Apple is expected to sell quite a few iPhone 5 handsets this year. Investment firm Jefferies has calculated that 170 million global smartphone subscribers will come out of their contracts in the second half of 2012, and 450 million more will do so in 2013. Contracts aside, Topeka Capital analyst Brian White expects the iPhone 5 to drive the "biggest upgrade in consumer electronics history," while Jefferies analyst Peter Misek has told investors to expect the "biggest handset launch in history.
Add in a Samsung Galaxy S III that made its way into the hands of more than 20 million users in 100 days, and there are, or will be, considerable numbers of unused phones cluttering office shelves and kitchen junk drawers. Recycling boxes are an option, but a number of sources offer cash, as consumers are discovering.
Last year, following Apple's iPhone 4S announcement, iPhone sales surged on SellCell.com, constituting 50 percent of the phones the site helped to sell that day. Compared with last August, sales of smartphones, feature phones and tablets this year are up 725 percent, and in the last four months the average price being offered to sellers has increased from $77 to $84.
In the month leading up to the iPhone 5's introduction, a SellCell spokesperson told eWEEK, total iPhone resales and trade-ins were up nearly 434 percent, compared with the weeks before the iPhone 4S's intro; iPhone 4 re-sales were up nearly 883 percent and overall trade-ins were up 492 percent.
During Apple's Sept. 12 introduction of the iPhone 5, trade-ins on SellCell.com were up 50 percent from the daily average and visits for the day peaked at 4 p.m. ET, shortly after the event concluded.
While it's tempting to think consumers are trading in devices made by Apple competitors, it's just the reverse. The site's latest September figures show Apple devices to account for 29 percent of trade-ins on the site, followed by Samsung (17 percent), HTC (15 percent) and BlackBerry (14 percent) devices
SellCell.com fancies itself the Kayak.com of the smartphone resell market. Users enter the name of the phone they'd like to sell, and the site gives back a comparison tool showing the companies willing to buy it. The morning before Apple's iPhone 5 announcement, offers for a 16GB black Apple iPhone 3GS, in good condition, ranged from $18 from an unrated company called Depstar to $107 from an unrated company called Side Street Technology that ships for free but doesn't offer free packaging. A company called BuyBack World, however, has a B+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, offers free packaging and shipment, and was willing to pay $101.
uSell.com runs by a similar model, but gets more specific about the state of the phone, asking a few quick questions, such as whether the screen is damaged and what accessories-such as the original box and charger-the seller has. As on SellCell.com, device conditions affect offers.
On uSell, the same iPhone 3GS, listed with a charger, the original box and said to have "average wear" yielded offers from $18 to $63, though uSell draped a "Best Match" sash over a $52 offer from a company with a higher rating, based on user reviews.
"We provide a consumer advocacy service and only work with trusted partners who have transacted in a successful manner with 10s of thousands of other customers," uSell CEO Dan Brauser told eWEEK, when asked about the trust involved in sending off a device and receiving payment after it's received and approved.
"Further, if the customer has questions, we provide a second layer of customer support rather than having to deal solely with the buyer directly," Brauser added. "Finally, we compile user feedback from other customers that have made sales to these buyers and present our offers according to our best match system, which weights this feedback against price to present the offers to the customers."
Anyone concerned about leaving data on their device can be walked through the process by the site's blog or a customer support representative. Terms and conditions on the site are said to help prevent trade-ins of stolen devices.
On a SellCell.com list of the 25 most traded-in phones, the top five were the iPhone 3G 8GB (highest offer, $63, lowest $21), the iPhone 3GS 16GB, the HTC Evo 4G, the iPhone 4 16GB and the Motorola Droid X (highest offer $35, lowest $7). On the full list of 25, the 16GB iPhone 4 received the highest high offer, of $185.
While it can't offer as nice a purse, for those desperate to rid their drawers of old phones or make a few dollars-whether enough to nearly purchase a new iPhone 5 with contract or just a cup of coffee-a site called Gazelle pairs sellers with buyers interested in old MacBooks and even what it calls "smashed, soaked or just plain dead" iPhones.