Do You Always Wait Until You're Eligible To Upgrade Your Phone?

Later today, Apple is slated to introduce its latest iPhone, which inevitably leads to fans of the popular device clamoring for an upgrade while they glare with disappointment at their iPhone 4S, asking “Why did I ever think I could love you?” But will people wait until they are eligible for an upgrade from their wireless carrier, or will they just say “screw it” and pony up some extra cash to have the newest and shiniest phone?

The folks at couponing site RetailMeNot.com and Ipsos Public Affairs have announced the results of a survey which found that nearly 6 out of 10 consumers will not wait until their next upgrade before getting a new phone anyway.

As far as reasons that people switch phones, 13% say it’s because they want the latest and greatest devices; 7% switch devices because they are fed up with their current carrier. Another 13% want to switch operating systems — whether it’s from Android to iOS or vice versa. .

So what are people doing with all these old phones they don’t use anymore?

According to the survey, 25% of respondents claim to recycle their old phones; 17% donate them; 13% trade them in for a new model; 19% pass their old phones onto others, with about 2/3 of those going to children as toys, while the remaining third go to spouses, friends, or family members. About 10% of people say they just toss the old phones in the trash.

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  1. Martha Gail says:

    I’ve had the same carrier for over ten years, now. If I don’t happen to have an upgrade, I usually just sign a new contract and get the phone free that way. This time, I specifically saved my upgrade for the new iPhone, but I won’t be in a rush to get it.

    Generally, when I get a new phone, my old one goes to my younger sister. My step dad always passes his down to my mom and then my mom and sister will donate their old ones. Sometimes we keep one just in case someone’s phone gets lost/broken/stolen.

    • msbaskx2 says:

      We have 5 people on a family plan with Spring and we do that too, keeping spare phones around in case someone’s breaks. Mine is the only one on our plan with insurance, so my phones can be “passed down” to the next person who needs one.

  2. The Brad says:

    I’ve been eleible for an upgrade since June. I’ve been waiting on the new Windows 8 phones to come out before I upgrade.

  3. msbaskx2 says:

    I’m not an iPhoner, but I just upgraded from the HTC EVO 4G to the HTC EVO 4G LTE because my phone charging port broke and my insurance had a $100 deductible. I was eligible for an upgrade with Sprint, so for $49 more I got the newer phone instead.

    (Love it, by the way.)

  4. shepd says:

    When I had a cellphone that I owned (instead of using the work phone) I waited until my cellphone was broken. No, not from breaking it purposely, but because it finally gave up (the wireless module in the last one just plain stopped communicating after about 7 years).

    By then I can basically get a phone for free without a contract that’s equally good or better.

    The phones go in the trash because they are quite broken–I do basic electronics repairs myself and if I can’t fix them, chances are the charity can’t either. They’re also beat to hell.

    • Geekybiker says:

      I hope you’re on a plan that doesn’t subsidize phone costs. Otherwise you’re throwing a ton of money in the trash too.

      • shepd says:

        Never would get a subsidized plan. I’m one of those “always goes for the cheapest” type of people. I managed to get a $25/month plan in Canada (+$50 a month for unlimited data). Yes, trust me, that was quite the feat 7 years ago, and basically unmatched until a couple of years ago.

        After the plan I went pay-as-you-go for ~$8 a month. Yes, I went to payphones to make calls, because it was cheaper. Yes, I’m cheap. Cheap is good.

  5. Rick says:

    No, I do not like buying a smartphone that is lock to a carrier in the US. Rather buy a unlock carrier free, carrier/OEM bloatware free smartphone.

  6. dush says:

    I’m way over my contract. Still waiting for a smart phone to come out that makes me want to pay for data charges.

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I always wait until I’m eligible, but then I wait until the phone I want is out. It just doesn’t make sense to upgrade just because you want to. With smartphones, you don’t really get a discount anyway. You’re only getting the subsidized pricing.

  8. Extended-Warranty says:

    Commence first world problem stories as to why everyone NEEDS The New iPhone!

