Want a new iPhone or Android smartphone? Here's how and where to sell or trade your current model
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus was released last week, two new Google Pixel 4 phones should appear in October, and Apple will announce the new iPhone 11 models on 10 September. It’s time to get your plan together to sell or trade your existing smartphone before the new ones hit the street.
In the past, I always purchased my phones outright and then sold them on Swappa at a couple hundred dollars loss. I figured that a couple hundred dollars justified the use for six months to a year and find the users of Swappa to be a trustworthy bunch. You might even be able to sell your gear locally through Swappa.
Also: CNET 2019 directory of gadget trade-in providers
Today, there are even more options available, thanks to Apple, Samsung, wireless carriers, direct purchase companies, and more. Let’s look at some of what we have available to consider in 2019.
Apple iPhone Upgrade Program
I personally switch phones often due to my ZDNet writing, so I wasn’t much of a fan of the iPhone Upgrade Program (IUP) that launched in September 2015. If you are an iPhone user who wants the new iPhone each year though, it is the most convenient option and ZDNet’s David Gewirtz provided all the details on how to use it.
The iPhone Upgrade Program also includes the Apple protection plan and given how many people I see using iPhones with broken glass panels, this is a great option for the masses.
In order to upgrade, you’re required to have made 12 months of payments on your current device. So, depending on when you bought your last iPhone and joined the IUP, you may have to wait or pay more to upgrade. You lease your iPhone with this program, so the payments will adjust according to the price of the phone. The IUP also now works with your carrier.
Current monthly payments for the iPhone Upgrade Program range from $37.41 for a 64GB iPhone XR to $68.66 per month for a 512GB iPhone XS Max. Stay tuned for pricing of this year’s phones. You can also just pay for 24 months and pay off the phone to do whatever you desire if you do not feel like upgrading this year.
Samsung Phone Upgrade Program
Given that Samsung Galaxy phones are the most popular phones in the world with sales that far exceed Apple, it’s finally time that Samsung launched its own Samsung Upgrade program.
In order to participate, you need to purchase your Samsung Galaxy phone from Samsung directly and add Samsung Upgrade to your cart at check out. Pay your monthly statements and then after 12 months you can return the phone in good condition and have the option to upgrade early by receiving up to 50% of your purchase price back to use on a new Galaxy phone.
I bought my Galaxy Note 9 using this program last year and am eligible to upgrade to the new Note 10 Plus so I will be thoroughly investigating this upgrade program to its full extent.
Wireless carrier upgrade programs
Some US wireless carriers offer upgrade programs, such as T-Mobile’s Jump on Demand, AT&T Next, and Sprint Flex Lease. These programs are similar to Apple’s, with each being a lease program where you trade in the old model on a yearly or every two-year cycle.
T-Mobile’s Jump On Demand program actually lets you switch phones every 30 days if you like, so you can get a new iPhone, then switch to an Android phone, and jump back to another new iPhone. Last year I jumped from the iPhone XS Max to the iPhone XR, and finally ended up with the iPhone XS. I’m planning to use JOD again for the new 5.8 inch display iPhone 11.
Also: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review: Best business phone improves in speed and S Pen capability
Pricing for these upgrade programs is dependent on the value of the phone that you purchase. If you cancel service or opt out of the program, you have to pay the balance on the phone. Additional fees are usually not charged for these lease upgrade programs, but they also do not include the Apple protection or other phone coverage plans by default, so consider adding that coverage if you tend to drop your phone.
As an alternative to these lease upgrade programs, US wireless carriers also sometimes offer “free” iPhones or Galaxy smartphones with a trade-in. I did that in 2016 with T-Mobile, but be aware that credits are often applied over an extended period of time, and you have to spend a lot of time reviewing your monthly bill to make sure credits are applied. In the end, the Apple Upgrade Program is probably the best option for convenience and utility.
Buy one, get one from your carrier
Carriers often launch new phones with special offers and one of the most popular is the BOGO (buy one, get one) offer. The BOGO deals can be good deals, but make sure to read the fine print since there are often many strings attached to these offers.
Most BOGO plans require you to open at least one additional line and then finance the two phones over a 24 month period. There may also be minimum monthly service plan requirements for each line. Since I personally switch my phones a lot, the BOGO never works because I do not keep phones for 24 months.
Sell or trade your phone via an online or retail location
Flipsy offers a price history chart and a private party value, similar to Kelly Blue Book for cars. The website also shows you some of the other online buyer values, including Gazelle.
There are several online companies who buy old phones, and many years ago I sold a lot of my old phones through Gazelle. You can get an offer, ship it for free, and get paid via Amazon gift card, PayPal, or check.
There are also ecoATM kiosks where you can drop off your phone, but be aware that kiosks tend to have lower offers than the online options like Gazelle.
Local retail stores, such as Best Buy also offer trade-in programs for smartphones. The value is provided to you as a Best Buy gift card, which is a common strategy for these trade-in companies.
Sell your iPhone yourself
As I mentioned, I usually sell my old phones on Swappa and always experience fast sales with every single one turning out to be valid. The listing and selling fees are low compared to eBay, and most people buying on Swappa are tech-savvy buyers. Swappa also offers charts showing values over time, which are useful for pricing your phone competitively. You can even purchase protection plans on Swappa when you buy a new phone.
Also: How ecoATM Gazelle turns more than 4 million recycled smartphones into quick cash every year TechRepublic
If you don’t want to use Swappa, you can also sell your old iPhone on eBay or Craigslist. eBay fees are usually higher than Swappa and also have PayPal fees on top of them. If you use Craigslist to sell to a local buyer, make sure to meet the buyer in a public place with lots of people around so you can make a safe sale. Also, be careful with the monetary transaction of hundreds of dollars between strangers.
You may get more money for your iPhone if it is unlocked, so try getting it unlocked from your carrier before you sell it. Verizon iPhones are always unlocked out of the box.
Similar to backing up your phone before you upgrade the OS, you should also back up your old phone, make sure all security measures are cleared, and perform a hard reset before trading in or selling your current smartphone.
Previous and related coverage:
Best Phones for 2019 CNET
The mostly excellent Galaxy S9’s new features aren’t quite as good as we’d like, but you’ll probably want to buy one anyway.
The 10 best smartphones of 2019
The major smartphone launch season is upon us and one of the first out of the gates is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus immediately taking over the top spot in our list of best smartphones.