Analyst estimates average lifespan for all Apple devices at over four years

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2018
The average lifespan of an Apple device is probably just over four years, according to analysis into figures released during the fourth quarter investor conference call, suggesting that iPhones and iPads remain in active use for twice as long as the typical consumer iPhone upgrade cycle.




The analysis by Asymco's Horace Dediu is based on figures provided by Apple each quarter specifically the number of devices it sells. It is also based on another rare figure revealed by Apple during the financial results, namely that it had grown its active install base to 1.3 billion devices, representing a 30 percent growth over two years.

This latter figure is the second time Apple revealed its active installation base, with the first being when it hit the 1 billion active device milestone, as part of the results released in January 2016.

Dediu advises that by knowing the number of active devices, as well as the cumulative number of devices sold, it can be used to approximate the average device lifespan.




To do so, he created a graph to show the total number of devices Apple sold since the second quarter of 2007, followed by a curve to show approximately how many active devices there are, based on Apple's released figures. For a particular quarter, the area of the graph below the line relates to the number of active devices, while the area between the active device curve and the number of devices sold determines how many devices have been retired since 2007.

The approximate lifespan of a series of devices is said to be when the cumulative number of devices sold in the quarter equates to the amount of retired devices in a later quarter. The duration between the two can effectively be taken as an estimated average lifespan for the devices.

To work out the estimate lifespan of devices retired in the recent quarter, Dediu determines the number of retired devices to be 750 million, namely 2.05 billion cumulative sales minus 1.3 billion active devices. This is then compared to earlier quarters until it is close to the number of cumulative devices sold.

"The lifespan is thus estimated at the time between now and Q3 2013, or 17 quarters or about 4 years and three months," advises Dediu.




The cumulative devices calculation includes Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, and the Apple Watch. As such, the calculations cannot be broken down to individual product categories, and considering some hardware types would be assumed to be used for longer than others, it would be hard to work out these figures without Apple providing more detailed statistics, something it is unlikely to provide anytime soon.

A second graph by Dediu maps the average lifespan for devices retired in a particular quarter, based on the first graph. Notably, the graph seems to show the average lifespan increasing every few quarters since 2012, breaking four years in early 2017, and seemingly indicates the trend of using Apple devices for longer periods of time will continue for a while longer.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    I find these statistics interesting. I have a 2g iPod touch that I chiefly use to serve drum/bass tracks when I'm shrieking and whaling on my gitter. ("Whoops, it hit the sticky floor again. Ohs well.") I've wondered if that's an active device since it's on my Apple ID, or if hits on teh Interwebs or some such are required for that status.
    edited March 2018 baconstangjahblade
  • Reply 2 of 44
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,094member
    I'm reading this on my 7+ year old iMac. Still chugging along.
    magman1979zroger73pscooter63jahbladeStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 44
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator
    I'm reading this on my 7+ year old iMac. Still chugging along.
    I'm sure that's more than counter-acted by the "will it blend" people.
    SpamSandwichmagman1979zroger73cgWerksmacky the mackywatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 44
    thttht Posts: 3,209member
    4 years average sounds about right in our iOS device ownership. The only reason it would be sooner is irrecoverable device failure.

    Now that battery age is in the minds of the public, and more people are changing out batteries, the average age will only tick up.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 44
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,748member
    My MacBook Pro is now 7 years old — retired to pure backup system, but still there. 

    My old iPad 2 is what — six years old? Still running fine as my daughter's primary computer. 

    My living-room iMac/TV is ten years old. Working fine, 24/7. 

    My iPod 1st generation is now 17 years old and still running fine. 

    My iPod classic is — gosh, ten years old? Twelve? Works fine. 

    My iPhones, I sell off and don't keep track of. 

