Trends in Device Turnover
p>What do the iPhone, the EVO 4G LTE and the Droid 4 have in common? They all have batteries that users can't replace themselves when they start having problems holding a charge.
For developers, that design is noteworthy because it's one of many factors that affect how often people replace their smartphone. Replacement rates affect the addressable market for apps built for each OS.
Smartphone vendors are increasingly using non-user-removable batteries because that design frees them to shoehorn in ones that last longer. If the battery wears out before the two-year contract expires, users have to decide whether it's worth paying around $80 to have it replaced or whether they should shell out the full, unsubsidized price for the latest and greatest model.
Other factors that influence replacement rates include:
"The refresh cycle is reducing year over year because of companies like Apple or Samsung who offer new flagship devices -- the iPhone 5, the Galaxy S3 -- every year," says Blin, who was strategy manager at Samsung, where he advised the CEO about products such as the Galaxy family of tablets and smartphones.
Is There OS Loyalty?
"Eighty-eight percent of current iPhone users were likely to buy another iPhone, and 10 percent were undecided," says Matt Vartabedian, vice president of wireless and mobile communications research. "Sixty-nine percent of current Android users were likely to buy another Android device, and 26 percent were undecided."
An OS's market share can change dramatically in the span of a two-year phone contract -- or even faster. For example, in late 2009, Android had less than 10 percent of the U.S. mobile market, IDC says. One year later, it was 45 percent. During the same period, BlackBerry's share dropped from about 45 percent to 25 percent.
Another factor that affects replacement rates is the availability of OS upgrades. Smartphone vendors typically offer only one major OS upgrade for their Android devices, so customers who want the latest and greatest OS version have to decide whether to pay the hefty unsubsidized rate for a new phone before their two-year contract is up.
Apple is an exception because it typically provides OS upgrades to all but its most elderly iPhone models. That means the majority of iPhone owners will be able to take advantage of app features that require the latest version of iOS. In the case of iOS 6, it also means that developers have to move quickly to upgrade their apps so they don't lose customers who dislike letterboxing.
How quickly? Less than a week after iOS 6 and