Unlocked Smartphone Users Are Spending More and Upgrading Less

Thirty-eight million consumers own unlocked smartphones in the U.S., reports NPD Connected Intelligence

Port Washington, NY, October 8, 2018– According to the latest Unlocked Phone Demand Report from NPD Connected Intelligence, the unlocked mobile phone market is continuing to expand with an estimated 38 million consumers owning an unlocked smartphone in the U.S., accounting for 15 percent of the market. This is up from 30 million consumers one year prior (end of Q1 2017), as awareness levels reached an all-time high, 74 percent, due to exposure both in-store and online.

As is the case in the locked market, consumers purchasing unlocked devices are increasingly selecting more expensive options. The installed base of unlocked devices priced at $400 and above increased in share from 29 percent at the end of Q1 2017 to 39 percent at the end of Q1 2018. 

“The upward trajectory of the unlocked smartphone market is being driven by OEMs and retailers that see this channel as an opportunity to differentiate their offerings,” said Brad Akyuz, director, industry analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence. “Traditionally, the unlocked market provided an opportunity for OEMs pressured by Apple and Samsung’s market dominance in the carrier-controlled channels; however, these leaders are growing their share of the market as well.”

Despite increasing purchase prices, unlocked smartphone users are still electing to upgrade more quickly than their locked device counterparts. In fact, 56 percent of locked smartphone users hold onto their device for more than two years, compared to 40 percent of unlocked smartphone users. But while unlocked smartphone customers upgrade more quickly, they are slowly extending their device’s overall lifecycle, mirroring what we’ve seen in the locked market. One year ago, 26 percent of unlocked smartphones users upgraded within 12 months, but this dropped to 22 percent in Q1 2018. 

“Lengthening upgrade cycles will not slow the growth in this segment of the market,” noted Akyuz. “With carriers focusing on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) discounts and retailers offering expanded device selections, the potential consumer base is expanding, driving further adoption.”

Methodology
The results of the NPD Group Connected Intelligence Unlocked Phone DemandReportare based on consumer panel research of over 1,500 U.S. unlocked smartphone owners, aged 18+ from diverse regions and demographical backgrounds. This survey was fielded in April 2018.

About Connected Intelligence
Connected Intelligence provides competitive intelligence and insight on the rapidly evolving consumer’s connected environment. The service focuses on the three core components of the connected market: the device, the broadband access that provides the connectivity and the content that drives consumer behavior. These three pillars of the connected ecosystem are analyzed through a comprehensive review of what is available, adopted, and consumed by the customer, as well as reviewing how the market will evolve over time and what the various vendors can do to best position themselves in this evolving market. For more information: http://www.connected-intelligence.com.


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megan.scott@npd.com

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