Chinese smartphone makers launch trade-in programs to boost sales

A number of well-known handset brands in China are promoting their own trade-in programs amid lacklustre smartphone demands in the market.

Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Meizu has launched a program called "mCycle for home", where it purchases discarded handsets from consumers of various brands as well as their own, including iPhone, Huawei and Xiaomi.

The program aims to promote environmental protection, Meizu having teamed up with a recycling factory in Hong Kong to deal with electronic pollution issues. According to a Tencent news report, Meizu's Vice President Li Nan said last week that some 180 million handsets are discarded in China every year, less than 1 percent of which get recycled properly.

Meizu also vowed to offer incentives to those who opt for the program in an attempt to raise environmental protection awareness. According to Meizu's official website, once a consumer provides detailed information of his trade-in handset online, they will be offered a sum. Once the deal is settled and Meizu has received the handset, the consumer will be offered an electronic cash coupon.

However, Meizu has set stringent rules for the usage of the trade-in coupon, only valid for smartphones and accessories offered on Meizu's official website, which in turn only sells its own products. The coupon could be used for one purchase only and the difference is non-refundable.

According to a Chinese local tech blog, the recycling prices are low, with Meizu paying 390 yuan ($61) for its MX3 model, 150 yuan ($23) for MX2 model, and as little as 10 yuan ($1.6) for some earlier models.

But consumers have responded warmly to the program, with Meizu having claimed to receive nearly 3,000 units since the program launched on August 18. According to another Chinese report, around one third of the figure have been Meizu phones, 500 iPhones and the rest Huawei and Xiaomi phones.

Meizu joined the trade-in program after Apple and other Chinese brands started recycling old handsets. This month, Huawei also launched a trade-in program to recycle used phones, accepting a wider range of brands including Samsung and HTC.

Huawei claimed to compensate consumers as much as 4,428 yuan ($691) for an old handset, although it also requires the consumer to spend the trade-in cash on its own branded products only.

IDC announced on Monday it expects smartphone shipments to expand only 1.2 percent year-on-year in China in 2015, down from 19.7 percent in 2014.