Upgrading to a new phone is expensive, but you can offset some of that cost by selling your old Android phone on the used market. Phones are durable (unless you drop them!) and can last for years, so there’s no shortage of demand.
In fact, there’s a number of websites that act as exchanges for phones. Are these worth your time, or are you better off sticking with Amazon?
One of the older names in the business, Glyde is about five years old and is one of the more widely recognized sources of used phones. It’s the website some folks will default to simply because it’s the only one they’ve heard of. The company now handles not just smartphones and tablets but also MacBooks and video games. Selection is excellent overall. Every reasonably popular phone produced over the last few years is included.
Glyde is a transaction facilitator. They serve as a place where people can list their phones for sale rather than a place that sells phones directly to customers. Sellers will find that listing a phone is simple because the website handles all the details for you through a series of multiple-choice questions. There’s no need to write your own description or provide photos. In exchange for this service Glyde takes a percentage cut of the transaction (12% for the first $100, 8% on the rest).
The website recommends a price based on “current market value” after you’ve made your selections. Conveniently, this recommendation shows both the sell price and how much you’ll make (as Glyde takes a cut). You can list lower to sell more quickly or higher to try and hold out for more money. Glyde does not provide any estimate of how long your phone might be on the market, so selecting your own price is guesswork.
Once your phone sells, you’ll be provided with packaging and a shipping label. This is not free but only costs you between $1.00 and $6.00, so it’s not a bad deal. You’re expected to ship within 24 hours of receiving the shipping kit.
Sounds good for sellers, but buyers face a less appealing situation, as there’s basically zero guaranteed purchase protection. You can’t even cancel your order after Glyde sends it’s shipping kit to the seller. You can’t order expedited shipping, you can’t pay with anything but Visa, MasterCard, or Glyde store credit, and you can only return items if they weren’t exactly as described (and since descriptions are as vague as “a few scratches” there’s significant room for interpretation).
This doesn’t mean you’re going to get ripped off, but the lack of a clear buyer-seller conflict resolution system makes the service feel a bit risky. Glyde is clearly built for buyers who just want a good deal on a phone and aren’t going to obsess about exactly where scratches are located or whether the phone is rooted.
Verdict: Glyde has an excellent selection of devices and is convenient for sellers. If you’re a buyer, though, watch out. Glyde doesn’t provide any more protection than you’d expect when purchasing via Amazon or eBay. It’s arguably worse because there’s no way to see the exact condition of a phone or know the reputation of the seller before buying. I’m sure a lot of transactions go down without an issue, but the lack of specific consumer protections is worrying.
Swappa, like Glyde, is a transaction facilitator. Unlike Glyde, though, Swappa is a bit more explicit about the fact that it is a marketplace. Glyde’s gimmick is the way it makes the tedious process of buying and selling into a simple transaction identical to purchasing from an online store. Swappa does less to hide the nitty-gritty. This makes browsing for a phone a bit easier as you can see transaction prices over time, view top-selling phones, and use a variety of search filters.
The selection is great; in fact, it may be the best in the business. Amazon and eBay have more phones overall, but the fact that Swappa is devoted only to phones makes finding a model with the features you wants a cinch. There’s even a “boneyard” category that lists broken phones. It’s a useful resource for do-it-yourself types who need parts or want to save money by fixing a broken device.
But the similarities end there. Swappa does not pose any seller fees on “normal” listings, but sellers do have to pay a fee if they list an item as “featured.” This fee is always $10. Listing an item is quite a bit more difficult because sellers have to be more specific about the details of their device. The website is also very explicit about what cannot be sold using the service, which includes phones with water damage and phones tied to a carrier account with an outstanding balance. Sellers also face other options, such as a detailed damage description (if applicable), a modifications description, an extensive list of potential accessories and various shipping options. The site even lets sellers define their return policy.
In short, selling on Swappa is more of a hassle. On the plus side, though, sellers have more information about the market for their phone including current average price, current lowest price, last sold price, and a graph listing average price over time. Unlike Glyde, which more or less says “eh, it’ll be a fair price,” Swappa lets you decide for yourself. Fees are much lower, as well, since Swappa charges no seller fees. Sellers have to handle shipping (and pay for it), but the overall cost is still incredibly low.
Buyers have to pay a fee, which is why sellers pay so little. The fee is a flat $10 per purchase. This slightly increases the cost of a transaction, but you are getting some more protection than you do with Glyde. Swappa explicitly requires every seller to confirm the phone they’re selling is not stolen or tied to an account with a balance due. Buyers can also see who they’re buying from and their past reputation.
But purchasing through Swappa is not risk free. They’re still a facilitator, not a store, and they don’t offer any explicit protection if the phone that arrives is not as expected. Each seller defines their own return policy, but there’s nothing holding them to that policy besides the threat of getting kicked off Swappa (which, if they’re shady, they probably recognize as a risk they’re willing to take). Swappa defers to Paypal’s buyer protections in the case of a fraudulent sale, so you can only trust Swappa as much as you trust Paypal.
Verdict: Swappa is not the easiest or quickest route. Both buyers and sellers have to put in more effort than they might elsewhere. The website provides a wealth of information that can help buyers and sellers make good decisions, however, and its transaction fees are low. Buyers still receive no explicit protection from fraud but Swappa does check that listed phones are not reported as stolen via their ESN or IMEI number. Buyers can leave seller feedback and read seller-specific return policies before purchasing.
Gazelle operates differently from Glyde and Swappa. It’s not a facilitator but instead a business that directly buys phones and then resells as “certified used” devices. Gazelle buys smartphones, tablets, and MacBooks in virtually any condition. The selection is a bit limited compared to the competition, though, particularly when it comes to older devices.
