Smartphone sales not likely to drop in 2017

smartphone sales

There were predictions throughout 2016 that many of the phone companies marketing iPhones and Androids may not see a fall in sales as such but may experience a fall in the growth of sales for these smart phones.

The main reason for this prediction is that smart phones, whether the cheaper or more costly versions, don’t necessarily end up on the electronic trash heap that quickly. They are not cheap in the first place and even though consumers like to keep up with new technology they are also savvy enough to realise that constantly replacing a smart phone does not necessarily mean that any new features are that much of an upgrade from earlier versions.

How long should a smart phone last?

A person who owns one of these devices should expect to still have it in his or possession at least 3 years later. The careful phone devotee may even be texting, calling and browsing longer than that if it doesn’t accidentally fall out of the pocket in a shopping mall, a river or over the side of a boat.

What is the more common demise for a personal phone is it being stolen when you have put it down somewhere and have not kept an eye on it. Another reason for seeking a replacement for a smart phone is when it starts to become incompatible with various apps and communication’s upgrades like 2G to 3G to 4G and soon 5G. So in general if you are careful you should see your phone in your favourite colour last quite a long time.

What the experts say about phone life expectancy?

The Android camp

Google, which is responsible for the Android operating system that powers 80% of the world’s smart phones, thinks that 18 to 24 months is long enough for a phone. It doesn’t literally say you should chuck your 2 year old smart phone in the trash can but it does admit that it doesn’t provide software updates for Nexus phones which have gone passed their 18 month birthday.

This just leads us to the assumption that any phone which has reached its second birthday has attained a ripe old age and may be passing its use by date. Well known smart phone corporations like Sony, Samsung, LG, Xaomi and HTC seem to have similar expectations for the life expectancy of the phones purchased from them.

The iPhone camp

Apple ups its expectations for use by dates of its iPhones and expects to see each of its phones sitting in the pocket of its owner playing the role of companion for at least 3 years. The larger screens do start to attract scratches, while fading becomes a problem with the glass. It has also shown it doesn’t want to keep up software updates for older model phones.

The launch of iPhone 7 is what Apple calls an update, so the expectation is that those who own an iPhone 5S should not expect to see any more software updates, as any new and sought after novel features can be found in the latest iPhone 7. In any case, as an incentive to upgrade, Apple simply does not provide updates for older phones. The frustrated owner wanting an important new app must go for a new phone. If you are content with just texting, talking and browsing there is no need to rush down to your nearest phone store any time soon.

3 reasons why a new phone might be needed

  • The battery loses its storage feature.
  • A blurred screen develops from scratches and fading
  • The storage reaches capacity and slows the phone down.

What are the choices in 2017 for smart phone replacement?

If your smart phone is a little weary, or you are sick of its colour, there are several ways of replacing that piece of gadgetry which would lower your enjoyment of life if it was absent.

  • Buy a new Android or iPhone.
  • Trade-in old for new.
  • Buy a refurbished phone.
  • Buy a second hand phone.

 The $250 Android phone

$1,000 wouldn’t be too high a price for a top-of-the range iPhone but there are some equally good phones on the market that boast the latest iPhone 7 plus features but go nowhere near the current iPhone 7 price. An example is the launch of the highly regarded Huawei Honor 6X.

This state-of-the-art phone is not only sleek and streamlined but it has an octa-core processor, a whopping 3GB of RAM, a camera featuring 12-megapixel + with a 2MP option at its rear.

The camera, when set up, and with average phone use, will sit out two complete days without the need for a recharge. The dual-camera set-up found on the Honor 6X rear side permits a special portrait photo to be snapped. The reason there is a constant buzz around this new release is that the $770 iPhone 7 Plus shares the same as Huawei’s invention, but the Honor 6X costs less than half the price, at $250 depending on which country you buy it.

Highlights of the Honor 6X in Gold, Silver or Grey

  • The dual-lens features a super fast focus time of 0.3 second with a 12MP + 2MP.
  • 3GB RAM with an Octa-Core processor.
  • A smart filing system which allows for the running of several apps for gaming, music listening and browsing.
  • The battery remains useful for more than 50 hours for average use while for heavier usage starting when it’s fully charged can last for up to 36 hours.
  • It’s unlocked.
  • It has 32GB of storage space.

Currently, it’s available from Amazon and also on at approximately $A 373. The cheaper price has been offered only to the Chinese market at present.

