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Much like PCs, smartphones have become a mature enough platform that there's little benefit in upgrading every single year. Most buyers already keep their phones for around two years, and according to data collected by Samsung, the trend is shifting to three years.
Samsung told us during a briefing that in 2016, the average upgrade cycle for Galaxy S customers was 22.6 months, but that increased to 26.6 months by 2019. If that trend continues, three years could start to become the normal upgrade cycle for smartphone buyers, with some even pushing to four years.
The price of upgrading is likely the leading factor for most people, now that most flagship smartphones cost $1,000 or more. As fewer people upgrade each year, manufacturers are raising prices to compensate for lost revenue, and the cycle continues.
On the bright side, longer upgrade cycles might also give Samsung and other manufacturers a greater incentive to provide software updates for longer periods of time. The company already provides security updates to phones as old as the Galaxy S7, but OS upgrades are usually limited to devices less than two years old.