Arcep has published a study on the impact of the operator subsidy on smartphone renewal. According to the document, the French don’t change their phone much more often if they buy it with a subsidy, brushing aside a misconception. In addition, the proportion of smartphones purchased with a subsidy has quadrupled in 10 years.
Since the launch of Free Mobile, Xavier Niel has insisted that it represents an egalitarian and honest alternative to the operator subsidy. You know what the operator subsidy is: you get a nice discount for the purchase of a smartphone against a 12 or 24 month commitment to a mobile plan. In the early 2010s, more than 8 out of 10 smartphones were purchased with a subsidy.
Read also – Refurbished smartphones will now cost more
Thanks to the Free Mobile offers (then Sosh, B & You and Red by SFR), consumers have finally become aware of the cost of the telephone in their subscription. As a result, consumers have gradually started to buy their phones without a plan. Operation successful therefore, to a certain extent, for Xavier Niel.
He continues to defend this model with the arrival of Flex, an offer that allows you to acquire a smartphone on leasing (with an option to purchase after the 24 months of the contract). According to the boss of Free, this solution fights against the obsolescence induced by the subsidy model, with operators seeking to engage their subscribers as soon as they show a sign of infidelity. And what could be better than making them an offer on a new model?
Arcep claims that operator subsidies do not promote early renewal
The reality is not so dichotomous, according to Arcep. And the time between two renewals is fairly consistent, whether a smartphone was purchased with or without a subsidy. The French telecoms gendarme presented a report this week commissioned by the ministry for ecological transition and the secretary of state responsible for digital transition. And according to him, owners of a smartphone bought naked keep their smartphone slightly longer than users who bought it with a subsidy.
37% of French people keep their smartphone for more than two years, a figure that falls to 31% on customers who received a subsidy. The average age of smartphones connected to operator networks is said to be 32 months, a figure that goes down to 29 months on subsidized terminals. The difference is therefore considered negligible, so much so that “the available data do not allow us to distinguish a significant link between mode of distribution and the lifespan of mobile terminals”, one can read in the report.
The subsidy concerns only 1 in 5 smartphones purchased in France
Especially since the grant weighs less than ten years ago. First, 29.5% of new smartphones sold in France were purchased in 2020 with a subsidy. This figure drops to 20% when counting new and refurbished smartphones. Or a proportion four times lower than ten years ago. Then, the packages with subsidy only represent 21% of the packages subscribed in 2020.
The study thus shows that the operator subsidy is no longer such an aggravating factor on the digital footprint in greenhouse gas emissions. Arcep recommends working more on extending the lifespan of products, by extending technical support for smartphones (as Google announced with the Pixels) and by strengthening the refurbished offer. Remember that smartphones generate 11% of digital greenhouse gas emissions in France, in third place behind televisions and laptops.