The iPhone 7

This is being marketed as a 4G + phone and is available from Optus purchased over 24 months. This works out at $1,824. This includes a monthly payment of $36 for the phone purchase and $40 for the communication plan. This in the end comes to $864 for the phone itself, but the compulsory Optus plan is all part of the deal. It features:

  • An advanced camera set up;
  • Speakers in stereo;
  • The best ever battery performance seen on an iPhone up to now;
  • Exceptionally bright and colourful display;
  • For the outdoor enthusiast it is said to be water and splash resistant.

Trading in your own phone

  • If you see no problem with tying yourself down to one telco for a reasonable period of time, trading in your old phone could be an option for you. That’s if you really can’t see yourself carrying a phone that is starting to look used and no longer adds a shine because it’s out-of-date.
  • The 3 main carriers, Telstra, Vodafone and Optus offer this opportunity as long as you have got as far as completing 12 months of a contract. You will need to sign yourself up to a new contract to get hold of a new phone.
  • Telstra names its trade-in deal ‘New Phone Feeling’ and to be eligible you need to be on a plan with the company that is still running. You have to commit yourself to a 24 month contract before getting the new phone. There is an administration fee of $149 and you get nothing in compensation for your old phone. The same ruling applies to Optus, but the fee is a little lower at $99. Ditto for Vodafone with an administration fee of $149.

The condition of a trade-in phone should show:

  • It turns on and works as normal
  • No cracks in or on the screen
  • No noticeable exterior damage
  • No water damage
  • It’s not stolen (the IMEI number confirms this information)
  • It has been cleared of iCloud or other software

Advantages of trade-ins

Apart from getting your hands on the latest smart phone quickly, it gives you a chance to assess your current plan with your telco. A trade-in means you can swap your current plan and start a different one. What plans offer are changing all the time, as each telco wants to get ahead and attract more customers or steal customers from its competitors. When you trade-in your old phone, you can start a new plan that best suits your requirements for the coming year.

The main changes to plans recently have been

  • Increasing the GB data bundles
  • Free or low cost subscriptions to entertainment and sports like the Optus’ EPL subscription
  • Showing an increase in free minutes for overseas calls

Buying a refurbished phone could be a good option

Smart phones are expensive, whether they are new or used, but with telcos and phone manufacturers offering trade-ins there is now a good range of refurbished phones flooding the market. Kogan has a large number of such phones featured on their website at cheaper prices than a new phone and they are all unlocked. That means you can take up BYO deals with your favourite Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).

The latest deals from Kogan are:

  • A refurbished gold coloured Apple iPhone 5s with a potential for 64GB of storage is up for grabs for $529.
  • A refurbished gold coloured Apple iPhone 6 with 16GB of storage at $649.

Apple sells refurbished iPhones

If you aren’t looking for an iPhone 7 just yet, but you have broken your current phone, Apple itself does sell refurbished iPhones directly out of their Apple store. Their current models are restricted to the 64GB and 16GB iPhone 6S. These are all unlocked and they should work with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, as well as the MVNOs

The cost depends on the model, but the most recent price was $589 for a 64GB iPhone 6S plus which has been refurbished, while a new 32GB iPhone 6S Plus costs $649.

Advantages of buying from Apple

You will get a:

  • Device that has undergone rigorous testing
  • 12 month warranty
  • New battery
  • New outer shell
  • Phone that looks and feels like a new one

Precautions when investing in a refurbished phone

Buying a refurbished phone can without a doubt save money but there are things you need to think about when looking for one as outlined below.

Restored to factory settings

You must make sure that any evidence of previous owners has been completely erased. The best way to do this is to make sure the phone has been restored to its factory settings. Also, it allows you to quickly input your preferences. Any sign of a previous owner like browsing history could be a potential threat. This won’t be present if it has been restored to its factory settings.

Apps and games

Some of the previous owner’s apps or games might be still installed, even though they may not be clearly visible to you. Every time you start the internet you may be paying for these without realizing. Also, if the phone wasn’t properly refurbished, there could be all sorts of hidden installations, even spyware!


Before use, check to make sure that the battery and charger are the right accessories, otherwise your refurbished phone may not work as expected.

Electronic serial number

You will find somewhere inside your phone its electronic serial number. Every phone has its own unique number. You can contact the phone’s manufacturer who can tell you the life history of the phone from this unique number.

