London, 28.03.2024

Mobile phone not working? Don’t panic, one third of Brits have a back-up device

Seven million old mobile phone handsets were put away in British homes last year – rather than selling or trading-in

Data from GfK UK’s Tech360 survey shows that breaking up with our old mobile phone handset is hard to do. Despite the cost-of-living crisis and increasing mobile phone prices, almost half (48%) of all Brits either keep or give away their old device rather than sell it. The most popular option for the old device is to keep it as a spare (33%). But with household budgets tight, selling or trading in an old model is less popular than might be expected.


According to analysis of GfK UK’s Tech360 survey, millions of old mobile phone handsets are stored in households across the land just in case the owner’s current model breaks down. Although these phones have a trade-in or resale value, owners are opting to keep them should the worst happen. GfK’s analysts estimate that roughly seven million old handsets were stored in drawers and cupboards last year.

This is against a backdrop of rising prices for new mobile phones as reported in GfK’s Market Intelligence Data. In 2023, sales of new handsets priced at £800 plus accounted for nearly 40% of the market, up from 28% in 2022.

Recycling is uncommon and less than one in ten traded in

Just 13% recycle their handset - and for this owners receive no financial reward. Despite efforts of the sector, 5% of old handsets are thrown away and only 8% trade it in against a new phone.

15% of Brits give their old phone away

Overall, 15% of people said they gave their old phone to family or friends in 2023. 25 to 44 year olds are the most likely age group to give away their old handset and in terms of income, the more someone earns, the higher the probability they will gift their old phone to a friend or family member.

As Lizzie Bailey, Director for Telco at GfK UK says: “Our research suggests that parting with an old mobile handset is not easy. Perhaps because these devices are essential to our lives, selling them on or trading them in isn’t the most popular choice and consumers are likely to have privacy concerns around the data on their old handset. People have invested in their devices both financially and emotionally. As we continue to evaluate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the mobile phone market, we see that people are still prepared to invest in a new handset. Demand for the highest-priced models was up last year, suggesting a move to premium models, a trend we are tracking in other technology categories. What is surprising is how few old devices are sold and traded-in to help pay for a new handset. This may change as the demand for and the reliability of refurbished mobile phone handsets increases.”


Please source all information to GfK.

See our recent press release on the market for refurbished mobile phones: One-quarter of all mobile phones sold in the UK in 2023 were bought secondhand or refurbished


GfK Tech360 is a market sizing, landscape and purchases study covering telecoms connections and mobile phone devices in the UK.

Market Intelligence figures on mobile phone pricing are the Non-Subsidised Pricing Estimation Reported in the GfK panel market for Great Britain.

Latest Press Releases

View all Press