It’s longer battery life we want most from our smartphones, not 5G or gimmicks – survey finds

Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 smartphones, including the S10 Plus (above), were unveiled at an ‘Unpacked event’ in San Francisco on Wednesday. Photo: Bloomberg

Foldable phones, 5G and other hyped features are not going to motivate most of you to buy a new smartphone.

You’re driven by something more basic – such as a phone battery that will last a full day and beyond.

These are key takeaways from a survey of 1,303 smartphone buyers in the United States, conducted in February by market research company SurveyMonkey Audience.

Consider that two out of three smartphone owners have heard of the blazing fast 5G, or fifth-generation, wireless networks that are only now starting to emerge.

Nearly half have at least a passing familiarity with “foldable” or flexible-screen devices that are supposed to herald the next wave of smartphone innovation, including a model that Samsung flaunted (just a little) at an “Unpacked event” on Wednesday in San Francisco, which marked the 10th anniversary of the company’s flagship Galaxy S phone line.

Samsung gave people a peek of its new line-up of Galaxy S smartphones, including the Galaxy S10 Plus (above), at Wednesday’s ‘Unpacked event’ in San Francisco. Photo: Bloomberg

And yet for Samsung and other phone makers all gung-ho about exploiting 5G and flexible design hardware in 2019, familiarity doesn’t mean such features rank high on consumer wish lists – at least if those would-be mobile buyers have to spend a small fortune to get them.

Instead, people want what they have always wanted, notably that extra power and a handset that takes good pictures. Even at that, consumers can live without multiple camera lenses or fancy augmented reality stunts.

A US survey shows that up to 76 per cent of iPhone users say that having a longer battery life is something that would make them excited about buying a new smartphone. Photo: EPA-EFE

Indeed, 76 per cent of iPhone owners and 77 per cent of Android users listed longer battery life as something that will get them excited about buying a new phone. The survey found 57 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively, said a better camera would do it.

Yet only 37 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively pointed to 5G as a reason to get excited, and 34 per cent of iPhone users and 31 per cent on Android users said that a bigger screen would do the trick.

Only 17 per cent of iPhone users and 19 per cent of Android users said a flexible design that morphs from phone to tablet is what they are after.

Meanwhile, smaller screen phones or devices built around throwback or nostalgic designs barely registered in the survey.

Better, not newer

Only 17 per cent of iPhone users and 19 per cent of Android users said a flexible phone design that morphs from phone to tablet – such as Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold smartphone, which was unveiled on Wednesday – would make them excited about buying a new phone. Photo: AFP

“Smartphone consumers have got into the habit of upgrading their phone every couple of years, so they pretty much know what to expect,” said Laura Wronski, the senior research scientist, at SurveyMonkey, who organised the study.

“Their new phone will be a bigger, better, faster version of their old phone. They aren’t looking for their phone to suddenly turn into a virtual reality device or to have all these extra bells and whistles. They want an improvement on what they have.”

One thing clear from the survey is that iPhone and Android owners are locked in, with around 90 per cent in each group planning to stick with their current operating system even if they splurge on a new phone. (Nearly 54 per cent of the Android respondents have Samsung phones.)

Both groups are equally likely to say they will upgrade their phones when new models are released (43 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively).

iPhone owners would appear to be more overdue for an upgrade if only because 40 per cent of them have had their current handset for more than two years, compared with only 21 per cent of Android users who have had their devices that long.

Of course, while Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S10 models on Wednesday, iPhone owners are likely to have to wait until at least September for their next chance of an upgrade, assuming that Apple sticks to its usual playbook on timing.

Price counts

An attendee holds up Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 (left) and the Galaxy S10 Plus during Wednesday’s ‘Unpacked event’ in San Francisco on Wednesday. Photo: Bloomberg

Not surprisingly, neither group wants to spend a lot of money, although iPhone users are more likely than their Android counterparts – 45 per cent compared with 35 per cent – to indicate that they are not planning to upgrade this year because new models are too expensive.

Android owners, on the other hand, are more likely than iPhone owners to say they are not planning to upgrade – 65 per cent compared with 55 per cent – because they are happy with how their current phones are working.

Price remains a huge factor. Up to 30 per cent of respondents said they are willing to pay only US$300 or less for a new phone. Up to 26 per cent said they would spend between US$300 and US$500, while just less than 25 per cent said they would spend between US$501 and US$750.

On the higher end, 16 per cent would pay between US$751 and US$1,000. Only 3 per cent of people in the survey were willing to part with more than US$1,000.

Bob Levine, an author at, who owns a Galaxy S9 Plus, said that he would not spend even “one dime right now. I’m not paying for gimmicks.”

Justin Denison, Samsung’s senior vice-president of mobile product marketing, discusses the South Korean technology company’s new Galaxy Fold smartphone at its ‘Unpacked event’ in San Francisco on Wednesday. Photo: Bloomberg

New Jersey lawyer Mark McPherson said that he was much more interested in foldable phones as a means to increasing screen size, while still maintaining portability and some semblance of battery life.

He said he was “decidedly less interested in 5G, though who wouldn’t like a little greater speed?”.

McPherson, who owns a Samsung Note 9 and, before that a Samsung Note 8, said he was “used to paying through the nose for a phone”, but that did not mean he would do it again.

“I won’t be [paying] that kind of cash in the near future unless there’s a paradigm shift that makes it worthwhile,” he said.

“I don’t think I have felt this hostile towards the idea of having to overpay for a new phone in the last 20 years.

“The industry seems to have found its own negative tipping point. Well done.”

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  • A new survey shows most of us have heard of 5G and foldable devices, but they are not going to make us buy a new model