A top psychologist and 'mobilologist' explain why we're more loyal to our phones than our partners.It turns out we hate letting go...

We recently shared some of the trends we’ve noticed amongst Vodafone customers using our Buyback service. Some of them really surprised us: we found that people hold onto their old phones for as long as three months until they’re really sure about their new phone, and we also discovered a fantastic level of loyalty to handset manufacturers – it seems that once you’re with Apple, Samsung or BlackBerry you want to stay that way when you buy your next phone.

“People are more loyal to brands than to their husbands and wives”

Looking at these results got us thinking about the story behind the story – we wanted to know what these results really mean. What’s so good about your old phone? And what makes people so loyal to a particular brand?

We asked CEO of Brizel Media and ‘mobilologist’ Florie Brizel, and Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at University College London (and the Big Brother psychologist), to take a look at our survey and explain some of the psychology behind Buyback:

Why can’t we let go?

Do we love our old phones because we’ve given them names and taken family photos on them – or is there a more practical reason for hanging onto old handsets?

According to Dr Chamorro it’s because our phones become part of us:

“People have a fundamental need to see themselves in a consistent, generic, way – unless we have a strong view on who we are, our self-concept and self-esteem becomes fragile and unstable.”

“There is a fundamental psychological benefit in buying and keeping things we like: they help us define ourselves. This is why it is tough to throw away old clothes, letters, or old phones. The element of nostalgia conferred by it is testimony that we are attached to those things, just like we are attached to our past.”

Florie Brizel also points out that, in a more practical way, it’s a case of “What I’ve got works”. We’re comfortable and familiar with our old phones and we know that they’re not going to let us down. “We have a very deep fear of losing stuff, and now everything we ‘are’ is stored on our phone. If you lose the information on your phone you have lost your identity, and that is terrifying.”

We’re loyal     

Is our reluctance to move to a different manufacturer borne from a deep appreciation, or is it more about staying in our comfort zone?

“The new loyalty is not towards brands as such – it’s about loyalty to functionality. We worship functionality,” says Brizel, “I live in dread of replacing my phone. I want to stick with what I know as much as possible. I don’t want to learn new things.”

We also see brands as an essential expression of our personality, says Dr  Chamorro: “Psychological research has shown that brands display human-like traits and people gravitate toward brands that are consistent with their own personality characteristics.”

If having a certain make of phone makes us seem cool, and creative, “then we need to live up to those expectations and keep doing things that seem cool to other people – changing to a different manufacturer would be inconsistent with our identity and reputation.”

Too much choice can even be overwhelming, Dr Chamorro says, “There is only a limited amount of information we can process, and this also explains why we tend to show brand loyalty even in the presence of better, or more “logical”, alternatives.”

He adds that, “People are more loyal to brands than their husbands and wives!”

Whenever you’re ready to let go of your old phone, and whatever make of device you want next, check out our Buyback service to if you can transform your phone into cash.

Do you agree with Dr Chamorro and Florie Brizel? Tell us about why you’re loyal to a particular manufacturer, or even if you’re more attached to your mobile than your spouse, in the comments section below.