Why Do Companies Want Your Old Phone?

Apple iPhone | Image by Kicking Studio

While consumers go after the latest cell phones, manufacturers are seeking their older models. 

Cellphone manufacturers have long had programs for consumers to trade in their older devices for the latest models or to use them as credit. Verizon is one such cellphone company. Verizon is currently offering savings of up to $800 for the trade-in of an older or even damaged phone for an iPhone 14, the current model. 

Other cellphone providers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile, have similar programs where consumers can trade in older devices for some form of credit. Multiyear service deals often accompany these trade-ins. 

Unsurprisingly, as phones get older, their value decreases. The original retail value of the iPhone 11 released in 2019 was $699 for 64GB, $749 for 128GB, and $849 for a 256GB device, according to SWAPPA.  

Retailers like T-Mobile now estimate the trade-in value of these phones at a fraction of the original price. A 128GB device has a trade-in value of $140, just under 19% of the original cost. The trade-in depends on various other factors, such as previous carrier and condition. 

The trade-in value of an iPhone 13 with the same storage is $290. The original value of this phone was upward of $800 after its release in September 2021. 

Apple also features a number of trade-in values for its older products. iPhone 13 phones can be valued up to $400, iPhone 12 phones up to $300, and iPhone 11 phones up to $200. 

However, the question remains of what happens to these devices after they are received and why manufacturers desire them back.  

Typically, these older devices will be refurbished and sent to an aftermarket or recycled after all data is wiped. 

The recycling of old devices requires the extraction of precious metal components. The United States Gold Bureau reported that a typical iPhone carries about “0.034g of gold, 0.34g of silver, 0.015g of palladium, and less than one-thousandth of a gram of platinum.” 

The bureau reported in 2020 that the company made millions due to the recovery of gold from these devices. 

“Apple’s recovery of over a ton of gold from discarded products yielded a potential $40 million worth that the public essentially handed back over after paying retail prices for their products in the first place,” said the bureau. “As gold is still trading at around $1,200 per ounce, it remains one of the most valuable components in all of Apple’s discarded products. Through its e-waste recycling program, Apple reclaimed 71 percent of its total weight in product sales last year,” it continued. 

The current price of gold is $1.927.30 per ounce. 

If the phones can be restored to good use, they can also be sold by wholesalers overseas and third-party organizations. These devices are often significantly discounted to be more affordable. 

Apple currently has its own refurbishing program that sells some older devices at a fraction of their original cost, making the items much more affordable.

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1 Comment

  1. ThisGuyisTom

    I found this article very interesting.

    We will probably see gold/silver prices climb much higher over time.


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