Why do people want a new iPhone? This research gives a fascinating clue

It's often the assumption that people simply crave what's new. Not necessarily.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

You have a deep-seated need.

So, you'll be seated in front of a screen on Wednesday morning, in rapt desperation as to how many new gadgets Apple will reveal.

Rumors insist it'll be three new phones. One will likely even enjoy excessive size.

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You'll simply have to have one of these. Because, well, you have to, right?

Do you ask yourself why?

I imagine the popular view is that people just want the shiny new thing, the one that everyone's talking about.

If you have it, then you're up with the world, and the world will look up to you. If you don't have it, then you're a lifeless worm who's settled for a life of benign beige banality.

Yet is the need for the sexy and new the only reason? Or even the main one?

What size would you like, madam? (Image: Marques Brownlee/YouTube screenshot)

I accidentally ran into some research published in the Harvard Business Review. Performed by two experts at consulting company Oliver Wyman, the study looked at how people buy clothes and shoes.

You might think this entirely irrelevant to the iPhone.

Also: iPhone XS: The one reason I won't buy in

Yet Apple has always displayed its gadgets as living in the fashion world, as much as the tech world. The iPhone's just-so looks -- and Jony Ive's just-so-mesmerizing annual marketing videos -- suggest the iPhone is something you wear, as much as use.

It's a piece of machinery that says something about you. Just like your clothes and shoes. And soon, you'll be wearing it anyway.

These researchers examined five myths about fashion buying. The most intriguing was whether consumers always want something new.

They found that 83 percent of shopping journeys are what they called "repeat purchases." Yes, for most people, it's about replacement not enhancement.

The researchers offered this advice to companies: "Success could mean finding consumers that like a product and reselling it to them, and not always trying to reinvent the wheel. The customer, not the product, should come first."

Looked at through this prism, how many people will look at Wednesday's offerings out of sheer, unbridled giddiness?

Also: iPhone XS Max or iPhone XS Plus? The final rumors before the Apple Event CNET

And how many are merely those who look at their current phone, see the screen has cracked a little, see the signs of unsightly wear and tear, and sigh to themselves: "I suppose I'd better get a new one"?

There have already been indications that the latter are becoming the majority. Last year, global smartphone sales went down for the first time ever.

More people are settling for refurbished phones. That's just one reason that Apple is releasing more handsets to cater to more mindsets -- yes, even ones that include value in their personal equation.

Many, then, might walk away from Wednesday's presentation and conclude that the products really weren't that exciting.

Also: Photos: Apple iPhone models through the years TechRepublic

But they need the equivalent of, you know, new black pants or sneakers.

At least now they have more of a choice. And in all the right sizes, too.

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