Our iPhone Obsession Has Created A Hidden Economy That’s Good For Everyone

Unless you’ve been living on a remote island for the past few weeks, you’ll have noticed that Apple recently revealed the latest models of the iPhone. Cue near-mass hysteria. The unveiling is a now annual event, and this year coincided with the famous handset’s tenth birthday.

At eBay UK, we know that Brits love the iPhone. After all, we’ve collectively spent over £1 billion on various models of the device on eBay over the last ten years, and it remains our number one most searched for product.

But the fervour that greeted this year’s big reveal by Apple was huge, even by the standards of the iPhone fandom, prompting us to take a deeper look at our love affair with this titan of the tech world. So, we’ve delved into a decade of data to bring you the untold story of the iconic device.

Shining a light on a hidden economy

Each and every Apple launch sees Brits trading in their old models to fund their latest upgrade, in what experts have dubbed ‘the circular economy’. This involves consumers trading in their old goods for money rather than throwing them away, putting the proceeds towards an upgrade or new purchase – a major new trend in retail.

Small businesses are then refurbishing these older products, selling the nearly-new technology to consumers who want the hottest brands at more affordable prices. On average, we’ve seen Brits save around 45% on the latest tech this way – a product of savvy buyers and sellers.

The iOutlet is one such seller. Originally launched back in 2012 by friends Matt Green and Liam James to repair cracked screens, the pair spotted an opportunity to repair premium smartphones for those who didn’t want to pay full whack for a brand-new products. Fast forward five years and today, their business employs 15 people and turns over more than £8 million.

Co-founder Matt Green captures the growing opportunity for small businesses across Britain:

“I think that the refurb market will continue to grow, with so many new phone models being released each year there will always be a demand to keep up and offer people the option to purchase decent phones at a reasonable price.”

Is this just another example of out-of-control consumerism? Far from it, I’d argue. The circular economy of the iPhone isn’t just good for your wallet or for the sales of British businesses – the planet is benefiting too. We’ve calculated that the amount of waste avoided through preowned phone sales in the U.S. and U.K. in 2016 sat at a whopping 424 tonnes.

So the next time you’re thinking about the latest Apple model (and we know you will, because Brits have already spent a whopping 730 million minutes searching iPhones on eBay this year!) remember: you’re contributing to a hidden economy that’s changing the face of retail in the UK, benefiting small businesses, buyers and the environment alike.

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