Demand for refurbished smartphones grows

Europeans are more willing than ever to consider purchasing a refurbished smartphone, the 6th edition of the Recommerce© Barometer in partnership with Vodafone has revealed during Mobile World Congress 2024 in Barcelona.

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In 2023, the worldwide market for second-hand smartphones expanded to 309 million units and is expected to reach more than 431 million units by 2027[1], even amidst inflationary pressures from 2022.

More than 43% of Europeans have already owned a second-hand smartphone, compared to 42% last year, showing that this remains a key point for mobile customers. Despite cost-of-living pressures for consumers, the research suggested that 35% of Europeans are intending to renew their current smartphone in the coming year – with refurbished devices set to account for 27 million devices sold. In total, more than 52% of Europeans declared they are willing to buy a refurbished smartphone in the future.

The findings were unveiled in the sixth edition of the Recommerce© Barometer, an annual analysis of consumer trends towards refurbished smartphones at retail published by European device refurbishment leader Recommerce©, in partnership with Vodafone, the largest pan-European and African telecoms company.

Conducted by KANTAR, the study tracked sentiment across EU consumers spanning twelve major European countries[2], including for the first time Ireland, and Portugal.

Consumer demand for professionally refurbished devices is also growing. More than 60% of surveyed consumers in markets like Romania and Spain say they intend to buy a refurbished device. In established markets such France, refurbished smartphones already represent up to 15% of the total retail market share[3], and more than 35% of people have already bought a refurbished smartphone.

Nick Dutch, Vodafone Global Head of Device Lifecycle Services said: “Customers are now considering refurbished devices more than ever, so that they can get a great value phone that is better for the planet than buying a new one. Buying a refurbished phone from Vodafone helps customers get the phone they want for less with added peace of mind.”

Augustin Becquet, CEO of Recommerce© declared: “We are at the forefront of this shift in consumer behaviour, offering high-quality, refurbished devices that help make a significant environmental impact. Our partnership with Vodafone is a testament to our shared vision of a sustainable future, where technology serves as a catalyst for positive change.”

Consumer demand for refurbished phones grows during cost-of-living challenges

With some new premium smartphone models costing more than €1,000 at retail, European consumers continued to cite affordability (67%) as their primary reason for choosing a refurbished device at retail. This trend was most prevalent in Portugal, France, and Romania (more than 70%).

Environmental reasons were the second biggest driver towards purchasing refurbished smartphones (39%), suggesting consumer appreciation for the benefits of refurbished devices compared to buying new.

Purchasing a refurbished smartphone saves around 50 Kg CO2e – 20% or less than the equivalent newly manufactured smartphone – and removes the need to extract 164 Kg of raw materials.[4]

Other reasons included warranty assurance (27%), suggesting growing confidence in purchasing refurbished devices through trusted brands, buying higher end-model (31%) and benefit from after-sale service (18%).

To ensure consumer confidence, Vodafone in partnership with Recommerce© only offers high-quality refurbished handsets with a 24-month warranty. Every refurbished smartphone sold by Vodafone has received a visual and diagnostic check to ensure components such as the screen, battery and camera are fully functional. Every phone has also been deep cleaned and securely data wiped.

In addition to cost savings and flexibility, Vodafone’s new refurbished range alongside its device trade-in platform supports the company’s commitment to promoting a circular economy for devices.

Trading in smartphones: a growing trend among EU consumers

Recommerce© also captures trade-in behaviours for the sixth edition of the Barometer, reflecting the company’s expertise in trade-in since 2009 and the partnership launched with Vodafone in 2022. Although some consumers indicated they would continue to keep their old smartphones in case of need (38%), a growing number of consumers (35%) across all European markets expressed interest in trading in or selling their current mobile for subsequent refurbishment and resale, compared to 28% for their previous handset, showing a growing habit across Europe with similar results per country surveyed.

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