Originally Posted by DuvalHMFIC
This is also ignoring the problems of a changing job market and planned obsolescence. The latter of which Apple indirectly admitted to some time back (they denied it was a tactic, then admitted to practices that were virtually indistinguishable). And there are several misleading factors involved in that statistic.
Having a mobile phone is effectively de rigeur for most workers. Employers want their employees on a tighter leash, and have come to expect a level of responsiveness that is effectively impossible with a land-line-only scenario; especially in the biggest growth fields (IT and Healthcare). Sure, it's possible to persevere without a mobile device which has access to not only the phone network, but SMS and email as well; but that puts one at an increasing disadvantage in highly competitive job markets.
On top of that, more and more services, including services to the unemployed and homeless, are moving from offices to websites, and from websites to mobile phone apps. So without some sort of mobile device, access to services becomes substantially more difficult.
One misleading factor is that almost no one pays full retail price for phones. Typically phones are sold at a discount if one locks one's self into a particular carrier's service plan. Said service plans commonly include discounts on phone upgrades after a particular period of time. Now, one can claim that it's not necessary to upgrade, and a lot of people don't always move to the latest and greatest the moment it's available (I certainly don't). But that also puts one at a disadvantage.
Which brings up the second misleading factor -- planned obsolescence. The developers of the software used by your mobile device plan their development practices around the expectation that phones will be upgraded to more powerful hardware on a regular, roughly 2 year cycle. This means that operating systems and applications become increasingly resource intensive as time goes on, and eventually it becomes difficult or impossible to run the applications, or in some cases even the OS, on newer hardware. On top of that, unlike PCs, it's effectively impossible to opt out of upgrades and maintain using lower-resource-demand older versions. All OSes and nearly all major applications force updates. There are some tricks to opting out of updates, but those doing so will very quickly find that the applications cease functioning due to "version incompatibilty" with the purveyors services, or phone networks will start restricting access due to the lack of "security updates" on the phone. Because of this, it's very difficult to continue using the same phone for more than about 5-6 years.
Another aspect to that is that mobile service providers frequently change plans, and drop support for older phones. Consumers can find themselves being charged more for services once the time limit on their plan runs out (all there in the fine print), and in order to continue service at lower rates, they're required to sign onto new plans, locking themselves in for a period of time. This, naturally, also requires a phone upgrade; because of the provider ending support for older devices (which cannot handle all the branded bloatware applications that the new plan pushes to the device).
Few, if any, major service providers still have plans and phone types available which do not fit into this scheme; and those that do often have them at a higher rate to compensate for the lack of secondary revenue, or with stringent limitations (eg, targeted at children, thus limiting what access is available, or must be part of a "family" plan).
One can argue that there are pre-paid/pay-as-you-go plans and cheap off-brand phones available; but these are also misleading. All pre-paid/pay-as-you-go plans have a much higher rate than subscription plans, so eventually end up costing the user more in the long term. And they typically do not have access to the same applications, and thus the same services.
That's not to say that there isn't some economizing that can be done, but there are very hard limits, and doing so commonly requires an amount of effort and technical skill that few people, especially poor working people, are capable of.