The Phone Repair Economy

Phone upgrades are often fun, but they’re also costly and the price tag is only growing. It’s time to take a look at all the options before you make your next phone purchase. 


In 2021, Americans are expected to spend $4 billion on phone repairs and $59 billion on phone upgrades, although the life cycle of a smartphone is actually increasing. In 2016, Americans kept their phones for 23 months, on average. By 2019, that time frame had increased to 33 months. 


The reasons for the change in the lifespan of a smartphone are simple. Changes in carrier contracts break the 2-year upgrade cycle. Consumers are more likely to pay full price for a smartphone, which can easily take two years or longer to pay off. Higher prices, over all, are causing consumers to hang on to their phones longer. 


From 2016 to 2019, the prices for the top three smartphone brands increased by 52%. This hefty price hike is making consumers less eager to purchase the latest and greatest. Not only is the price higher, but the features are no longer giving consumers that “wow factor.” Only 1 in 3 Americans are interested in upgrading to access the newest innovations. 


All of this increased longevity for smartphones means that they’re also more likely to be broken or damaged. Right now in the US, 2 smartphone screens get cracked every single second of every day, and 95 phones are damaged by drops each year. Together, that amounts to $29.8 billion in electronic devices being damaged. 


It’s no surprise though. Seventy-two percent of people have broken a smartphone at some time, and sadly, if you’ve broken one once, you’re 2x as likely to break one again. A lot of this could be prevented by simply ensuring that your phone has a quality case. Forty-four percent of people were not using a phone case at the time of the damage, but 55% added or upgraded a case after the damage occurred. It seems a little counterintuitive, but who are we to judge? 


Most phone damage is done to screens and batteries, and most breaks happen in cars or parking lots. With so much damage going around (kind of like a pandemic!), chances are you’ve dealt with a broken or damaged phone at some point. 


Fifty-nine percent of consumers would rather replace their phones than repair them, but that may not actually be the best option. There are other avenues to take. 


Repairing rather than replacing actually benefits everyone in several ways. Repairing is better for the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing chemical pollution from discarded devices, and conserving energy and resources. 


Repairing is also more convenient for the consumers as there’s no need to restore files or set up a new device in any way. Then, of course, there’s the financial benefit. Repairing will generally save the consumer money. 


In whatever direction you choose, there are steps you can take to prevent phone damage and increase the longevity of your phone. You can use a good case that will guard against drops. A shock-absorbent case, for instance, like those made of silicon or rubber, can prevent drop damage. You can also consider a screen protector to avoid getting a scratched screen. Another great tip is to make sure that your battery stays at 50% or higher as often as possible, but prevent overcharging by using a charger that stops when the battery is full. This feature may be built into newer phone chargers. 


Even with all of this, it’s likely you’ll deal with a damaged phone again in the future. When you do, make sure to consider all your options before jumping into the latest gadget. 

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