And the market is poised to boom. Just 13 percent of smartphone users trade in their old handsets, according to a July NPD survey of 1,000 consumers. And 40 percent of smartphone buyers in the 12-month period ending June 2013 were first-time smartphone users, the firm reported. As awareness of programs grow, users are increasingly likely to use them when they’re ready to upgrade, Hold said.
Consumers can expect aggressive pricing with so many players in the market, said Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecom services for J.D.Power and Associates. Earlier this month, for example, Best Buy offered a minimum $ 200 trade-in value for any working iPhone 4S, to use toward an upgrade to an iPhone 5. That’s nearly $ 45 more than the current trade-in value for a 16GB model. Gazelle occasionally offers coupon codes for an extra 5 percent on the sale value.
Don’t judge by the maximum offer, however. It’s worth getting detailed estimates at several sites, Parsons said. The process is usually as simple as answering a few yes/no questions about the phone’s condition. Phone damage can, of course, make the price take a nosedive, but some trade-in services also cut their price if the phone was engraved, or if you’re missing the manual or charger.