Selling to Gazelle is accomplished by navigating a guide that asks you the carrier the phone is on, the specific model of the phone, and its condition (broken, used, or flawless). A non-negotiable offer is provided based on your response. If you accept the offer you can either ship the item in yourself or use Gazelle’s own pre-paid shipping box, which usually arrives a couple days after the offer is accepted. There’s no selling fee, of course.
The offer that’s initially quoted is not guaranteed to be what you’ll be paid. Gazelle inspects every phone it buys and will lower its offer if anything is found that was not reported or if the phone is in particularly bad shape. Don’t expect to receive the promised sixty bucks for a broken Samsung Galaxy S5 if you threw it in a food processor.
Once the final post-inspection offer is made, sellers have five days to accept or reject it. Not responding is taken as acceptance, and you’ll be paid for the device. If you reject the final offer, Gazelle will ship the phone back to you free of charge, so there’s little risk aside from the inconvenience.
The company sells Android phones only through its eBay storefront. Anyone who buys from the company’s eBay store is covered by a 14-day return policy covering broken, defective, or misrepresented items. A 20% restocking fee otherwise applies. That’s not as good as the 30-day “risk free” offer that Gazelle provides on its certified iPhones, but it’s more than what you receive from Glyde and Swappa.
Verdict: Gazelle’s big draw is the fact it’s virtually risk free. Sellers are going to get money. Buyers are going to get a device in the condition promised and can easily return it if it’s not. Selection doesn’t live up to the competitors, however, and the company’s reliance on an eBay store for selling Android phones may turn off buyers who’ve been burned by less responsible eBay sellers in the past.
What About The Price?
Here’s what we’ve learned so far. Glyde is easy for buyers and sellers but offers flimsy buyer protections and has relatively high fees. Swappa‘s fees are much lower, and its storefront more elaborate, but selling is much more complex. And Gazelle provides a simple, risk-free alternative hampered only by narrow selection.
I could stop and call that the conclusion. But what about price? Glyde could be better for sellers in spite of its fees if it attracts higher offers than Swappa. And how much does Gazelle’s approach cost you?
To find out, I selected five phones and graphed the prices sellers receive. The phones I’ve chosen are the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Samsung Galaxy Note III, the Motorola Moto X, the Google Nexus 4, and the HTC One. In all cases, I based my comparison on the version with the smallest storage capacity and a plain black or silver version. My listed sell prices are the recommended price from Glyde, the average sell price from Swappa and the offer price from Gazelle for a phone is flawless condition. I’ve already subtracted applicable fees from the data, and I used Verizon Wireless as the carrier for all comparisons except the Google Nexus 4, which is unlocked.
Average Price That Sellers Receive:
I always like it when results are easy to interpret, and that’s certainly the case here. Swappa is best for sellers, Glyde is just okay, and Gazelle is way behind the pack. Note that my figure for Swappa included the $10 featured item fee and an estimated $10 shipping charge. Even so, a seller on Swappa can expect to make at least $20 more than someone on Glyde and up to $100 more than someone on Gazelle.
Speaking of buyers, let’s see how much they pay when buying a phone from each service. Once again, I’ve included any applicable fees into the price. In the case of Gazelle, which sells through eBay, the price of each phone is the average sell price of the last three active or sold listings on eBay.
How Much Phones Cost To Buy:
Swappa’s lucrative seller’s market translates to a challenging market for buyers. The inclusion of a $10 sell fee doesn’t help, either. Given this data, you may wonder why anyone would even bother with Swappa. I think the answer can be found in its detailed item descriptions which make it easy to purchase a rooted Android. I observed that a large number of phones listed on the service were advertised as unlocked or rooted, while phones on Glyde and Gazelle are never sold as such. Rooting your Android increases its market value! That makes sense, as rooting is not a task everyone can accomplish with ease, but the amount of value it adds is more than I’d have guessed before writing this article.
Another surprise is how competitive Gazelle is with Glyde. You’d think the former’s return policy and free shipping would cost buyers dearly, but in fact, Gazelle’s pricing is essentially tied with Glyde. That makes Glyde look unattractive from a buyer’s perspective. Why purchase through a service that offers less consumer protection without a significant discount?
There is one potential answer to that question, and that’s selection. On Glyde, you can buy almost any recent phone on any recent carrier. That’s not true with Gazelle, which often lacks popular Android phones on common carriers. At the time of this writing, for example, there was no currently active listing for an HTC One or Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on Verizon.
Overall, Which Is Best?
It’s clear that Glyde is a bad deal for buyers and not a great deal for sellers. It offers almost no protection for buyers and charges high seller fees, which, because they’re expressed as a percentage, hit high-value phones particularly hard.
Swappa is the place to be if you’re selling a phone that’s well taken care of, rooted, unlocked, or rare. The market is clearly oriented towards enthusiasts, and enthusiasts are willing to pay more to find exactly what they want. It’s not a great place for buyers, as it offers only modest protections and has the highest prices of the three services compared, but it’s your best choice if you want a specific Android with specific features.
Gazelle gives sellers the short stick. There’s not much reason to sell a functioning device to the company unless you simply can’t be bothered to put up even the most rudimentary listing on Glyde or Swappa. However, Gazelle passes the low prices on to sellers, as it matches Glyde while offering a far better return policy and more detailed item descriptions. Gazelle is the place to go if you want a used Android but aren’t picky about specifications and don’t want it rooted.
What service do you think is best, and have you used it in the past? Let us know your experiences in the comments.
Image credit: Wikimedia/Steven9212