Determining the average Apple device lifespan

“In The Number, I provided a model for estimating the number of active Apple devices at any point in time. The relationship between active devices and cumulative devices sold gives us a rule of thumb that says that 2 out of 3 devices ever sold are active,” Horace Dediu writes for Asymco. “I propose now that knowing active devices and cumulative devices sold allows one to determine the average device lifespan.”

“The cumulative retired devices can be calculated as 2.05 billion cumulative sold minus 1.3 billion active or 750 million. The time when cumulative devices sold reached 750 million was the third quarter 2013. The lifespan is thus estimated at the time between now and Q3 2013 or 17 quarters or about 4 years and three months,” Dediu writes. “Note that cumulative devices sold includes Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and iPod touch.”

Dediu writes, “I’ll show in the next post how this single number allows us to calculate the net present value of Apple’s future cash flows, or, by definition, Apple’s enterprise value.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we peruse our collection of Apple devices in use today, from iPad Air 2 units to iMacs, to iPad Pros to Apple Watch Series 3, to iPhone Xs, MacBooks, and more, the average lifespan of 4 years and three months strikes us as a dead on estimate*.

*As long as we don’t power on our Macintosh 128K. 😉


    1. To me, lifetime is generally, but not always, driven more by device utility than operational life. Sure, my family has has a few Apple devices abruptly bite the dust and go dead. But, mostly, they soldier on for years, as long as anyone cares to use them, or until a better hand-me-down becomes available.

      I have a perfectly functional 2007 iMac, for instance. I don’t use it as much anymore because I can take care of a lot of day-to-day stuff on my iPad while comfortably lounging on the couch. But it still works fine.

      Speaking of the iPad, it is about four years old. My iPad 3 (first retina model) still works, but I dropped it when I was getting out of the car at 5am after a long drive and cracked the display.

      I am using an iPhone 5s, which is practically ancient in terms of smartphones. It replaced an iPhone 4, which still works fine.

      Perhaps I have been fortunate, but Apple device longevity has not generally been an issue. Mostly, I just upgrade when I can do so cost-effectively.

      My kids, on the other hand, tend to break things more often.

    1. It’s because they solder everything in the name of thinness.

      Look, I like thinner devices as much as the next guy but if offered the choice between expandability, longevity, and being more environmentally green, then I’ll take a fatter, more expandable MacBook any day. My last GREAT MacBook pro was my 2010 computer. I personally upgraded the ram and hdd to a ssd. It was like getting a brand new machine.

      My 2016 MacBook Pro is a great machine but I don’t love it like I loved apple computers in the past and this scares me. I know that what I have now is non upgradeable so this 2016 MacBook Pro will not last as long as my 2010 MacBook Pro did.

      I do not like the new direction Apple is headed. Please don’t build a computer that can’t be upgraded, charge a higher premium price for it, and then try to convince me that you’re trying to be environmentally green. If you truly want to be geeen then build devices that will actually last longer with future expandability to help the environment.

    2. Apple’s two most popular products the iPod and iPhone were always “sealed up” and never had “expansion capability”, they were released 17 and 11 years ago respectively. Are you just going to bitch about Apple for rest of your life? What a waste of time.

      1. They were also the cheapest. An iPod or even most iPhones cost far less than any Mac excepting the Mac mini.
        There is no good argument for sealed up devices other than to make repair difficult and battery replacement expensive.
        Why exactly has Apple removed the ability of users to add memory easily to all but the mist expensive iMacs?
        It is not bitching, if Apple put battery access into the iPhone people would not be waiting in line like sheep to get a battery replaced. They could just hand them one.

        1. You can make a case for the iMacs, but opening up iPhones compromises their water resistance and opens up a raft of warranty issues. The ship has sailed on most user tinkering with Macs. What I’m more concerned about is Apple’s growing monopoly on repairs. I support right to repair bills. Not having a RAM slot is nothing compared to motherboard and other catastrophic failures that are only affordable to fix through independent repair shops, not Apple.

  1. iPhone = 3 years-new battery
    iPad = 4 years – would like a new one but it works great as a secondary display
    MacBook Pro = 10 years – Late 2008 with SSD upgrade

    Couldn’t be happier with longevity of my Apple products. No need to upgrade in the next year or maybe even two.

    1. I know what you are saying about the MacBook Pro. I’ve got a 13″ mid-2012 model and the thing is still cranking away. RAM is now maxed-out, and hard drive converted to SSD. Runs like a champ, and its got a second life now that a lot of software supports the Intel Quick Sync hardware video transcoding. It’s become a desktop PC connected to my Apple Thunderbolt Display for the last couple years. Haven’t had much need to take it out of the house with my iPad.

  2. Wall Street hates companies that make products that last a long time. It’s even seen as a crime for Apple to build a smartphone that lasts longer than a year because it doesn’t generate those yearly sales greedy investors desire.

    I still have a working Mac Plus that was upgraded from a 128K and then to a 512K then to a Plus. I have to check to see if any boot floppies are still readable. I still have a Mac IIcx with a Daystar processor upgrade. At least I know it was working when I turned it off many years ago. However, I don’t think I have any peripherals to find out if it’s still works. I’d say that’s a long time to keep a computer. I’ll probably end up chucking the IIcx into the trash in the near future.

  3. Virtually all my Apple hardware continued to be functional for a decade, but everything became impractical to use long before then because newer operating systems ceased to be available for them and new devices needed to see modern versions of the operating systems in order to inter-operate.

    With a company so devoted to the concept of eliminating waste, I wish that Apple would acknowledge that throwing away hardware which is still functional is not environmentally friendly. I would like Apple to come up with some sort of “legacy” stripped down operating system for IOS devices and Macs, which would still permit limited operation in another role.

    For instance a Mac could continue to have a useful retirement as a file server or media centre, while an iPhone or iPad could become a remote control and display for HomeKit devices.

  4. I tend to give my devices to family members.
    An iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad Air, and iPad Air 2 are all in use.
    As are iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, 6, 6S, 7, 7 Plus.
    Apple Watches Series 0 and Series 3
    An Apple IIe that still works
    A 512 Mac that boots and runs, a 1997 G3 tower that still works perfectly fine. It even can connect to the web using an ancient web browser. Not a single USB port to be found. In daily use, MacBook Pro from 2011, MacBook Air 2012, Mac Book Pro 2016.

  5. My daily tools :
    – iPhone 5S, 2013 ;
    – MacBook Air, 2013 ;
    My 2012 iMac 21″ 1TB Fusion Drive will be up & running again when I’ll be able to replace its dead RAM (due to excessive temperature in my home office during Summer 2016) ;
    My old PowerBook G3 is still fine, as well as my iMac DV SE (1999).
    The kids are using :
    – a 2006 Mac Mini ;
    – a 2007 iMac 19″.
    My wife will use her 2007 White MacBook 13″ when I’ll get a new RAM (same issue than my iMac, but Summer 2017).
    iPhones : 1st Gen, 3G, 4, 4S : still in use.

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