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iPhone Trade-In Programs: Apple vs. the Competition

 Amidst rumors that Apple plans to release its next iPhone in the coming weeks, the electronics retail giant has introduced an in-store iPhone trade-in program. The premise sounds pretty alluring -- dump your outdated iPhone and walk out of the Apple Store with a brand new smartphone without disrupting your carrier contract.  But is Apple’s deal as good as other retailers (like Best Buy or Amazon) or services that specialize in gadget trade-ins (like Gazelle)? We’ve examined some of the most popular iPhone trade-in services to see how they stack up against Apple’s new program.

Editor's Note: All estimates apply to the 16GB iPhone 5 in flawless or perfect condition and are subject to change.


Value: Reportedly up to $279

Payment Type:  Store Credit

Flexibility: You must trade your phone for a new iPhone that day. No store credit gift card or refund will be given physically; you must walk out of the store with a new phone.

Where You Can Trade in: In-store only.

How it Works: Bring your iPhone to a nearby Apple store to receive an estimate. The trade doesn’t affect your current contract. You can still trade in your phone if there’s time left on your contract. Must be on contract, no unlocked phones.

Conditions: The trade-in value is determined by evaluating the following factors: whether or not the phone powers on, if it can make calls, whether or not Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work, the amount of physical or water damage, and whether or not the camera works.

MORE: 10 Best iPhone Apps You're Not Using

Best Buy

Value: Up to $346 (AT&T), $315 (Sprint and Verizon)

Payment Type: Store Credit

Flexibility: If Best Buy decides that your device has trade-in value, you’ll be issued a physical gift card for that amount. If there’s no value, but you still want to get rid of your iPhone, Best Buy will recycle it.

Where You Can Trade In: In store and online.

How it Works: After completing the online transaction, print a prepaid shipping label and ship the iPhone to best Buy’s trade-in center. Best Buy will then email you an electronic gift card within 10 days of receiving the phone.

Conditions: Best Buy evaluates the value of your iPhone based on the following factors: whether or not it powers on, whether any water damage is present, if the serial number is clear and visible, whether or not the AC adapter or charger is included and all passwords have been cleared or reset to 1234.

MORE: Top 10 iPhone 5 Wallet Cases


Value: Up to $220 (Sprint), $330 (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Unlocked)

Payment Type: Cash/Credit

Flexibility: Gazelle lets you choose from payment options including a check, an Amazon gift card or PayPal.

Where You Can Trade In: Online only.

How it Works: Select the iPhone you wish to ship and answer a few questions to receive an estimate. Then ship it to Gazelle for free and the service will determine the value of your iPhone. Once the item arrives at Gazelle’s warehouse, it takes about one week for payment to be issued. Gazelle says that Amazon and PayPal are the quickest ways to get paid. Checks are delivered by UPS and take an additional seven to 10 days to arrive. Once you receive an estimate, you can accept the offer and wait until October 15 to send in your iPhone.

Conditions: Gazelle evaluates the value of your iPhone based on the following factors: whether or not it works perfectly, if any noticeable flaws are visible, the amount of scratches and dust under the glass, etc.

MORE: 11 Battery Tips for Your iPhone 5


Value: Up to $300.50 (Unlocked) $389 (Verizon, AT&T)

Payment Type: Store Credit

Flexibility: Amazon Gift Cards only

Where You Can Trade In: Online only

How it Works: Go to Amazon’s website and search for the item you wish to trade. Click the “Trade In” button. After entering your shipping and billing address and logging into your Amazon account, print the shipping label and packaging slip to send your iPhone to Amazon. Once the e-tailer receives your iPhone, you’ll get an Amazon gift card for that amount.

Conditions: Amazon does not accept smartphones that have been water damaged or do not power on. The company will evaluate the value of your device depending on its working condition, whether or not its accessories are intact, if there’s visible wear or personalization, and the quality of the display.

MORE: 40 Best Free Apps for iPhone


Value: Store Credit: Up to $225 (T-Mobile), $390 (Verizon), $131 (Sprint) Cash: $178 (T-Mobile), $310 (Verizon), $102.80 (Sprint)

Payment Type: Store Credit, Cash

Flexibility: You can opt for cash or a GameStop gift card. The store credit value is higher than the cash value you’ll get in return.

Where You Can Trade In: In-store only

How it Works: Select the device you wish to trade on GameStop’s website. Choose the condition of your device (Good, Poor, Broken) to get a quote. This figure will include both a trade value and store credit value for your device. Bring this to your local GameStop to trade in your iPhone and redeem the value.

Conditions: GameStop determines the value of your device based on the following factors: whether or not it’s fully functional, whether or not there are any scrapes or signs of physical damage, and the quality of the display. Estimate is subject to change based on inspections within the store.

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Value: Up to $340 (AT&T), Up to $314 (Verizon), Up to $240 (Sprint)

Payment Type: Cash/Credit

Flexibility: NextWorth lets you choose from PayPal, Target gift cards, or a check mailed to your home.

Where You Can Trade In: In store and online

How It Works: If you wish to use the online method, simply search for your iPhone model on NextWorth’s website to get a quote. Then print the pre-paid shipping label and send the iPhone to NextWorth. The company estimates it should take about 10 business days from when it recieves your iPhone for the payment to process. If you don’t want to wait for the mailing process, you can head to select Target retail locations and trade your device in person. The NextWorth website has a store locator to see which is closest to you.

Conditions: NextWorth’s website asks if your iPhone 5 is fully functional and turns on properly and whether or not your display is cracked.

The Bottom Line

Apple’s new program is appealing for those looking to upgrade without breaking their contract, and it’s nice that you can walk right out of the store with a new phone. However, other competing services offer more money for the same iPhone 5, and with Best Buy and Gazelle you can use store credit towards any type of phone.

Gazelle and NextWorth offer much more flexible payback options, although you may have to wait up to 10 days to receive your payment. And while Apple’s trade-in service requires that you apply your credit towards another device the same day, Gazelle lets you lock in a price now and trade in your device later. Amazon and GameStop offer the most value if you're satisfied with store credit, while Gazelle and NexWorth will cough up the most cash for your unwanted iPhone. 

If you’re looking to quickly pick up a new iPhone and don’t feel like waiting another year to upgrade, Apple’s new program may ideal for you. Just bear in mind you’ll be able to get more money for your old iPhone elsewhere.