Europeans warm to refurbished smartphones

  • Consumers in Europe are embracing the idea of buying a second-hand smartphone
  • The refurbished device market is set to grow in the coming years
  • The main drivers for the shift lie in the affordability of used devices, as well as the environmental benefits of using refurbished devices

Consumers in Europe are increasingly willing to buy second-hand smartphones due to their greater affordability and sustainability benefits, and thus the market for refurbished devices in the region is growing.

These are the main takeaways from the sixth annual study on the market, conducted by refurbished products platform Recommerce in partnership with Vodafone, the giant telco that has operations across Europe and Africa.

The operator suggests that more than 52% of consumers in Europe will be willing to purchase a refurbished smartphone in future, while more than 43% of Europeans already owned a refurbished handset in 2023, up by 1% on 2022 figures.

The number of consumers willing to switch to a refurbished smartphone is higher in Romania and Spain, where more than 60% intend to buy such a device, though Vodafone and Recommerce have not currently shared the respective numbers for other European markets.

And while Vodafone noted that Europeans are now “more willing than ever to consider purchasing a refurbished smartphone”, the company and its research partner Recommerce did not reveal comparative figures to demonstrate how this much willingness has grown.

The study also found that some 35% of Europeans intend to renew their current smartphone in 2024, and refurbished handsets sold this year in the region are set to reach 27 million.

Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the cost-of-living crisis, saving money was the main motivation behind opting for a refurbished device, with a total of 67% of European consumers who participated in the study citing affordability as their main driver, especially in Portugal, France and Romania.

Consumers are also increasingly conscious of ways to protect the environment, with sustainability being the second-largest driving force for refurbished smartphone purchases (cited by 39% of customers).

According to the calculations, purchasing a refurbished smartphone saves around 50kg of carbon dioxide emissions and removes the need to extract around 164kg of raw materials.

Warranty assurance, cited by 27% of respondents, buying a more premium model (31%) and benefitting from after-sale service (18%) were other drivers for choosing a refurbished handset.

Customers in Europe were found to be increasingly ready to trade in or sell their current mobile device for subsequent refurbishment and resale. According to the research, more than a third of Europeans plan to renew their current smartphone in 2024, despite inflationary pressures.

“Customers are now considering refurbished devices more than ever, so that they can get a great value phone that is better for the planet than buying a new one,” stated Nick Dutch, Vodafone global head of device lifecycle services.

The research was conducted by marketing data and analytics company Kantar, and tracked the sentiment of consumers in twelve major European countries.

Citing data from IDC, Vodafone stated that the global market for second-hand smartphones expanded to 309 million units in 2023 and is further expected to reach more than 431 million units by 2027. The research house also expects the global used smartphone market to grow from $64.7bn in revenues in 2023 to $109.7bn in 2027 – see Growth in used smartphone sector curbed by lack of inventory – IDC.

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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