Frugal Trends: Keep Your iPhone For 3-4 Years + Switch to Cheaper Plan

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If you’ve been holding onto that iPhone for longer than you thought you would, you are not alone. According to this WSJ article, the average consumer now waits 2.9 years to upgrade their iPhone (2.8 years for all smartphones).

Horace Dediu runs the numbers independently in Determining The Average Apple Device Lifespan and finds it to have risen to just over 4 years:

These two statistics can both be true as one phone can have multiple owners. The initial owner keeps it for about 3 years and then upgrades to a new phone. Someone else can buy the used phone and get another year or more out of it. Some phones will last longer, while others break prematurely.

Smartphones and data plans add up to thousands of dollars per year. As we see above, the first way to lower your expense is to keep your phone for longer. I think people are noticing that the newer iPhones are certainly better, but by a smaller amount each generation. I’m not as familiar how well this works with cheaper Android phones as you can pick up new Android phone for $200. However, the latest iOS 12 is supposed to speed up old phones, and works all the way back to the iPhone 5S.

The next step is for people to realize that they can bring that “still-good-enough” phone over to a cheaper plan. The WSJ article mentions that carrier turnover is actually lower now than before those big upfront subsidies. People are keeping their old phone but also their old plan – not the same thing! Last year, we saved over a $1,000 with the “secret” Sprint Free Unlimited $0 per month plan after switching from Verizon. Here was our monthly bill for two unlimited lines:

Side note: I’m pretty sure that Sprint is trying hard to boost its numbers before the T-Mobile/Sprint merger is complete. Take advantage of their desperation while it lasts! I don’t think you’ll see this deal after the merger is closed.

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  1. Sprint also offers a cheap all in plan for those over 50 Saved me about half n my bill

  2. Had flip phones all my life, since AirTouch to Verizon. The simplicity of OS is the major point for me. I grew up with Win 95 and what it taught me is that OS will crash, sooner or later. There is no way, I will combine OS (the full blown pocket computer) and ability to make calls. You never know if another update, app or a background process will crash your phone (or slow it down).

    The basic interface of flip phone has been polished ever since we had cell phones. The price is $30 – $50, period no warranty is necessary, if I need to I go to a store and pick up another flip phone. Now this simplicity allows me to control the monthly bills around $30, nothing more.

    I was on a phone w/ one rep and she was telling me about necessity of her iphone, nonsense.m insurance alone is $150 /yr, over 10yrs that is over $1,000; over 20yrs that is $3,000 that you have to work for, that is a joke.

  3. By the way, Spring has worse coverage to voice as well than Verizon. My phone doesn’t ring when I’m in stores, other buildings.

  4. I’m genuinely surprised by this. I generally upgraded every 2 years. For the last 2 – 3 years, I upgraded every year because I got good deals on this budget priced smartphones that get better every year. Never knew I was such a spendthrift in this area! I do wonder how the batteries last for 2.9 years though. I have MintMobile. Prepaid for a year for $180. Can’t beat it. The only drawback is that I’m on T-Mobile network which is abysmal.

  5. I am still on my iPhone 6 and it still works great at 4 years old. The trick is to never update iOS if you can help it. I’ve only upgraded the OS to one newer version since getting it to avoid slowing it down and making it feel old. Surprisingly most apps still support that far back.

    I did this after my prior iPhone 5 going from new to quickly obsolete as I upgraded iOS over the two-ish years I had it. $600 phone ruined by software. Well, I’m now wiser with no immediate plans to get rid of my 6.

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