    Hm. Am I an outlier?
    magman1979king editor the gratezroger73racerhomie3jahbladewatto_cobralamboaudi4
  • Reply 6 of 44
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,351member
    It looks like this is some sort of aggregate approximation. I don't think we can equate the lifespan of the various devices. It is widely known (now) that the design lifetime of an iPhone is based on (about) a 2 year life of the battery. My Apple Watch is showing signs of battery wear after about 2 years. I also have an iPod Touch that is perhaps 6+ years old that lives on a dock stand (iOS8) and functions fine for my needs. I have a 2009 iMac that was recently ungraded (perhaps for the last time) to High Sierra, and it works just fine for my needs. Likewise a 2013 MBA that I expect to go may years yet; as is my original iPad mini.

    4 years on average? Sure. But sort of a useless statistic.
  • Reply 7 of 44
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator
    spheric said:
    My MacBook Pro is now 7 years old — retired to pure backup system, but still there. 

    My old iPad 2 is what — six years old? Still running fine as my daughter's primary computer. 

    My living-room iMac/TV is ten years old. Working fine, 24/7. 

    My iPod 1st generation is now 17 years old and still running fine. 

    My iPod classic is — gosh, ten years old? Twelve? Works fine. 

    My iPhones, I sell off and don't keep track of. 

    Hm. Am I an outlier?
    I suspect that the AI readership are outliers. As I've said many times before, we aren't the average Apple consumer anymore.
    magman1979zroger73pscooter63jahbladeStrangeDayslamboaudi4
  • Reply 8 of 44
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,884member
    Our iPad 2s were used heavily for 5 years each before replacing with 9.7" iPad Pros when they came out.
    Typically, we keep our phones for three years. So, guess that averages to 4 years in our very tiny sample size. Not including older iPod Nanos that are kept in the car or for use at the beach and are not online anyway.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 44
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 137member
    iPhones and iPads account for the vast majority of items sold and these have a life well-beyond 4 years especially in developing countries. The Verizon/Sprint phones are pretty much worthless anywhere other than the United States, but the GSM-based models work pretty much anywhere. On top of that no one tosses out a computer out after 4 years unless they are $400 models sold at Best Buy and others. Nothing wrong with them as they meet a price point with no plans for longevity.

    A quick search on eBay brings up plenty of iPhone 4 listings and these are from as early as 2010. I'd consider his number to be the starting point for the real number which no one will ever know unless Apple publishes the number and even that would be a guest because no ones knows the phones that have been repurposed or being used on networks of which there is no way to measure model usage.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 44
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,563member
    I would the life is longer as others pointed out, all my macs since the original were in service for at least 6 yrs and I had a few go 8 yrs before replacement, still have Ipods around which still get used and work fine and also have an Ipad 2 which does what I need it to do. The 6 series phone I can see them going well past 4 yrs of use. This is the biggest issue Apple has, their product last too long. HP test equipment had the same issue, no one replace their HP test equipment they just keep working and you could always pick them up on the use market for far less then new and they still did the job.

    This is why Apple has an installed base of 1.3B users on IOS, no hardware company has that kind of installed base, Google said the have install based on Android but they do not make money off them. Samsung who sells more phone can not claim they have such a large installed base.