  9. giax says:

    I don’t care whether the carrier thinks I’m eligible to an upgrade. For years now (I got tired of upgrading my mobile phone by over 10 years ago) I’ve upgraded mine when I get a newer old one from my other half. He had iPhone 4, and when he got a 4S, I got my iPhone 3G upgraded to iPhone 4. So whenever he’ll upgrade his (it’s usually when he wants, not when the provider advertises for an upgrade eligibility) I’ll get that 4S.

  10. klobbersaurus685 says:

    I wait for my upgrade and even then I don’t always get a new phone. If my phone works I don’t really see a point in getting a new one.
    I actually upgraded to the iphone 4s earlier this year because my 3 year old blackberry finally gave it up.
    My wife upgrades every two years and we just hold on to the last phone because you never know when you may lose the new one or it might break or whatever. That way you can just move back to a former phone.

  11. Alexk says:

    I wait until I’m eligible. And I also wait well past the release of the latest phone, even if I’m eligible immediately. I’ll let the rest of the suckers do the Beta testing for me, thanks.

  12. Invader Zim says:

    Isnt it recyling when I pass my phone on to someone else?

  13. wiggie2gone says:

    Nope I have been happy with my Droid X2(forced upgrade through insurance from my Droid X due to a late night swim) for sometime now. Probably see about buying a Samsung Galaxy S3 this winter. Price drop would be nice not paying 650 for it.

  14. samonela says:

    According to Verizon, I am no longer ever eligible for an upgrade if I want to keep my unlimited plan.

    http://consumerist.com/2012/05/verizon-if-you-want-your-unlimited-data-plan-youll-have-to-pay-full-price-for-your-next-phone.html

    • madrigal says:

      Yeah, my boyfriend ran into this. He said his phone is fine, so he is keeping it for now. Somehow Verizon turned a $99 phone into $220 with various fees, so that also played into his decision.

    • Boiled for your sins says:

      Unless you already have a 4g phone on that unlimited plan, verizon will push you into a tiered plan when you try to activate a new phone. I’d bought a razr maxx direct from Motorola and tried to replace my v1 dinc (3g only). Got an error telling me that the phone was ‘not compatible’ with the plan, and to please choose another plan. Unfortunately, the razr arrived 3 days later than promised which threw me past the cutoff date to be able to upgrade and keep my unlimited plan. Guess who returned the razr and is still using a v1 dinc?

  15. donjumpsuit says:

    I am an iPhoner, and they typically are following the iPhoneX followed by a iPhoneXS designation these days, so I usually wait the full 2 years to upgrade. When the iPhone 1st generation quickly went to the iPhone 3G, i upgraded the following year, but they gave an early upgrade credit to those doing as such, so it was ok.

    Recently I heard that they were obsoleting the ‘unlimited data’ plan that I am grandfathered into for the iPhone. I kept this plan, not because I use that much data, but because I knew in the future that I might need it, and it turns out with LTE, this may be true.

    It is rumored that Verizon is obseleting this plan when you get the upgrade credit for the iPhone (I am ATT, but they usually follow each other). If this is true, I will pay the full $600 for the new iPhone and say too bad, and keep the unlimited data. I would rather pay an extra $400 now and have either the option to keep unlimited data, or next year the ability to upgrade again and sell the old phone for about $400 in the first place, keeping the credit more or less intact

  16. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Maybe I am a bad consumer (but a good Consumerist). I get a new phone when mine breaks.

    I am still using a 3 1/2 year old Samsung Convoy flip phone. Semi hardened and can take a beating. It is first and foremost a cell phone. Easy to answer calls, take it out of pocket, flip open, talk. Easy to make calls, take it out of pocket, flip open and either press a one or two number speed dial or just dial straight. No unlocking, no codes, just a good, basic phone with a crappy interface for playing music (a 16gb micro sd card for $15).

    I will probably succumb to the iPhone 5, this one is on its last legs. And I am the last higher up in the company with a dumb phone.

