July 1, 2022

What you need to know

  • The market for refurbished smartphones grew 15% from 2020 to 2021.
  • Apple leads when it comes to secondary devices, while Samsung continues to close the gap.
  • Prices of refurbished phones has increased as 4G retains its value.
  • The U.S. trails other regions when it comes to purchasing refurbished or pre-owned smartphones.

Earth Day 2022 is coming up, which means it’s time to take a look at our sustainability efforts over the past year and figure out ways we can further contribute. Purchasing refurbished phones is one way to go green as it helps reduce e-waste. A new report shows that the global market for refurbished smartphones grew in 2021 by 15% compared to 2020.

According to Counterpoint Research, refurbished phone volumes increased more than new smartphone shipments in 2021, which could highlight the increased cost of new flagship phones in recent years, particularly the best Android phones from OEMs like Samsung. The report notes that Apple leads the market for refurbished smartphones while Samsung continues to close the gap thanks to its efforts to sell more popular devices to its Certified Re-Newed Store. Apple also has a similar Certified Refurbished program that fully tests phones so they perform “like new,” and the company recently revealed that 20% of the materials used to build its 2021 products were recycled.

(Image credit: Counterpoint Research)

Trade-ins were one of the fastest-growing sources for pre-owned smartphones. Jeff Fieldhack, research director at Counterpoint Research, notes how this correlates with the increase in new flagship sales. “The US and EU secondary markets bounced back in 2021,” says Fieldhack. “In the US, new Apple and Samsung flagship sales increased, which in turn increased the volumes of collected devices at carriers and other collection channels. On the consumption side, amid increasing insurance attach rates, the use of CPO (certified pre-owned) devices as insurance replacements increased during 2021.”

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