Robust Growth in Used Smartphone Shipments Despite Inventory Challenges: IDC Predicts

Shipments of used smartphones, encompassing both officially refurbished and pre-owned devices, are projected to reach 309.4 million units in 2023, according to estimates from the International Data Corporation (IDC).
5G smartphone user in ArgentinaThis marks 9.5 percent increase over the 282.6 million units of used smartphones shipped in the year 2022.

Looking ahead, IDC forecasts continued growth, with used smartphone shipments anticipated to reach 431.1 million units by 2027, demonstrating a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.8 percent from 2022 to 2027.

The number of used smartphone sold in North America will be around 81.8 million units with value of $26.653 billion in 2023.

In 2027, the number of used smartphone sold in North America will reach 107 million units with value of $44.33 billion.

The supply of used smartphones remains a significant challenge, attributed to extended refresh cycles, elevated price points, and macroeconomic challenges that have adversely affected the new smartphone market. Despite these obstacles, demand for used smartphones remains robust and is expected to grow steadily throughout the forecast period, albeit at a slightly slower rate than initially projected due to inventory acquisition challenges.

IDC foresees a 3.5 percent decline in new smartphone shipments for 2023, influenced by factors such as fluctuating demand, inflation, and global political unrest impacting the overall economy. In contrast, the used smartphone market has demonstrated resilience, achieving nearly 10 percent growth for the year.

The prolonged refresh rates for new phones in developed markets, exceeding 40 months, have resulted in a scarcity of available inventory for the secondary market. While trade-in programs contribute to the industry, they only constitute a portion of the total used inventory.

Despite the impressive growth in the secondary smartphones market, IDC acknowledges a slowdown in growth rates compared to previous forecasts. The scarcity of inventory has also impacted the total available market (TAM) for used devices in each region. The overall secondary smartphones market has experienced a decline of approximately 2.7 percent, influenced by extended refresh rates and weakened consumer spending that affect both new and used markets.

Anthony Scarsella, Research Manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, notes, “Despite the near 10 percent growth, the secondary smartphones market is showing signs of slowdown due to a genuine lack of inventory. With refresh rates extending in most mature markets, acquiring inventory remains the biggest challenge for resellers.”

“Secondary phone retailers are hungry for inventory as the high end of the market continues to be scarce due to customers just holding on to their devices. This lengthening can also be witnessed in the new market where shipments declined 3.5 percent for 2023,” Anthony Scarsella said.