Average American cell phone user keeps his handset for 17.5 months!!

According to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates, the average cellular phone user is keeping his handset 17.5 months, longer than has been the case in the past. The length of ownership is up from 16.6 months in just half a year - the consumer survey house's last reporting period was November. While the difference may not seem that great, it is the first increase in average ownership spotted by J.D. Power since way back in 2002, when the average length of ownership was 18.4 months.

"One possible reason for this significant increase in the length of handset ownership is that more customers are initiating or renewing their service contracts for a longer period -- typically for two years, as opposed to just one year, which was customary a few years ago," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power.
Parsons also warned that the increasing length of ownership may be a double-edged sword for carrier. "While these longer contracts help wireless carriers recover the costs associated with offering subsidized cell phones, customers tend to hold on to their current cell phones longer to avoid termination fees when switching service, which may ultimately lead to lower renewal rates," he said.

In addition to keeping phones longer, the J.D. Power study also documents a continued decline in the amount American consumers pay for their handsets, a total it said has declined from an average of $103 in 2002 to $93 this year. And 36 percent of those surveyed - 21,520 cellphone users who had their phones for two years or less - said they got their handset for free, up from 28 percent five years ago.
"It's clear that wireless service carriers are using mobile phones as bait to increase consumer traffic, applying discounts either through rebates or free limited-time offers," said Parsons. Again, though, he had a warning: "The problem with this strategy is that, in most cases, the discounted handsets being offered are older models, which typically lack the latest technological advancements or desired design features."

Other findings of interest in the J.D. Power study included:
>>69 percent of all cell phones owned are a clamshell design, an increase of 19 percent from last year. That compares to 29 percent for the candy-bar style, and 2 percent for the slide-cover design.
>>Handset features used most frequently are: Speakerphone (51 percent); camera (35 percent); services to send/receive short messages (22 percent); and gaming (16 percent).
>>More than one-half of all current wireless users compared other handset brands before selecting their current wireless phone. Those customers who compare phones during the selection process are more likely to be satisfied overall with their current handset than those who do not.

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