Rapid Shifts in How Britons Buy Mobile Phones and Services

  • Market for trade-in and refurbished phones gathers pace
  • Growing influence of online activities throughout the buying journey supported by new sales channels
  • Global supply shortages affected a third of people buying a mobile phone in 2021
  • Brand loyalty remains strong as people hold on to their mobile devices for longer

London, 1 February 2022: New research from CCS Insight reveals no let-up in the changing ways people are buying mobile phones and contracts in the UK. Our fourth annual survey — the most comprehensive yet — highlights an evolution in customer behaviour that’s reshaping the mobile landscape, accelerated by the pandemic.

Kester Mann, Director of Consumer and Connectivity at CCS Insight, commented, “The survey highlights significant changes how UK consumers buy mobile devices and services. The landscape is being redrawn by multiple factors, including device trade-in, a burgeoning secondary phone market, the trend to online buying, new distribution channels, environmental considerations and lengthening replacement cycles. New and existing suppliers need to respond to these changes to stay ahead of the competition”.

In the survey of 1,000 mobile phone owners aged 16 and over, almost half have sold or part-exchanged a used mobile phone at some point in the past 12 months, including 22% who have done so with a mobile operator or phone-maker. This reflects a growing variety of trade-in schemes that are fuelling an increasingly important secondary market.

Among the new trends identified this year was the impact of the component supply shortage. One-third of people buying a mobile phone in 2021 said that models they were interested in were out of stock. Some opted to wait until the model they wanted became available, slowing market recovery.

Highlighting how people are delaying device purchases, 80% told us they expect to keep their current phone for at least as long as their previous one. Although respondents listed many reasons that could encourage them to take a new phone sooner, over a quarter said there was nothing that could persuade them; more than a third said they had bought their current device because their old one was damaged or not working.

The research also reveals a desire to get broken devices repaired. Leading motivators include saving money, environmental reasons and avoiding the hassle of getting a new device.

Our survey also identifies strong brand loyalty, exposing the difficulty smaller brands face in challenging the stranglehold that Apple and Samsung have on the market. The two giants accounted for nearly 75% of people’s phones in our nationally representative sample. Nearly two-thirds of people said their brand of phone is the same as their previous one, including almost 80% of iPhone owners. More revealingly, nearly half didn’t even consider another brand when they bought their current phone.

We again saw encouraging momentum for refurbished mobile phones, now representing 7% of all personal mobile phones in use. And with more than half of respondents ready to consider this option next time they change or upgrade, that proportion is only set to rise. Significantly, the reasons for considering a refurbished device extend beyond affordable pricing; for example, a third of people who have decided not to buy a brand-new phone said it was because they care for the environment.

The proportion of online sales continues to grow, passing a milestone and raising questions about the role of the humble phone shop. More than half of respondents, at 52%, told us that their phone was bought online, compared with 45% in 2020 and just 41% in 2019. Only 37% of people said their current phone was bought in a shop.

One of many drivers of this trend is the variety of companies that now sell mobile phones. They extend well beyond traditional mobile network operators, which have seen their share decline sharply in recent years. Amazon, Argos, eBay, Apple, Samsung and John Lewis have all cemented their position in the past 12 months. As expected, Carphone Warehouse lost further ground after closing over 500 shops in 2020.

Notes to Editors

The research was conducted in December 2021. CCS Insight surveyed 1,000 UK mobile phone users aged 16 and over, representative of the population by age, gender and region. When answering questions, people were asked to consider their primary mobile phone for personal use.

The survey focussed on multiple areas, including where and how people buy mobile phones, the trend of online activities, use of trade-in and part-exchange schemes, willingness to take second-hand and refurbished devices, future purchase intentions, the impact of the mobile phone supply shortage, attitudes toward device repair and perceptions of UK telecom brands.

More details of CCS Insight’s extensive research into mobile network operators and mobile phones can be found at: https://www.ccsinsight.com/research-areas/telecom-operators.

About CCS Insight

CCS Insight is a global analyst company focussing on current and future trends in technology. It provides comprehensive services that are tailored to meet the needs of individual clients, helping them make sense of the connected world. Follow @CCSInsight on Twitter or learn more at www.ccsinsight.com.

For further information contact:
Imogen Tait
Harvard PR
Tel: 07384 907535
E-mail: ccsinsight@harvard.co.uk

Get in touch

Our global team of analysts understand what clients need and are ready to provide it.

We're great to work with. You'll be glad we're on your side.

You can call us for a quick opinion and we'll respond.

Subscribe to our blog