A recent survey of iPhone users suggests that not many people will upgrade to the iPhone 13 this year. The new device will be announced Tuesday, September 14. I’m not sure I hold much faith in the results of that survey, because quite frankly, we’ve heard it all before. Furthermore, Samuel Clemens once said there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Talking to More Than 1,500 iPhone Users

In the latest survey, consumer discount aggregator Savings talked to more than 1,500 iPhone users. Their results showed that nearly two-thirds of the iPhone users surveyed have no plans to upgrade. Only 10% said that they plan to buy the iPhone 13, and 26% of the respondents hadn’t yet made up their mind.

According to the results, almost one-third of those who do plan to upgrade have relatively new iPhones. Their devices are less than a year old. Most people who plan to upgrade are looking forward to the camera improvements and larger battery capacity. They are also excited about the potential for satellite connectivity, even though we don’t believe that feature will come online until next year.

The Inherent Problems of iPhone Upgrade Surveys

Pretty much every time Apple announces a new device, a survey suggests not fewer people will buy it than end up doing so. We saw this with the iPhone 12, the iPhone 11, and almost every new model of Apple’s flagship smartphone.

When the dust settles after the announcement event, a different narrative emerges. Once folks learn what the new devices well actually offer them, they become more willing to put down their hard-earned money.

For example, if the rumors of Apple including the LiDAR scanner in every model of the iPhone 13 prove true, that could change a lot of minds. (for the record, we don’t believe the LiDAR Scanner Will be in more than the Pro and Pro Max models.)

Then there are the competing surveys. WalletHub’s own research shows that almost a quarter of Americans will spend more on their phones in 2021. Of their respondents, nearly one in five people think the new device will be worth going into debt for. Roughly 15% think not having the new iPhone is a sign someone is struggling financially.

Even If the Survey Is Right, It’s Not the End Of the World

Let’s say the survey turns out to be right this time. In the US alone, there are an estimated 116 million iPhone users. If only 10% of them upgrade, that means almost 12,000,000 units sold when the iPhone 13 launches. If even half of those still on the fence decide to upgrade, there’s another 13 million sales. Personally, I think the sales figures Will likely parallel what we saw with the iPhone 12 last year.

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Jeff: Excellent analysis. I think that your scepticism is well-earned and justified.  I also think that the Bard sheds light on why Mark Twain was only partially correct in his scathing assessment of statistics, when he wrote,  ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves…” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141)’ He could just as easily have inserted ‘statistics’ for ‘stars’, as another form guidance of his time.  The main problem with statistics, certainly those that result from poles, is people. As a species, humans are very poor at probabilistic reasoning, the assessment… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Incidentally, ‘poles’ was meant to be ‘polls’. Not sure if the fault was mine or autocorrect.

John Kheit

Good points Jeff. I think there might be a lull in the iPhone 13 just because of the iPhone 14 leak, and how much more interesting the iPhone 14 seems over the 13. From the leaks, the 13 seems to be one of the most dull updates in quite a long time, maybe ever.

That is a new bit of ‘osborning’ we havent seen in the past.

But to your point, this cry has been heard before. We’ll know soon.