Oh, Shiny! 77% of iPhone 4 Purchases Are Upgrades From Previous Models


Photo via goodrob13 via Flickr CC

It is no wonder Gazelle, the gadget buy-back company, has seen a 1000% increase in their rates of iPhone trade-ins this year. Every year that Apple puts out a new iPhone, a higher percentage of the consumers are upgrading from an older version of the phone. Apple Insider states, "Apple has successfully built a recurring revenue stream in which most users will upgrade every one to two years." In other words, despite the fact that a company has built a tool that is both extremely useful for a very long time and among the highest quality cell phones around (despite some serious reception issues), users are still ditching perfectly good devices for something newer and shinier. The situation proves something about green gadgets -- there's no such thing. There's only green consumers and users of gadgets. And when it comes to the iPhone, there seems to be relatively few.

Apple Insider reports that brand loyalty built up by Apple has been a major component of the success of new versions of iPhones.

"Mission accomplished," analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray said in a note to investors on Friday. His conclusion was based on a survey of 608 people in line for the iPhone 4 on Thursday in San Francisco, Calif., Minneapolis, Minn., and New York City.

"The bottom line: 77% of new iPhone buyers were existing iPhone owners (upgrades), compared to 56% in 2009 and 38% in 2008," Munster wrote. "Apple is effectively building a recurring revenue stream from a growing base of iPhone users that upgrade to the newest version every year or two."

Depressing, yes. Surprising, no. For the last several years, the average cell phone upgrade happens every 18 months or so. And with new technology like touchscreen navigation, apps, easy access to social networking tools and other perks on cell phones, users are looking for the next best thing as soon as their carrier offers an upgrade option.

Analysts expect around 1.5 million iPhones to be sold during the launch, and with the record lines outside of Apple stores yesterday, that number is likely. It highlights how much people want the latest version of something they love.

But it also highlights something else about electronics.

A green gadget is one that is used well and for a very, very long time. No matter what Apple, or any other company, does to "green" their products, it's up to the user to make that device really sustainable by sustaining it.

It's simply up to us -- not manufacturers, or governments, or third party certifiers -- it's up to us as consumers to shrink the environmental impact of electronics by not rushing out to get this year's model if we simply don't need it.

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Tags: Apple Inc | Cell Phones | Consumerism | Electronics