The iPhone 5 is almost here and if scads of recent surveys are any indication, plenty of people plan on upgrading to Apple's latest and greatest in short order. But what if you already own an iPhone? Well, you could repurpose it for other uses, as I outlined in a previous post, but iPhones hold their value better than virtually any other phone, so trading in your slightly worn handset could take part of the financial burden of upgrading to the iPhone 5 off your shoulders.
We did some digging to find out which websites will give you the most for your iPhone. Also, if you're on the flip side of the equation and want to seize the opportunity to buy a premier handset (if not the latest) on the cheap, we've listed some basic info about what to look for when you're buying a used iPhone.
The competition: Who wants to buy your old iPhone?
Dozens of sites are clamoring for the chance to give you money or gift certificates in exchange for your iPhone. We limited our search to a handful of the most notable, including:
All of these services offer free shipping, but which pay the most for your iPhone? We plugged in a few different iPhone models to dredge up the detailed dollar data for various models of black, 16GB iPhones.
Note that all amounts are for an iPhone in excellent condition; damages and missing accessories can drag your handset's trade-in value down, sometimes significantly, while iPhones with larger hard drives usually sell for even more. Your carrier can also make a difference in sale price at some sites. When asked, we went with AT&T, since it has carried all iPhone models, including the iPhone 3GS.
So which service pays the most for used iPhones?
As you can see, Amazon blows away the others, but it only dishes out Amazon credit. That being said, you can buy phones with subsidized carrier contracts through AmazonWireless, so that $405 could pay for a new iPhone 5 and then some if you sign up for a new two-year agreement.
Apple itself offers competitive prices and also sells subsidized iPhones directly, so you can put the total towards an iPhone 5. If you're looking for cash back, you'll want to shop around a bit, but eBay Instant Sale and BuyMyTronics tend to pay the most.
Buying a used iPhone: what to look out for
Here are a few things to look for if you're hoping to buy one of those iPhones so many people are trading in.
Consider the condition. Most used iPhones will show moderate levels of wear and tear, but you don't want a phone that's been water damaged or cracked. Major online resellers won't sell duds, but be careful if you find a deal on Craigslist. If you get hold of the iPhone's serial number before you buy, check to see if it's still covered by warranty. (Yes, Apple lets you transfer AppleCare protection.)
Ask about the battery. IPhone batteries can't be replaced by users: you'll have to pay Apple $75.95 to swap it out with a new one. Cut down on possible aggravation and extra costs by ensuring that the phone charges fully before you plunk down your cash.
Are all the accessories there? If not, you'll have to pay extra for a charger.
What kind of return policy does the reseller offer? If you buy a pig in a poke, upstanding resellers let you return the pig in a poke within a reasonable time frame.
Have an outstanding contract? Stay in your network. If you pick up an iPhone that was used on the same cellular network you're currently subscribed to, it reduces compatibility hassles.
Test it out. Once you have the used iPhone in your hands, examine its condition and make sure you got what you paid for. Check for cracks, dead pixels and loose connection fittings. Make sure the battery charges fully, the camera works and that talk, text and data (both Wi-Fi and 3G, if possible) all go through as they should.
Don't expect rock-bottom prices. Used iPhones often sell for north of $300, so you won't see instant savings over a subsidized phone. However, since they're paid in full, you won't be locked into a long-term contract with your cellular provider, and some providers even give you a discounted monthly rate if you BYOD (bring your own device).