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Digital Consumer Trends 2022

Cash in the cupboard: UK consumers hoard a billion pounds worth of old smartphones

Deloitte Digital Consumer Trends is a global survey on technology, media and telecommunications. Fieldwork takes place annually to ask people how they use, experience, and buy digital products. In the UK, questions were asked to a nationally representative sample of 4,160 people between April and May 2022.

In this special report, Deloitte will cover the circular economy potential for smartphones. It explores why people, generally, do not trade-in or sell their old devices. It also assesses why people usually buy brand-new devices, and the barriers that exists to adoption of second-hand phones. Read our full report to see how the industry and regulators might create change to grow the market for used smartphones.

One billion pounds is sitting in our cupboards right now, in the form old phones. And that only counts the twenty-four million retained in the last three years. The industry can and should unleash this value. Consumers need to be educated on how much their phone is worth, be sure their old data is secure, be offered affordable insurance they can trust, and be given ultra-convenient trade-in options. And the stakes are high. Reusing old mobiles could save more than just money… it could help save the planet too.

Ben Stanton

Smartphones generate 83% of lifetime emissions in their first year, and most of that comes from manufacturing. Clearly, to be better for the planet, and more sustainable, they need to last longer in active use. But when we upgrade, over a third of us keep an old phone in a cupboard or drawer, instead of selling or trading it in, to find a new home. For the industry to become eco-friendly, those forgotten devices need to be unleashed.

Despite this, demand for second-hand purchases still lags behind resales and trade-ins. Consumers want guarantees of longevity, glamourous unboxing experiences, and authentication of genuine parts – all things the industry should be able to provide. Amid the cost-of-living squeeze, smartphone consumers are looking for better value, and are about to become more eco-friendly, whether they know it or not. It is time for the industry to take advantage and grow the circular economy for phones.

Question asked: What happened to your previous mobile phone when you bought or received your current phone?

Key findings


This year's research revealed that:
  • Over the last three years, 24 million mobile phones were "kept as spares" by UK customers, with a total worth of £1 billion today.
  • Only 17% of people in the UK use second-hand phones, compared to 82% that are new.
  • In 2022 alone, seven million smartphones, worth over £500 million, will be retained as people upgrade to newer models.
  • Only 34% of consumers claim to be aware of their smartphone's current market value.

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