Manufacturer or retailer’s warranty

Refurbished phones can be quite expensive, so asking about the warranty length will do no harm. If it stops working soon after purchase there won’t be much you can do if there’s no warranty. Apple is quite generous by providing a 12 month warranty on its refurbished iPhone range. Just to stop you worrying you should try and get a refurbished phone that comes with a warranty.

Who should you buy from: the manufacturer or the retailer?

Don’t just get any old refurbished phone. Choose a reputable retailer or manufacturer to guarantee your refurbished phone investment is to be a success. Any well known outlet won’t want to build up a bad reputation for selling poor quality refurbished phones that only last a day or 2.

What is a refurbished phone worth?

Unless you go down to an op shop or a second hand store and find a bargain phone, you won’t pay substantially less than a new one. Your main benefit will be its flexibility to be used with any MVNO. If a phone has a labelled price which seems to be too good to be true, avoid it.

Unlocked refurbished phones

Both Kogan and Apple sell unlocked phones, but not every retailer will necessarily know whether a certain model of iPhone or Android will work with your preferred Australian network. The retailer can determine this by inputting the IMEI number of the phone into the compatibility box found on the different telcos websites. Both Vodafone and Telstra have this facility.

All phone companies work through specified frequencies, so if you know the frequency used by your refurbished phone, this is another way of checking its compatibility. For example, if you happen to be looking at a refurbished phone from an overseas online retailer it may only work on 2G in Australia. This will be of no use to you whatsoever, mainly due to the closing down of the 2G network.

Your chosen refurbished phones model history

Not all models can receive updates after a certain period of time. You should check first to ensure what you are buying doesn’t stop working because it is unable to receive updates.

Policy for returning a refurbished phone

This is not so much a warranty, but a policy in place for returning a phone that is either damaged or not working after completing its transit to you. You should expect a return policy of some kind even if you are responsible for the return freight costs. Many companies do offer 30 days which is enough time for you to get used to your phone and be sure that it is working how it should be. Don’t buy it if there is no suitable return policy offered.

Should you buy a refurbished phone on eBay?

You will find smart phones in some 2nd hand street stores that deal with second hand electronics, but refurbished phones are a bit different, as they should have been thoroughly checked. Any components should have been replaced that affect both the working of the phone and its appearance. However, there is nothing wrong with searching for a refurbished iPhone or Android on an online marketplace like eBay.

This online retailer in particular accepts adverts from both manufacturers and retailers who wish to sell refurbished phones. In fact, the site is so well organised that there are different sections for Seller Refurbished and Manufacturer Refurbished.

When you get into that part of the site you can then choose your preferred brand such as Apple and all the available phones will be revealed. eBay does have another great feature and that is asking the seller questions and choosing a seller who has been classified as top-rated. You can even select a seller who has both top rated status and offers returns if you are not satisfied with your purchase. This website is a great way to begin your journey for finding a replacement refurbished smart phone.

In summary, a refurbished phone can be a very attractive option as long as you feel certain that it has been genuinely refurbished. You will know as soon as you open the box as it will feel like and look like a new phone and will start up instantly. Don’t feel afraid to use online retailers like eBay as they do have the facilities available for you to check out the reputation of the seller. You can also ask questions and the feedback section helps to ensure you are getting what you paid for.

Buying a second hand smart phone

Refurbished and second hand phones aren’t in exactly the same category. A refurbished phone should work as good as new and come with a warranty of some type, even if it’s just a return policy. A second hand could come from an independent phone seller who is just sick of the colour or who is upgrading and doesn’t want to trade in his or her own phone.

You may find these sorts of phones advertised in a local newspaper’s small ads section or even up on a public notice board outside a grocery store. The only advantage of this more personalised method of selling is you may get to see and try the phone before you part with the cash.

You can’t expect any warranty or return policy and you may never get hold of the seller’s address if the phone stops working as soon as you get home. If you really need a replacement smart phone urgently because yours has been lost, stolen or damaged try your family first or even close friends as you may find someone who is about to upgrade. This will give you the window you need before deciding on your long term solution for replacing your phone.


Despite the push to sell new phones with even more bells and whistles than ever before, phones and smart phones actually do last longer than you think. If you want a new phone, but are prepared to accept a refurbished one from a reputable dealer, you can get one that works perfectly well for as much as 50% off what you might pay for a completely new one.

Buying a refurbished phone, either through an online supplier like Kogan, from Apple directly or through a marketplace like eBay should not present too many problems, but it is a good idea to make sure that it comes with some sort of a warranty or return policy and is free of any baggage from its previous owner(s).


Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.