How to sell, trade-in, recycle, or donate your phone

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Selling or recycling your phone is always worth the effort. If it’s a newer phone that’s in good condition, you’re likely to get a good price for it; an old or broken phone can be recycled for parts. Donating your device is also an excellent alternative, as charities can generate revenue by recycling or selling the phones. In this article we’ve collected all the necessary information you’ll need get rid of your old phone.

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Steps to take before your get rid of your old phone

  1. Back up your phone – While you can manually comb through your device for any valuable photos or files, it’s quicker and easier to do a comprehensive backup.
  2. Remove any SIM cards or microSD cards.
  3. Remove the case. Recycling cases is a different process from recycling phones, and most trade-in offers require you to remove the case.
  4. Find the original box and charger that came with your phone. While not strictly necessary, it’s extremely helpful when selling your device.

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When it makes sense to trade-in your phone through your carrier

Trade-in offers tend to be your best bet when you’re switching carriers or upgrading to a new flagship. Carriers want to keep your business and will often take a loss on trade-ins because it creates a long-term relationship.

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If you’re switching to a new carrier, you can often maximize your trade-in value by porting your number. With a little strategic planning and an old phone, it’s easy to score a new flagship for next to nothing when you make the jump from one carrier to another.

Carriers also offer solid trade-in deals for loyal customers. To get the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to time your trade-in to coincide with the release of a new flagship or around holidays. If you don’t see a good promotion, call or visit a carrier store.

When to trade-in your phone through a retailer

Retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart all offer trade-in deals as well. Unfortunately, they only offer credit as a digital gift card, but this gives you much more flexibility when trading with a carrier. If you’re on a prepaid plan or don’t want to buy the latest flagship, trading your phone in through a third-party retailer is an excellent choice.

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Again, a little reserach can score you a lot more cash. Trade-in values are often higher around holidays, during Amazon Prime Day, or a few months new flagships are announced. If you know you need a new phone but you’re not in a rush, monitor trade-in values for these sites over a period of a month or two; when you see a substantial increase in the trade-in value for your device, act immediately—many promotions only last a few days.

When to sell your phone online

If you don’t want to trade in your device with your carrier or a retailer, Swappa should be your first port of call. When listing your phone, you simply select the device you want to sell, and add pictures, your IMEI number, and any additional details (e.g. any damage). As it has all the basic info for each phone, you don’t need to worry about forgetting to add crucial details. It’s a dead-simple process, and all transactions are secured through PayPal, so you won’t have to worry as much about dodgy sellers. It’s worth noting that online user-to-user marketplaces like Swappa won’t buy every phone, and they tend to pay less than you’ll get through a carrier promotion.


While selling your phone through eBay can net you a higher return, it can be a hassle. eBay’s massive userbase means that a careful listing can net you a potentially high price, but you’re more likely to run into scammers. If you’re willing to do a little legwork in order to get top dollar, here are some useful tips for selling a phone through eBay:

  • Include the full device name in your title. e.g. Google Pixel 5 128GB (Unlocked) 6.0″ Sorta Sage GA01986-US
  • Be completely honest about the condition of your device. If you lie about the condition, you may end up having to refund the buyer and you won’t get your phone back.
  • Check the completed listings first. Find the closest matches for your phone, and price accordingly.
  • Provide the original box and accessories if possible.


How to recycle your phone

If your phone is old, destroyed, or the trade-in value is low, recycling it is the way to go. Chucking it in the trash means that the precious metals in the phone are lost, and you’ll contribute to the ever-growing problem of e-waste (Which grows at the rate of around 50 million tons a year). Most services offer nearby drop-off locations or free shipping to make recycling your phone as convenient as possible. Here are some spots to recycle your phone:

Apple

Apple leads the pack when it comes to recyling old tech. The company partners with recyclers around the globe to minimize e-waste. Simply select your region on the Apple Recycling page, provide a few details, and you’ll be all set.

Best Buy

If you have a Best Buy nearby, simply take your phone in and they’ll recycle it for you at no cost. They’ll also recycle your charger, but not your case.

Google

Google offers a convenient way to recycle your phone from home. Its partner RGLA will send you a pre-paid shipping label, and all you have to do is pack the phone in a box, attach the label, and mail it.

Call2Recycle

Call2Recycle offers a plethora of drop-off options around the US. Its location finder will help you find the closest drop-off location. Unlike Best Buy or Google, Call2Recycle is a nonprofit organization, so they don’t make any money off your device.

If you’re not interested in making money or simply want to help others, many charities will gladly acccept your phone. Here’s a few non-profits that take working and broken smartphones:

Cell Phones For Soldiers

Cell Phones For Soldiers is a nonprofit organization that uses the proceeds from your donated phones to purchase international calling cards for active-duty military, or to provide emergency funding for veterans. You can either drop your phone off at one of their drop-off locations or mail it if you have 10 devices or more to trade-in.

Medic Mobile

Medic Mobile is a nonprofit dedicated to building healthcare systems for developing regions. To donate a phone, simply print off one of their free shipping labels, pack the phone in a box, attach the label, and mail it.


While selling or recycling your Android phone is a great way to minimize your e-waste, major phone manufacturers are still failing to make major steps towards a truly sustainable smartphone. However, even if you have an older phone that’s slowing down, you can extend its lifetime by following our guide on how to speed up your Android phone.



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