There’s a mental calculation most people do upon shattering their iPhone screen: Should I fix it immediately, or wait and buy a whole new phone?
While some wait to do anything at all until their phone gives them glass slivers, others go the repair route, shelling out up to $149 to Apple or other repair services to replace the cracked screen.
But that mental calculation depends a lot on Apple’s traditional two-year upgrade cycle.
Peaks and valleys
In the past, Apple has used a two-year cycle when designing iPhones. A complete redesign of the phone is released every two years, then a more incremental model (the S model) is released in the year in between. It’s that timeline – which Apple only recently moved away from with the release of the iPhone 7, and did again with the iPhone 8 – that has traditionally impacted when people opt to fix their screen.
“We see peaks and valleys in consumer demand for repairs,” AJ Forsythe, the founder and CEO of phone repair service iCracked, told Business Insider. “When the iPhone 7 came out, iPhone 6s repairs actually eclipsed iPhone 6 repairs. Consumers are more likely to fix their 6s than they are to fix their 6, because they’re one generation away.”
“It doesn’t make sense for you to go buy an iPhone 7 because you break your 6s, but it does make more sense on the two-year cycle to go get the iPhone 7 from the iPhone 6,” Forsythe said.
iCracked has been around since 2010 and repairs both iPhones and Samsung devices in about 600 cities around the US. The company says it has done more than 518,000 repairs, and about 60% of its phone repairs are iPhones.
While iCracked doesn’t release specific repair metrics, it tracked the rate of phone repair requests over time and compared them to the release dates of Apple’s phones. iCracked found that the biggest uptick in repairs consistently falls right before the next generation phone is about to be released:
- Repair requests for the iPhone 5 spiked right before the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014Requests for the 6 spiked right before the release of the 6s in 2015Requests for the 6s spiked right before the launch of the 7 was released in 2016.
Here’s how that looks over the last four years:
iCracked also tracked the life cycle of requests, and it’s easy to see the spike and the tapering off of repairs with Apple’s last few phones. Now that the iPhone 8 has been released and the iPhone X has been announced, for example, requests to repair iPhone 6s devices are tapering off, as those users may be planning to buy the newest phones instead of repairing their old one. The same thing happened with the iPhone 6, and the iPhone 5s before that.
“We generally have an 18-24 month – I don’t want to call it a life cycle, but right now, our two most-requested device repairs are iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, and it’s not iPhone 7,” Forsythe said. “But we know from historical data that in 12 months, our most-requested device will be iPhone 7. It takes awhile for sale cycles to catch up.”
iCracked’s data isn’t a complete analysis of screen repairs, since people may use local repair services or go to Apple directly. For anyone with AppleCare+, an iPhone 7 Plus repair only costs $29 – iCracked’s rates depend on the type of device, the type of repair, and your location, but can range upwards of $90.
But the data iCracked has been able to track is pretty clear: iPhone owners may not have been using logic when they let their $800 device hit a hard surface, but they are using logic when deciding whether – and when – to repair.