About half of refurbished smartphones sold globally were iPhones, as Apple’s sales in the category grew 16% year-on-year in 2022. The new figures arrive by way of Counterpoint Research, marking a stark contrast to on-going declines in smartphone shipments.
The market research firm said Monday that the global secondary smartphone market grew 5% YoY in 2022. The growth would have been more if China’s refurbished smartphone sales did not see a 17% decline, mainly due to the resurgence of COVID-19 and the arrival of COVID-Zero policies, the firm said.
Nonetheless, the decline in China’s secondary smartphone sales has helped India take the top spot, with a 19% YoY growth, followed by Latin America with an 18% YoY growth.
Apple captured over 49% of the secondary market in 2022, becoming the fastest-growing brand in the used and refurbished sectors globally. The market share of the Cupertino company grew from 44% in 2021, according to the research firm.
High demand for refurbished smartphones is affecting the sales of new iPhones and Apple’s service revenues in many markets. However, Apple has succeeded in cracking its growth in the refurbished market and is attracting people to buy refurbished iPhone models even in places where their new variants are hard to find, Counterpoint said.
Apple has long been selling refurbished iPhone models through its official channels and offers a full one-year warranty on their battery and out shell to make them appealing to customers. The iPhone maker also has various sustainability-focused initiatives and delivers regular software updates even on older models, making it easier for consumers to go with refurbished models over their new versions.
Growth specifically seen in countries including India was also due to Apple’s success in the refurbished market.
“Apple is a highly aspirational brand in India, and refurbished iPhones give further a lower entry point to these aspirational users in Apple’s ecosystem,” Tarun Pathak, research director, Counterpoint, told TechCrunch.
He added that the South Asian nation was still small, about 15% of the global refurbished smartphone market.
Unlike Apple, Samsung saw a dip in the secondary market from 28% in 2021 to 26% in 2022, per Counterpoint. A small percentage of Android consumers shifted to iOS in the year, affecting Samsung’s refurbished sales. The trend would continue in 2023, the research firm said.
Image credits: Counterpoint Research
With the increasing demand for 5G handsets in the global markets, 5G made up 13% of global refurbished smartphone sales in 2022.
“The business potential of dealing in refurbished smartphones remains high, but the limited supply is affecting most emerging markets like LATAM, Southeast Asia, India and Africa,” Counterpoint senior analyst Glen Cardoza said in a prepared statement. “Imports from mature markets like the US, Europe and Japan have reduced as they have to cater to their own demand.”
Counterpoint noted a large share of consumers preferred buying premium and flagship smartphones in the refurbished market in 2022, resulting in a growth in the average selling prices of the secondary market.
However, the significant growth in the pricing of new models — not just in the case of the iPhone but in general — appears to be pushing customers for refurbished smartphones to a large extent. Macroeconomic factors impacting businesses and jobs are also making the refurbished smartphone market a sweet spot for customers around the globe.
The firm predicts the increased trade-ins and shift toward premium smartphones might help increase the inventory of low-grade used smartphones in 2023. End-of-life activities like disassembly, logistics, warehousing, recycling and e-waste disposal will also likely boost refurbished smartphone sales this year.