  17. Lyn Torden says:

    I’m always eligible for an upgrade … to any unlocked no-contract phone on the market. I guess that leaves me out of this iPhone 5 thing I didn’t want to be in, anyway.

  18. Not Given says:

    I don’t see the big attraction, but I’ve been out of contract for over 5 years and I’m using a phone that was given to me used, I had to replace the battery.

  19. BurtReynolds says:

    I waited 3 years before getting this phone and since I can’t “upgrade” with Verizon ever again to keep unlimited data, I’ll upgrade this whenever it becomes too painful to use or something shiny enough comes along to get my interest. Probably be another 3 years.

  20. dicobalt says:

    Contracts? Heh, no way.

  21. longfeltwant says:

    What’s an “iPhone”? Is that like Android?

  22. Pants O Doom says:

    I just waited 4 years to upgrade my phone.

  23. Hoss says:

    I wait until it don’t operate

  24. Bodger says:

    I don’t change unless I have a real reason to change. That means that I’ve only owned three mobiles in my life and two of them have been unlocked and no-contract. It is certainly different for the members of the Cult of Apple who are depending on having the latest toy to validate their existence. Yeah, that was a snide remark but if you think about it carefully and with an open mind you may see the truth in it even if you are among the addicted.

  25. dolemite says:

    I don’t think I’ve actually ever upgraded a phone. I had my old phone for like 6-7 years, then that broke and I got my wife’s phone. I didn’t like that, so I asked when I was due an upgrade (I figured I should have gotten like 8 upgrades by then), and they said my upgrade period had “expired” (this is Sprint btw). What do you mean “expired”? I’d never used it. So now I have to wait until August 2013.

  26. trellis23 says:

    Personally, I don’t really understand why anyone would pay full retail for any phone, unless yours breaks and you can’t convince your carrier to let you upgrade early, but to each their own. HOWEVER, if you are the type of person who runs out every year and drops a ridiculous amount of cash to always have the newest iPhone, iPad, or newest/best Android device (or really any tech that gets released often), then do NOT complain to me about the economy or your personal finances. I feel the same way about people driving new SUVs and complaining about gas prices.

  27. donjumpsuit says:

    I really like the commenters here at the consumerist, but once again, this type of topic definitely shows the age group that exists here.
    Please don’t take it as an insult, but here we have it, a bunch of grandparents with candybar phones.

    If you don’t get the difference between a 5 year old candybar phone and a iPhone or Android, perhaps you should keep that comment to yourself.

    Pretty much I think the over/under is if you still have a VCR or VHS tape in your house, you shouldn’t be commenting on new technology.

    Love you guys.

    • SLC says:

      Oh, I get the difference (and I’m 39) – I just don’t see the need. I don’t need to always have the internet available. I don’t need to always have access to email. I don’t need to post social networks. I can do those things, if I want to, at home. My seven-year-old candy bar phone does a fine job as a phone, and that’s all I want it to do. It gets turned off at night. It isn’t turned on during the workday. Don’t assume that everyone is as dependent upon their cellular telephone as you are, and don’t assume that every person under sixty has your needs.

      And I do have a VCR that handles VHS tapes. We still have some, and we still watch them. I’m sorry you have a problem with that.

    • nosaints_alive says:

      What do you use if not VHS ? I’m not going to run out and upgrade from a iPhone 4S to the 5, but I have upgraded early because I steal the other people on my plans upgrades, My parents phones mostly that I pay for .

  28. RedOryx says:

    Huh. I totally had that phone in the picture, or one very very similar and it did indeed snap like that. My sister had the same one and it happened to her, too.

  29. theblackdog says:

    I usually wait until I’m upgrade eligible, but then something has to come along that makes it worthwhile too. I went from a Motorola Adventure v750(?) to an HTC Incredible because I wanted a smartphone. In June I was considering getting the Incredible 4G but when Verizon decided to eliminate the unlimited data plan, I jumped the gun and got the Galaxy SIII instead. I’m very happy with it, but now if I want to keep Verizon I have to pay full price for a phone. Fine, I’ll just use the SIII until it’s falling apart or they boot me off the unlimited data for “using too much.”

