How to Get the Most Selling Your iPhone When Trading up to iPhone 12

How to Get the Most Selling Your iPhone When Trading up to iPhone 12
Image: Getty Images

The iPhone 12 will be announced this week, and while it may be a little time before you can buy one, the temptation to ‘trade up’ by selling off your old iPhone will never be higher. If you’re tempted, here’s what you should do to maximise the amount you can get for your old handset.

We still don’t know at the time of writing what precise price points the four purported models of iPhone 12 will command here in Australia.

It doesn’t take too much crystal ball gazing to suggest that the entry level will kick in just north of $1,000, while the top-end iPhone 12 Pro Max with maximum storage probably won’t leave much change out of $2,500 out of your pocket.

No matter your choice of iPhone model, they’ve never been ‘cheap’ to speak of. Even the excellent value Apple iPhone SE 2020 isn’t what could ever reasonably be called a low cost phone.

As such, if you get caught up in the hype wave and decide that what you must have as your personal Christmas present this year is a shiny new iPhone 12, it makes sense to drop the cost as much as you can.

Sadly, there’s rarely much of a sales environment around new iPhones, with Apple maintaining razor-sharp margins for its third party sellers, and rarely if ever actually dropping price on new phones during their 12 month period as the ‘flagship’ model.

What you can do, however, is take the iPhone you’ve already got and get as much for it as you can, and then use that cash to drop the effective price of your new handset by hundreds or single thousands of dollars, depending on a few factors. Before we start, however you need to

Safely back up and wipe your existing iPhone

Data usage
Image: iStock / Wachiwit

We’ve got a full guide to how to wipe any iOS device here, but the fundamentals aren’t that hard to wrap your head around. First and foremost, ensure that you’ve got a full backup of your personal data – that’s messages, photos and any other documents or downloads – stored and backed up somewhere. Preferably in more than one location, but that’s more to do with good backup hygiene than anything else.

Once that’s done, ensure that you’re fully signed out of all of your Apple accounts on the iPhone you’re using. Without that step you open up your soon-to-be-sold device to giving your personal details to strangers, or depending on your configuration, opening it up for some app store fraud if they’re able to order up pricey IAP or other software through it.

Only then should you actually proceed with wiping your iPhone. Open up Settings, then General, then Reset – located right down the bottom so you may have to scroll for a bit – and then Erase All Content and Settings.

As a reminder, erasing all content and settings will quite literally do what it says. Undertake that step without a backup and there’s no going back and getting that once-in-a-lifetime selfie back. You did back up your photos, right?

Gather as much of your iPhone as you can

Screenshot: David Murphy, Apple
Screenshot: David Murphy, Apple

An iPhone isn’t just an iPhone when you’re selling it, and while I’ll get into some of the phone factors that apply shortly, the other way you can maximise your sale price is by including as many of the original accessories as possible.

Still got the original charger and Lightning cable? That’s a plus, as is having the original box, especially if it’s in good condition. A box in bad condition may scare off some buyers who would see it as a sign of how you’re likely to have treated the iPhone you’re trying to sell.

While rumours suggest Apple might not include headphones with the iPhone 12, they’re a part of the standard equipment for the prior generations. If you’ve never used the headphones that come with the iPhone then include those as well, but if they’ve been in your ears, then… eww. Just keep them, or responsibly send them towards e-waste recycling.

Work out what your iPhone is realistically worth

australian federal budget 2020

Chances are that you paid more than a thousand bucks for your iPhone when it was brand spanking new, because excluding the iPhone SE, it’s been a long time since Apple had a sub-thousand dollar model to sell anyone.

The bad news is that you won’t see all of that money back when you choose to sell it on. The good news is that relative to other handset makes, iPhones tend to keep their value longer, so it is feasible to get a decent proportion of your money back.

