78 Million Americans Damaged Their Smartphones in the Last Year. Were You One of Them?

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From listening to music to watching movies, connecting with family to counting steps, we depend on our smartphones like never before, according to our latest survey. Yet, there are real misconceptions about the cost of smartphone ownership when it comes to damage and repairs.

Americans Love Their Phones & Don’t Wait To Repair Them

In our latest Mobile Mythconceptions surveys, we’ve found that 49% of American smartphone owners report spending more time on their phones than a year ago, and that the amount of money they spent on screen repairs surged to $8.3 billion in 2023, nearly tripling the amount spent in 2018 ($3.4 billion). We also found that 27% of American smartphone owners say they would initiate screen repairs within a day due to the importance of their phones in everyday life.

Thankfully, Damage Frequency Is On The Decline

In our third Mobile Mythconceptions study, we also looked at the common causes of smartphone damage and their costs, along with consumer attitudes toward repairing, replacing, and recycling their phones over time. Our survey found that while the use of smartphones is on the rise, the frequency of damage saw a slight decrease from previous years.

In the past 12 months, 78 million Americans reported damaging a device compared to 87 million during a comparable period in 2020. However, consumer concerns about the environmental impact of repairing or replacing a device have increased over the same time period, with 53% of smartphone owners saying that is important to them, compared to 37% of Americans in 2020.

Smartphone Central–The Hub of Everything

Our smartphones have taken center stage:

  • 45% of smartphone owners spend five or more hours a day glued to their screens
  • 82% of smartphone owners claim their phone has replaced their digital camera
  • 39% take six or more photos per day
  • 31% capture more than six videos per day
  • 54% of smartphone owners report watching more videos, TV shows, and movies on their phones than on TV

Smartphone Accidents & Malfunctions: More Common Than Theft

While 31% of smartphone owners report having damaged a smartphone in the past year, only 8% permanently lost their device, and 5% had them stolen. When it comes to the most common types of damage, liquid was once a frontrunner. However, as smartphone water resistance has improved, liquid damage continues to slide down the list.

Last year, the most frequent accidents and malfunctions as reported, were:

  • Damaged screens (67%)
  • Wi-Fi or connectivity issues (28%)
  • Touchscreen problems (24%)
  • Loose or damaged charging port (22%)
  • Water damage (21%)
  • Battery not working properly (21%)
  • Chipped corner/sides (20%)
  • Speaker issues (17%)
  • Dented corner/sides (15%)
  • Camera(s) not working properly (14%)
  • Microphone(s) not working properly (11%).

The Race to Replace, Repair, & Recycle

American smartphone owners don’t delay when dealing with smartphone damage, waiting only a day or less to repair:

  • Broken buttons (36%)
  • Damaged speakers (30%)
  • Broken microphones (29%)
  • Cracked screens (27%)
  • Broken cameras (22%)

When it comes to recycling old or broken smartphones, 46% of smartphone owners believe they know how to do it, but only 27% have actually done so.

Repair Or Replace?

Thirty-eight percent of respondents who damaged their smartphones replaced their device, while 32% chose to continue using it despite the damage. Others took their devices to repair shops (23%) or attempted DIY fixes (17%).

Cost Conscious Consumers

Repair costs remain a significant concern for consumers. Almost half (49%) of Americans would not repair a damaged smartphone that still functions due to the high costs involved.

Our surveys found the average cost for repairs and replacements is now $302, yet 47% of Americans think repairs cost $150 or less. The nation’s repair expenses have soared, with America collectively spending $149 billion on smartphone repairs and replacements since the introduction of the smartphone.

The top reasons given by respondents who have damaged a smartphone for avoiding or delaying repairs were:

  • 39% reported inability to afford repairs due to cost
  • 21% reported time away from their phone as a concern
  • 15% preferred to wait for an upgrade
  • 12% listed sustainability concerns

Climate Concerns

Sustainability and environmental impact have gained considerable importance among smartphone owners. Over half of smartphone owners (51%) consider the environmental impact of their devices crucial, and they are more likely to choose brands that implement sustainability initiatives.

Key sustainability factors increasing smartphone owners’ likelihood to buy from a smartphone manufacturer include:

  • Use of recycled ocean plastics (36%)
  • Use of recycled glass (35%)
  • Use of recycled packaging (35%)
  • Carbon emissions offsets (31%)
  • Manufacturer commitments to emissions reduction (31%)
  • The exclusion of chargers (24%) and headphones (23%) from new devices

When disposing of their devices, American smartphone owners exhibit varying behaviors:

  • 40% keep them as backups
  • 35% trade them in
  • 27% recycle them
  • 22% giving them to friends or family
  • 19% sell them
  • 14% discard them

With sustainability in mind, 38% of American smartphone owners express a likelihood of purchasing refurbished devices, with 35% of those interested in refurbished devices due to their desire to contribute to a more sustainable future.