 5G network, 74% reported improvements on their device, while 25% felt there was no difference at all to their device’s performance.
How is the global chip shortage affecting upgrades
With reports of availability issues for new tech launches due to a global chip shortage, 81% of those wanting to upgrade to the new iPhone are still willing to wait if there are supply issues.
As far as other impacts on consumers from the chip shortage, 21% reported having trouble purchasing gaming consoles due to availability issues in the last six months, 15% with laptops and 18% with mobile devices. 13% turned to refurbished devices due to an inability to purchase a new device.
Environmental impact of not trading in
Given that 1 in 3 Americans never trade in their old mobile devices, the potential long-term ramifications of this is where these unused mobile devices eventually end up.
Our prior surveys indicate that the typical home has $43B worth of unused technology items in their home, yet many of these devices can end up in landfill, having not been properly recycled or traded-in for refurbishment.
Yet, based on the environmental benefits of trading in a device, most would be willing to trade-in their mobile device (77%), recycle their mobile device (75%) or buy a secondhand/refurbished mobile device (54%).
Steve Oliver added: “E-waste poses a huge threat to the environment. We can all do our bit to reduce it by responsibly recycling and reselling unused phones and other tech products we no longer use - keeping them in a circular economy”
Trading in your old phone as soon as you get a new one will not only help tackle the growing e-waste issue but it will also mean you get a better price for your old phone. See how much money you can earn from trading your old tech today with Decluttr.
To create our Annual Phone Depreciation Report, we use our own trade-in data to look at the trade-in values of the most popular mobile phones from Apple, Samsung and Google, for 36 months from their launch date. The data was based on Decluttr’s ‘good’ trade-in prices on unlocked phones. The storage capacity on the devices we analysed was based on popularity - we used the most common variant against each generation.
The estimated drop in value of iPhones after a new model is released was calculated using the average drop in value of the new model’s predecessors after new releases from 2018 and onwards.
Money lost over time to depreciation
The lifetime value of money people* are losing over time to depreciation was calculated using:
The average length of phone ownership in the US according to our survey (22 months)
The average length of time those who don’t trade-in as they upgrade wait prior to trading in an old device (10 months)
The average value of phones at the respective months following a device’s launch
The average value loss on mobile devices** between 22 months and 32 months told us how much people would be losing by waiting to trade in. This figure was then multiplied by the average of 38 upgrades given the average US lifespan (79), less the first ten years of age.
The consumer research was commissioned by Decluttr, through RepData in a nationally representative survey of 2,000 US adults, who are also mobile phone users, in July 2021
*This was based on a sample of 2,000 US adults, who are also mobile phone users, in July 2021
**We analyzed the depreciation of Apple, Samsung and Google mobile phones Decluttr holds data on to calculate the average loss in value each month after their launch. These three brands were used due to their combined US mobile phone market share accounting for over 85% of the total market.