Here’s what’s going to affect your overall achievable (and realistic) sales price:

Mo’ Storage, Mo’ Money

Apple’s never released an iPhone model with any kind of expandable storage, and that means that iPhones with larger storage allotments have always cost more. If you’re selling off a particular model phone that came with 64GB or 128GB storage sizes, guess which one’s now worth more?

iPhone age discrimination: It’s a thing

Outside retro gaming fanatics, there’s not much in technology that improves in value as it gets older, and that’s especially true for iPhones. While the rumours do suggest that Apple may be returning to a more iPhone 4-style solid industrial design for the iPhone 12, if you’re thinking of selling off an actual iPhone 4, you’re realistically not going to get much for it at all.

It typically doesn’t make a great deal of financial sense to upgrade iPhones annually – but yes, I know, you want a new one – but if you’re flogging off an iPhone 11 you can expect quite a bit more.

Condition matters

Shutterstock" loading="lazy" > Photo: Shutterstock

I’ve left the actual condition of the phone until last, because the age and storage capacity of the phone are simple spreadsheet checks that anyone could run through to work out rough pricing, but condition is rather more variable.

If you’ve got an iPhone that you’ve always kept in a case and with a good screen protector on board that you never dropped and kept in pristine condition, you’re going to score a lot more cash than if your iPhone’s screen is a maze of cracks and the rear casing looks like it’s been in a pitched but lost battle with Wolverine.

If you’ve got an iPhone in actual non-functional condition, the money you can expect for it can typically be measured in single digits if you’re lucky enough to find somebody keen enough to take it for parts.

There’s a lot of scope between the extremes, however, and many businesses that trade in secondhand phones will often assign “grades” to specific phones, depending on precise wear and tear. However, those “precise” categories are ones that they very much decide upon themselves, and it’s in their best interests to tell you that a given phone is worse, not better. After all, if they pay you for a “C” grade phone they can sell as a “B” or “A” grade model, that’s straight up profit in their pockets.

As such, even simple matters like properly cleaning the phone and having original accessories and the box can pay dividends when it comes time to sell.

How much can I get for my iPhone?

Again, this is a variable question that rests largely on how much work you’re willing to put into selling it. If you’ve got lots of time on your hands and don’t mind privately selling it, you’ll most likely realise the largest possible value, but conversely if you want a quick sale there are numerous third party sellers that will give you a quick sale price.

Apple has a similar scheme, called ‘Apple Trade In’ that directly gifts you with Apple Store Credit that’s arguably the easiest mode, although it’s actually a third party partner that ends up owning your iPhone in any case.

Apple doesn’t currently have trade in values for the iPhone 11, because as I’m writing this, and for about 2 days more it’s the “current” iPhone model, but it does indicate pricing for an iPhone 11 Xs Max, albeit as an “up to” price. Again, the condition of the phone and storage capacity will make a difference there, but let’s use that as an illustrative example with the mid-capacity 256GB model in good condition.

Apple iPhone Xs Max 256GB

Retailer Price
Apple Trade In Up to $650
Mobile Monster $750 “As New”/$700 “Working”/$80 “Dead”
Cashaphone $600 “As New”/$550 “Good”/ $250 “Fair”/$150 “Faulty”/$50 “Dead”
CeX $561
Fonebank $442 “Working”/$153 “Damaged/Faulty”
Gumtree (typical asking price) $700-$1000
eBay (concluded listing range) $500-$1000

Now, we’re not advocating for any given model, and it’s worth noting that some of the retailers listed aren’t currently operating due to the Coronavirus pandemic in any case. Some retailers such as EB Games do take iPhones as trade in fodder, but don’t list prices online at all, too.

Still, it is pretty clear that if you do have the time and stomach for a personal sale you’ll probably see more.

Realistically it’s well worth your while getting price quotes from a few sources, especially if you can do so rapidly and with little effort online. When the difference in realised price is more than a few dollars, that’s a great investment in your time.

Apple’s “up to” pricing appears pretty good for this particular model, although the two catches there are that you may be offered much less than that, and you only get Apple Store credit for it, not cold hard cash that could be spent on other niceties such as, say, a fresh apple turnover.

Apple doesn’t sell those yet… but we may find out different early on Wednesday morning.

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