    Question though, did anyone else notice that Verizon’s 3G network was behaving like crap this past May/June? It was getting so slow on my Incredible that I wondered if they were conspiring to force me to 4G.

  30. RedOryx says:

    Okay, well, to answer the question: I had a flip phone for years and it was due for an upgrade, but I was happy with it and knew that eventually the iPhone would come to Verizon, so I just held onto it for another year, year and a half and got the iPhone. I think I’m actually up for another upgrade next month, but my 4 works and I probably won’t upgrade until it breaks.

  31. Kestris says:

    I tend to wait for my upgrade. Then I recycle my old phone.

  32. PragmaticGuy says:

    My phone is about 6 months past the upgrade time but you know what? It STILL works and there’s not much difference between the newer ones and the one I have except Android software is updated. I’ll stick with this one until it doesn’t boot up anymore.

  33. bdgbill says:

    I wait until I’m eligble but sometimes it’s incredibly painful. I suffered through two years with an LG Voyager which was the worst purchase of any kind I have ever made in my life.

    Now that I use Android phones, I always keep the old ones. My Original Droid lives in the bathroom now for reading the news or playing Temple Run when I’m er.. in there.

  34. theamazingyeah says:

    I don’t even get a new phone when my contract is up. I tend to chase video game technology but not phones. My phone has to be able to check email for work, call, and text. I happened upon an iPhone 3G right before the 4 came out and my wife insisted we have them. Otherwise I’d still have whatever crap I had before that.

  35. Rexy does not like the new system says:

    I’ve never waited. My first phone was a Sidekick, which I upgraded to a later model about a year into my contract. After the outage of ’09, I dropped T-Mobile and switched to Verizon. They were 1 year and 8 months of pure hell (3 model changes and 20+ replacements). Paid the ETF (somewhere around $60) because I couldn’t stand them any longer. Now I’m with Sprint, and they’ve been great so far.

  36. AzCatz07 says:

    A fool and his money are soon parted.

  37. alexwade says:

    Usually I do and then some; but my piece of crap Motorola Atrix has a dying touchscreen on it that is getting worse. I use my phone to browse websites and type emails all the time and it is very difficult when touchscreen is dead around the letters I need to type. So I bought a Samsung Galaxy S III on “fee-bay”. Won the bid and saved $50 off AT&T’s non-contract price.

  38. SLC says:

    Upgrade? I’ve been using the same cellular telephone (emphasis: telephone) for the last seven years. I’m happy to not feel tethered to it.

  39. rdm says:

    I always wait, and then immediately upgrade when I can. The whole point of having the contract is a subsidized phone (at least, now, when pre-paid is so cheap).

  40. JusticeGustine says:

    Keep it until it dies, either natural or accidental.

    Current phone is a DroidX, and I have the car & home docks for it and I like them (hey rebooting occasionally is a good thing, right?) . Replacing it would mean looking for new ones.

  41. Bob A Dobalina says:

    I wait until I am eligible for the upgrade. I am a “latest and greatest” guy but there is something “later and greater” every month. You can never keep up. So I just wait and go for the freebie

    As far as my old phones go, I usually toss them.

    The last time, I recycled. I dumped my iPhone for the much better Samsung GS 2 Skyrocket and gave it to my daughter to use as an iPod touch

  42. xredgambit says:

    I keep them until it’s time to upgrade. And even then I can hold back. I got the “OG Evo” when it came out and kept it till I got my LTE. I could’ve upgraded back in Feb but I didn’t. My wife want’s the new iPhone and she will wait till nov when her upgrade can come.

  43. rstark says:

    I always wait, and am switching from the Thunderbolt to Iphone 5 and my old phone is just going to my mother. too much of a bother to resell.