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Exploring the second-hand mobile market: Breathing new life into heritage mobile devices

Exploring the second-hand mobile market: Breathing new life into heritage mobile devices

by Russ Ernst, VP Product Management, Blancco

Reverse Logistics Magazine, Edition 96

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Open your browser to any tech or gadgetry publication and I guarantee youíll see the shiny new Apple iPhone XS suite of smartphones staring out at you. Apple, like many major smartphone manufacturer, releases a new device almost annually. And thanks to its gigantic brand power, legions of fans are quick to trade in their older model. Technology is advancing, and so too is the mobile world. But what happens to existing devices when a new cycle begins?

News in the mobile world usually centers around the big name brands, like Apple and Samsung, the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and carriers. Itís rare that we hear news on those legacy devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 youíve got stored away in a cupboard somewhere. These devices are far from past their usefulness though. As with any IT asset, the asset, mobile device asset lifecycle is a circular one. Devices are bought, sold, spruced up and then sold again to new buyers all over the globe.

Even as we hurtle towards the era of 5G, and older devices are less able to benefit from the latest technologies, second-hand smartphones are still of value. The second-hand mobile market is breathing new life into heritage devices, and itís maturing quickly. Growth in this market has skyrocketed in recent years. After all, not everyone can afford to spend hundreds, or even over $1000, for a new device every year.

A closer look at the refurbished smartphone market.
Letís talk numbers: Global shipments of new devices declined by 0.3 percent in 2017 and are expected to decrease again in 2018. The biggest driver of the 2017 downturn was China, which saw declines of 4.9 percent in 2017 compared to 2016 numbers. The second-hand mobile market, however, is projected to make up 24.8 percent of the overall mobile market by 2020, representing 55 million unit shipments, according to Statista. And, according to Persistence Marketing Research, global revenue in this sector is projected to reach 38.9 billion dollars in 2025, up from 19.7 billion in 2017.

Brand power extends beyond new devices Ė Apple has around 50% market share in the refurbished mobile market as, broadly speaking, it seems everyone wants an iPhone. These devices donít simply crash and burn once newer iterations are released; the hardware lifecycle is much longer than a year. Thereís great benefit in erasing and reselling an older phone Ė it saves the device from an environmentally harmful landfill, and it can make you some money too. In fact, those individuals who are in possession of two or three older generation smartphones are often able to sell these devices to afford the latest model.

Recycling devices isnít only done by consumers. The ĎGreení movement means that assets now need to be recycled by many organizations. Apple used to destroy 100% of its devices physically, a practice which is not environmentally-friendly. Thereís a monetary gain from recycling the assets and an environmental gain from keeping these assets from a landfill Ė companies fulfill corporate social responsibility practices while making extra money.

So how does one device pass safely into new hands? Data erasure.
Data sanitization software is allowing us to keep our assets in use for longer; they can go through second and third pairs of hands before reaching end-of-life. Data erasure software overwrites all data on a device, rendering it undiscoverable to its new owner. Thanks to data sanitization practices, weíre able to extend the lifespan of heritage devices, ensuring mobile technology is accessible to everyone, even if they donít have a spare $1000.
Russ Ernst, VP Product Management. As Vice President of Product Management at Blancco, Russ Ernst is responsible for defining, driving and executing the product strategy across both data erasure and mobile diagnostics product suites. Prior to this, Russ was Director of Product Management for Lumension, where he was instrumental in expanding the platforms and applications supported for vulnerability remediation content. He often speaks on our webinars about data management and data erasure.
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