Famed market analyst Horace Dediu decided to figured out the average Apple device lifespan. He based his conclusions on data supplied by Apple dating back to early 2007. Is that information important?
Yes. Apple is a hardware company so having some accurate knowledge of how long customers keep each device can help in planning for future products. That information can help Apple’s customers determine how long to keep a device, but relative to others because everyone’s mileage varies. How long do you keep your Apple gadgets?
Annual vs. Cumulative
Dediu’s somewhat complicated analysis, charts, and graphs paint a somewhat consistent picture of hardware ownership over time. Overall, about two of every three devices Apple has ever sold– ever– remain in use. That is a stunning number, made all the more so since Apple started selling computers back in 1976. That means many tens of millions of Apple PCs and Macs and iPods were sold from 1979 to 2007– a period of 28 years– while most of Apple’s hardware sales arrived in the past decade, hence, many are still alive today.
One of Mac360’s writers and our head system administrator, Ron McElfresh, has a PowerPC Mac mini, circa 2008, that still chimes up for a few hours every day. That very Mac powered Mac360 for a few months about a decade ago.
So, that brings up the question, “How long do you keep your Apple gear?”
I’ll use me as my first example. I have a MacBook Pro, an iPad Pro, an iPhone X, Apple Watch, Apple TV 4K, AirPods, an iMac with Retina 5k display (ready to be replaced), a HomePod, AirPods, three iPods, and probably something else I have forgotten about. I don’t keep older Macs and iPads around because they make excellent hand-me-down gifts for children of relatives. iPhone is on the annual iPhone Upgrade Program.
Without question, I’m an outlier. Most of the people I know at work– a technology services company– do not keep their devices beyond the three to four year level. Macs last longer. iPads last much longer. iPhones are replace more frequently. Other devices are too new to have much replacement history.
If you want to get into the hairy details of product life cycle, ResearchGate has a lengthy PDF on Apple Products. Yes, it’s in English. If you want to know something about product life cycle as a subject– with emphasis on Apple and other technology gadgets, Shane Legatzke has the basic details.
Here’s my list. See how it compares to similar items on your list:
- Mac notebook – replace every three years
- iMac – replace every three to four years
- iPhone – replace every year
- Apple TV – replace every generation
- Watch – replace every two years
- iPad – replace every three to four years
- AirPod, HomePod, and other products are too new
Based upon the compiled data, Dediu came to this conclusion:
The lifespan is thus estimated at the time between now and Q3 2013 or 17 quarters or about 4 years and three months.
What Apple products are on that list?
Note that cumulative devices sold includes Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and iPod touch.
Math don’t lie but those numbers do not match my own, and for the aforementioned outlier reasons. Many Mac and iPad users I know get at least four to five years from their devices, yet there are many hundreds of millions of iPhone customers who hold onto their phones for perhaps two to three years tops, so I would expect that volume to skew the numbers.
From all that, Dediu reached another conclusion.
Now we see the third insight: the specific length of time or duration of use per device–a proxy for user satisfaction and loyalty.
That’s Apple. We, as a worldwide customer base, tend to keep Apple products in use– not that I did not say keep or use— far longer than competitors. That begs to the customers satisfaction statistics and explains that even if I upgrade to new products more frequently, my older devices remain in use.
How long do you keep your Apple gear?