'Less Loyal' Unlocked Buyers Make Up 12.5% Of US Phone Market

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The unlocked mobile phone market now accounts for 30 million consumers in the US, based on a new report from NPD Group. The report goes on to further note the 30 million reach is essentially 12.5-percent of the market as a whole, representing a 0.5-percent increase from a similar report dating back to December, 2016. Which in turn, suggests unlocked smartphone sales continue to be on the rise in 2017. However, the report also found some interesting findings on the behavior of unlocked phone buyers, compared to their locked phone counterparts.

Naturally, one of the benefits of buying an unlocked smartphone, is that it is free of carrier-association, affording consumers the option to choose the carrier and plan most suitable to their needs. Another way of looking at it, is that unlocked phone buyers are free to switch carriers as often as they please. A freedom which the report notes is starting to be representative, with unlocked buyers switching carriers more often than locked buyers. In the words of the report, those who buy unlocked phones "are less loyal" than those who buy locked phones, with the report detailing that 30-percent of those who have purchased an unlocked phone did switch carriers. This is contrast to the 24-percent noted for those who purchased a locked phone. Although the finding does raise a 'chicken and egg' sort of question, as the report also found that the actual ability to switch carriers, was the number one reason for buying an unlocked smartphone in the first place.

When it comes to why a user is likely to switch carriers, the report details 'cost' as the main reasoning behind a switch. Not necessarily that the cost of the original carrier was too high, but that costs could be lowered further by switching. A reasoning which once again resonated more with unlocked phone buyers (45-percent) than locked phone buyers (34-percent). The overall suggestion being that unlocked phone buyers tend to be more price-conscious – and not only with carriers, but also with smartphone brands in general. As the report also found that those who upgrade from one unlocked phone to another, were less likely to remain loyal to the smartphone brand. With as much as 48-percent of unlocked phone buyers 'switching brands' while upgrading. In contrast, the number of locked phone buyers who switched brands when upgrading, was only 37-percent.

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