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Cha-Ching – Selling Your Old iPhone

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I said I’d do it earlier this week, and true to form, I did it. I successfully sold both my wife and my iPhones for enough money to almost subsidize both of our purchases, and it wasn’t very difficult, either. But to do it right, you need to start at the beginning: Buying a brand new iPhone.

I bought my iPhone 3GS on launch day, 2009. I took a long lunch to get the device, waited in a fairly short line with a few of my buddies from work, and left with a new phone. After the excitement of the day was done, I took my iPhone 3GS box and placed it safely in a drawer where I would keep it for the next year. Inside the box was the directions, manual, stickers, and paperclip tool, but no headphones or charging stuff, because I knew I’d use them.

Next, I buy a case - preferably at the same time as I buy the phone. Then once the phone is open, I put it in the case right away. The goal is to take excellent care of the phone and make sure it’s as scratch free as possible. This is partially because of how I like to take care of things, partially for resale.

When the time comes to sell the phone, I prepare a few days before release day. I put together all of the parts that I’ve stored away for the year, and get them all in one place. I’ll remove the case from the phone and clean the device, then clean the case as well. This year was my first time pre-ordering, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the way to go, and my plan for the next iPhone. If you can’t pre-order for one reason or another, then get ready to wait in line.

The instant your new iPhone is ready to go, get the old one up for sale. I’m a fan of Craigslist, but some people find that eBay is a better option. Phrasing your ad is important, and many people don’t know how to do it effectively. Be clear, concise, and descriptive, and always post pictures. Here’s what I put up:

For sale: 32GB iPhone 3GS, black in color. I bought this new on launch day last year, and put it in a case immediately, so the body is in excellent condition. A few minor scratches, pictured below, mostly noticeable in the chrome Apple logo. This phone is running OS 3.1.3, and is NOT jailbroken. This isn’t a difficult process however, so if you’re looking for a jailbroken device or one that can be jailbroken easily, this is the one. Comes with Incase Slider case in flat black, which does have a few scratches on it. Also comes with the charger and USB cable, plus the original packaging and instructions. Sorry, no headphones. Asking $320 obo, looking to sell asap. Call or text Kevin at XXX-XXX-XXXX. I also have a white 16GB iPhone 3G that I’ll be putting up later. This post will be taken down when the iPhone is sold. Thanks!

I posted the ad, and in less than 30 minutes I had dozens of calls, text messages and e-mail. All of them started with, “Do you still have your iPhone?”

When it comes to pricing, scope out the competition. A quick search in my area showed that a jailbroken iPhone went from $400-$600, but a regular 3GS with 32GB was around $350-$400. I’m a fan of pricing aggressively, so I stuck it at $320 or best offer, and that may have been part of the reason why I got so many calls. I decided not to accept anything under $300, and even though the offers ranged from $240 to $330 including delivery (to the hood, which is why I didn’t take it), I settled on a guy who also wanted the 3G that I casually mentioned in the listing. After some haggling, we agreed on $475.

Now it’s time to wipe the devices, if you haven’t done it already. You can do this from the phone, but doing so requires activation later, which can be tricky. Instead, I restore from iTunes, setting the phone back to factory settings. Once it’s done, I scour the phone and make sure nothing is there. Not my phone number, not my iTunes account, or anything. Double check before you give away that phone, otherwise you could be a victim of identity theft.

Time for the meet. I like to meet at a very public place, that way I don’t have to worry about getting my iPhone stolen from me before the deal can be made. It also makes the other person more comfortable, particularly if they’re a woman. I chose to meet at a bank on the corner of a busy intersection, with an outside security guard within sight at all times. The guy drove up, got some cash from the bank, and took a look at the merchandise. This part can be tricky, because you need to trust the person enough to see the merchandise, but keep them on a tight leash so you don’t have it stolen, just in case. Once everyone agrees, cash is traded hands, and you’re good. In my case, I knocked a few bucks off of the price of the 3G because of a speck of dust between the screen and the glass. Besides, a bird in the hand and all that. If he had tried to lowball me though, I’d walk away. Always be ready to walk away.

I’ve done this twice now, and had great success both times. This week I made $440, which is enough to pay for my 32GB iPhone 4, and most of my wife’s 16GB model. Factor in that my phone was a father’s day gift from my wife and folks, and you’ve got a pretty tasty profit. For me, it’s money I’m going to put back into my computer setup, but for you, it could just pay off your credit card.

Of course, once I opened the phone, I took the case and set it in that same drawer that housed the 3GS box the previous year. Now I’m ready for the next one.

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

3 thoughts on “Cha-Ching – Selling Your Old iPhone

  1. It’s sort of sad that you immediately start worrying about the next buyer of your iPhone on the day you get it.

    You have to put a bulky and/or ugly case on it right away and baby it the whole time just to get $10 or $20 more dollars when you sell it.

    Try just enjoying your phone and use it without worrying about it. The iPhone 4 is too beautiful to put a case on it.

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