    edited March 2018 radarthekatjahbladewatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 44
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,061member
    In other words since the 5series customers have been holding on to devices and getting the battery and other repairs instead of upgrading.
    For some reason?
    You'd have to guess size is a factor.
    The X is popular and packs all that tech in to a phone basically same size as normal sized 6,7,8.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 44
    NemWanNemWan Posts: 115member
    mattinoz said:
    In other words since the 5series customers have been holding on to devices and getting the battery and other repairs instead of upgrading.
    For some reason?
    You'd have to guess size is a factor.
    The X is popular and packs all that tech in to a phone basically same size as normal sized 6,7,8.
    Anybody with a 5/5s who loves that size should move to an iPhone SE, they can even keep using the same case.
    netmagebaconstangpscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 44
    I'm reading this on my 7+ year old iMac. Still chugging along.
    Similarly I just upgraded from my 2006 iMac to a 2018 model. It still ran like new the only functional reason I upgraded was that it could no longer support the most recent OS X versions. Over the years I had added 2 GB of ram and put a solid state drive in it. I gave it to some friends of ours who have always used Windows based computers. After having it only a few months they are now Mac users for life. So yeah definitely get a bit longer use out of some of their products than 4 years.
    edited March 2018 SpamSandwichbaconstangpscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 44
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,061member
    NemWan said:
    mattinoz said:
    In other words since the 5series customers have been holding on to devices and getting the battery and other repairs instead of upgrading.
    For some reason?
    You'd have to guess size is a factor.
    The X is popular and packs all that tech in to a phone basically same size as normal sized 6,7,8.
    Anybody with a 5/5s who loves that size should move to an iPhone SE, they can even keep using the same case.
    ... At A$699 (seeing the 32gb is to small) for a slightly better camera or A$100 for battery replacement. Hard choice
  • Reply 15 of 44
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,787member
    I have a 2006 Mac Pro which has been completely upgraded. New SSD, new 8 cores, USB3, Black Magic HDMI capture card, new video card, 32 GB RAM, and now running Yosemite with a custom hacked boot file. Normally it would have been stuck on Lion. It could probably run the latest macOS but I haven't tried it, however Yosemite was a very nice version. The only thing that doesn't work quite right is the 30" Cinema Display USB port is hit or miss, but not a problem really since there are USB ports on the front and back of the computer. Overall it works great, but it is not my primary machine. I have a iMac5K along with MBP. Both fairly new.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 44
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,484member
    That 4 years sounds reasonable. We usually upgraded phones every 3 years but our iPad 2’s are 7 years old and still going strong with daily use and original battery 
  • Reply 17 of 44
    j coolj cool Posts: 7unconfirmed, member
    I like apple but don't get apple products that often because they don't have the friendliest budget prices. lol The oldest product I still have now is the iPhone 5 but won't be for long. It still works but is slow with certain things. It is still usable and probably would be for who now how long but if I want any new features and software updates now, I have to get a new phone. It lasted me 6 years but 4 or 5 years is probably about the average as far as software updates. I'm squeezing out every last penny. The thing I think with Apple devices is many people don't wanna wait the 5 years. They want the newest and best product they have so they will probably wait 2 years or less. It's great for Apple. I'm mostly the kinda person who thinks, if it still works, why buy a new one, within reason. haha, as seen with still having an iPhone 5 in 2018.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 44
    I used to be a serial updater on Applecare cycles, and yet the move to onboard drives, ram and batteries has me hanging on to Steve Jobs era MacOS hardware all around, including iOS devices to be fair... LG plastic display - no thanks. I've also many iOS 10 apps I would really miss...
    baconstang
  • Reply 19 of 44
    netmagenetmage Posts: 267member
    mattinoz said:
    NemWan said:
    Anybody with a 5/5s who loves that size should move to an iPhone SE, they can even keep using the same case.
    ... At A$699 (seeing the 32gb is to small) for a slightly better camera or A$100 for battery replacement. Hard choice
    A much better camera (1.5x MP, 1080/60 video, trutone flash, slo-mo), twice as much RAM, a 3 year newer cpu and gpu, TouchID... that’s a lot more but it is 3 years of upgrades at once. 
    Though waiting for a 2018 SE probably makes more sense at full price. A used one, however..,
    watto_cobra[Deleted User]
  • Reply 20 of 44
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,043moderator
    jimh2 said:
    iPhones and iPads account for the vast majority of items sold and these have a life well-beyond 4 years especially in developing countries. The Verizon/Sprint phones are pretty much worthless anywhere other than the United States, but the GSM-based models work pretty much anywhere. On top of that no one tosses out a computer out after 4 years unless they are $400 models sold at Best Buy and others. Nothing wrong with them as they meet a price point with no plans for longevity.

    A quick search on eBay brings up plenty of iPhone 4 listings and these are from as early as 2010. I'd consider his number to be the starting point for the real number which no one will ever know unless Apple publishes the number and even that would be a guest because no ones knows the phones that have been repurposed or being used on networks of which there is no way to measure model usage.
    I brought my Verizon iPhone 6 with me in Sept 2016 to the Philippines.  It worked fine on the SMART network here, providing me 4G LTE service until I replaced it last month with an 8+.  
    watto_cobra
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