Refurbished smartphones grow in popularity among UK consumers

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Refurbished mobile phones continue to grow in popularity, according to research from CCS Insight, with 60 per cent of UK consumers considering a pre-owned purchase.

The increasing cost of devices, coupled with a perceived lack of innovation in the market, has led to longer refresh cycles and slowing sales of flagship handsets. Many consumers are happier with older models and unwilling to pay for expensive handsets when looking for a new phone.

These trends, along with an increased focus on sustainability, have led to growth in the refurbished market and an increase in the quality and availability of pre-owned devices.

Refurbished device growth

All of this makes the refurbished route a viable option for consumers who would not have previously considered opting for a second-hand smartphone.

"The market for refurbished mobile phones is firmly on the rise,” explained Kester Mann, director of consumer and connectivity at CCS Insight. “Multiple factors will encourage growth, including the growing residual value of mobile phones, wider options to trade-in or part-exchange existing phones and attractive SIM-only deals. This presents opportunities to new retail players to stake a position in a device market still dominated by sales through mobile operators, both in the US and the UK.”

Other insights from the research show that text-to-switch legislation, only introduced in the UK back in July, is having an impact. A third of consumers are aware of the new rules, with CCS Insight attributing this to marketing campaigns from challenger brands. This could lead to more frequent network changes by consumers.

There is also evidence that the UK market is far more online than the US, with nearly half of Brits buying mobiles online compared to just 27 per cent in America.

"The trend toward online purchasing highlights the importance for channel players to invest strongly in their web presence. Offering a best-in-class experience could be a huge differentiator," added Mann.

However, CCS also noted that investments in physical retail stores by operators could also deliver long-term value: “Our survey also identified many factors that would tempt the majority of people to visit high-street phone shops more often. These include a more welcoming environment, better options to test out mobile phones, more-helpful staff and a wider retail presence.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.