Maybe you’re still using that old flip-thing that has only survived by some miracle. Perhaps you’re an Android kind of guy and you’ve finally decided to come to the light. Whatever your reason, you want an iPhone. We understand you’re strapped for cash, though. After all, this is an Apple product, and Apple products are worth at least 5000% more than all three human basic needs combined, right?
MakeUseOf has decided to put together a little buyer’s guide for cashing in on a recycled iPhone. The main question we are trying to answer is: how much should you be paying?
Grab your wallet, take out your credit card, and ask a trusted stranger to hide it in a safe place until you are ready to lay down some moolah.
Compare Online Pricing
Amazon, eBay… You know the drill. In my opinion, you should shop for used iPhones in the same manner as if you were selling one. Pretend that you bought an iPhone brand new (at the price it was when it was first sold), and then look at online prices to see how much you would hypothetically sell it for. This is typically how I purchase anything that is used, and believe it or not, I look at this before I even consider the condition.
With that said, before you get your heart set on something online, ask around and see if any of your friends are selling. I know the old Facebook posts that say, “Aye, anybody sellin’ an iPhone or sumthin’?” can get annoying. It’s okay to post them, though. Just… be a bit more tactful with your request.
Chances are that you’ll get a message from at least one person whose contract is about up, and you might have a little leverage with the knowledge of current used prices.
On another note, there are sites like Mazuma and Gazelle which will purchase iPhones almost immediately, but they give a very distorted idea of prices. Generally speaking, they do this because they intend on reselling them (as well as recycling them if needed).
They are a good choice if you want a definite buy and to just get things off your hands, but I’m sure almost anybody would purchase an iPhone 4 if someone was selling it for $70, the standard rate (according to them) for one in decent condition. Personally I feel as though Amazon and eBay offer the fairest insight for prices. On the other hand, people who need money to pay the bills immediately may find these sites useful.
Other sites like Flipsy browse loads of other websites to see exactly how much iPhones are going for, so this is another option when comparing prices. This can help you get a general look at the market, and it’s also a challenger to sites like Mazuma and Gazelle. Here, you can see the true rates for iPhones in the current market.
Go For The Refurbs!
Whenever I purchase something that is used – anything – I go for refurbished items. Why? The items are technically used, but they have been inspected and and tuned up by trusted professionals. Most phone companies offer contract deals with refurbished phones, and while more expensive than used items, they will still leave a little cash in your pocket.
For instance, AT&T is currently offering refurbished iPhone 16GB 5’s with a two-year contract for around $150. Not bad, really. Granted, a new one with a contract is $200, but hey, that’s fifty dollars for a phone in certified “like-new” condition. Of course, this is only if you are getting a new contract or you are even going the contract route at all.
You will find refurbished models on eBay and Amazon as well, just check that they are unlocked models that are usable with your current provider.
What About Bad Batteries And Broken Screens?
iPhones, in the grand scheme of things, are relatively cheap. When I say grand scheme, I mean things like cars, computers, houses, and so on. No, iPhones aren’t technically cheap, but they are cheaper than most necessary things in life (I personally believe mobile devices are a necessity these days). As with anything like a car, computer, or house, you should see how much you need to invest in order to bring it up to par.
The first item you should look into is probably the battery. If the iPhone you are purchasing still has AppleCare, Apple will replace the device’s battery if it falls below a 50% charge capacity. Not bad, so make sure to ask if the device you are purchasing still has coverage. Granted, it’s almost a $90 replacement with shipping and all if the item is out of warranty.
When you are purchasing a used phone, ask about the battery charge capacity. Is it nearly at 50%? How much are you paying for it? Is an extra $90 worth adding onto the price, or should you just go ahead and buy a brand-spanking new one?
Then again, you could go the DIY route. iFixit.com offers all kinds of battery replacements and tools on the cheap. For about $30, you can purchase a replacement iPhone 5 battery and replace everything yourself. Furthermore, the website offers tons of awesome installation videos that are actually pleasant to watch. Below is a nice example, and for the record, they have replacements for all iPhone models out there.
The second item of business is your iPhone’s screen – that is, the only reason that the iPhone is usable. According to 512 Pixels, the Apple Store can replace your screen in house for an out-of-warranty $150. Not bad, but if you just paid $150 for a used phone… why would you want to pay another $150 to replace the screen? (Another question might be: why would you pay $150 for an iPhone with a broken screen? Yeesh, you fool!)
Oh, and the machine they use to replace these things looks pretty awesome. Thanks to 512 Pixels for this image they grabbed back in June.
On the other hand, iFixit also offers a replacement iPhone 5 screen kit for, well, nearly $175. In such a situation, you’re not really getting that good of a deal. Seeing as the Apple Store’s screen replacement service is relatively new, it’s possible that iFixit just hasn’t caught up.
New iPhone screens weren’t really an option prior to this. Instead, you would just get a replacement device for about $230.
Older Models Aren’t That Bad
As a final note, bear in mind that you don’t need the iPhone 5. iOS 6 works with all devices, iPhone 3GS and up, so why pay extra cash for something that’s used but just a little nicer? One thing to remember is that Apple’s free upcoming iOS 7 software update will only work for the iPhone 4 and up. Is the upgrade worth it?
Things that are old are probably going to be cheaper. Sure, the internals of the iPhone 5 are going to be a little nicer than an old 3GS, the screen is larger and sharper, and the bodies are worlds apart, but the functionality is largely going to be virtually the same: calling, texting, browsing, emailing, and WiFi connectivity. The 3GS will still do all of those things comfortably.
If you are in the used market, pay for functionality – not something that’s just a little shinier than the other stuff. Just remember that the older the model is, the less likely it is to receive updates, and this will affect which iPhone apps will run on your device. Apple has dropped the 3GS from the iOS update this time round, after dropping the iPhone 3G last time so it would make sense to assume that the iPhone 4 will be retired from the update cycle come iOS 8 (or not, Apple might surprise us).
Hopefully, I’ve helped you out a bit with finding and confidently buying a used iPhone. It’s a big investment for a soon-to-be big part of your life! I’m sure you’re still wondering the answer to the question: what should you be paying? Well I’ve done a little research, and I came up with a few general prices based on what I’ve seen online. You can kind of get an idea of the market based on these items.
The following ballpark prices are for iPhone models in good condition with a charger included:
- iPhone 3GS 8GB: $80-$150
- iPhone 4 16GB: $150-$200
- iPhone 4s 16GB: $300-400
- iPhone 5 16GB: $450-550
What other bits of advice do you have for purchasing a used iPhone? Is your current phone a second-hand model? Add your thoughts to the comments, below.