The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra just launched and as Mobile World Congress kicks off it's time to get your plan together to sell or trade your existing smartphone before the new ones hit the street.
In the past, I always purchased my phones outright and then sold them on Swappa at a couple of hundred dollars loss. I figured that a couple of hundred dollars justified the use for six months to a year and find the users of Swappa to be a trustworthy bunch. You might even be able to sell your gear locally through Swappa if you are apprehensive about shipping an expensive phone to a potential buyer.
Today, there are even more options available, thanks to Apple, Samsung, wireless carriers, direct purchase companies, and more. Let's look at some of what we have available to consider in 2022.
Apple iPhone Upgrade Program
I personally switch phones and bounce between Android and iOS often due to my ZDNet writing, so I wasn't much of a fan of the iPhone Upgrade Program (IUP) that launched in September 2015. If you are an iPhone user who wants the new iPhone each year though, it is the most convenient option and the more I find myself diving into the Apple ecosystem, the more appealing I find this program.
The iPhone Upgrade Program also includes the Apple protection plan AppleCare Plus and given how many people I see using iPhones with broken glass panels, this is a great option for the masses.
In order to upgrade, you're required to have made 12 months of payments on your current device. So, depending on when you bought your last iPhone and joined the IUP, you may have to wait or pay more to upgrade. You lease your iPhone with this program, so the payments will adjust according to the price of the phone. The IUP also works with your carrier.
Current monthly payments for the iPhone Upgrade Program range from $35.33 for a 128GB iPhone 13 Mini to $74.91 per month for a 1TB iPhone 13 Pro Max. You can also pay for 24 months to pay off the phone and own the phone outright if you do not feel like upgrading every year.
Samsung Phone Upgrade Program
In order to participate, you need to purchase your Samsung Galaxy phone from Samsung directly and add Samsung Upgrade to your cart at check out. Pay your monthly statements, financed through Samsung, and then after 12 months you can return the phone in good condition and have the option to upgrade early by receiving up to 50% of your purchase price back to use on a new Galaxy phone.
I used this program a few years ago and it was OK. It's not as user-friendly as the Apple program and I've had issues trading in phones to Samsung for credit so I don't have as much trust for this program as I do for Apple's program. If you have had success with this program, or not, we would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
Wireless carrier upgrade programs
Some US wireless carriers offer upgrade programs, such as T-Mobile's Jump on Demand, AT&T Next Up, and Verizon's upgrade program. These programs are similar to Apple's, with each being a lease program where you trade in the old model on a yearly or every two-year cycle.
T-Mobile's Jump On Demand program actually lets you switch phones every 30 days if you like, so you can get a new iPhone, then switch to an Android phone, and jump back to another new iPhone. One year I jumped from the iPhone XS Max to the iPhone XR, and finally ended up with the iPhone XS.
Pricing for these upgrade programs is dependent on the value of the phone that you purchase. If you cancel service or opt out of the program, you have to pay the balance on the phone. Additional fees are usually not charged for these lease upgrade programs, but they also do not include the Apple protection or other phone coverage plans by default, so consider adding that coverage if you tend to drop your phone.
As an alternative to these lease upgrade programs, US wireless carriers also sometimes offer "free" iPhones or Galaxy smartphones with a trade-in. I did that in 2016 with T-Mobile, but be aware that credits are often applied over an extended period of time, and you have to spend a lot of time reviewing your monthly bill to make sure credits are applied. In the end, the Apple Upgrade Program is probably the best option for convenience and utility.
Buy one, get one from your carrier
Carriers often launch new phones with special offers and one of the most popular is the BOGO (buy one, get one) offer. The BOGO deals can be good deals, but make sure to read the fine print since there are often many strings attached to these offers.
Most BOGO plans require you to open at least one additional line and then finance the two phones over a 24 month period. There may also be minimum monthly service plan requirements for each line. Since I personally switch my phones a lot, the BOGO never works because I do not keep phones for 24 months.
Sell or trade your phone via an online or retail location
Flipsy offers a price history chart and a private party value, similar to Kelly Blue Book for cars. The website also shows you some of the other online buyer values, including Gazelle.
There are several online companies that buy old phones, and many years ago I sold a lot of my old phones through Gazelle. You can get an offer, ship it for free, and get paid via Amazon gift card, PayPal, or check. You can also buy certified pre-owned devices through Gazelle.
There are also ecoATM kiosks where you can drop off your phone, but be aware that kiosks tend to have lower offers than the online options like Gazelle.
Local retail stores, such as Best Buy also offer trade-in programs for smartphones. The value is provided to you as a Best Buy gift card, which is a common strategy for these trade-in companies.
Sell your phone yourself
As I mentioned, I usually sell my old phones on Swappa and always experience fast sales with every single one turning out to be valid. Most people buying on Swappa are tech-savvy buyers, but make sure to include taxes, fees, and PayPal costs in your figures as you evaluate your options. Swappa also offers charts showing values over time, which are useful for pricing your phone competitively. You can even purchase protection plans on Swappa when you buy a new phone.
If you don't want to use Swappa, you can also sell your old iPhone on eBay or Craigslist. eBay fees are usually higher than Swappa and also have PayPal fees on top of them, but lately I've seen higher prices for devices on eBay. If you use Craigslist to sell to a local buyer, make sure to meet the buyer in a public place with lots of people around so you can make a safe sale. Also, be careful with the monetary transaction of hundreds of dollars between strangers.
You may get more money for your iPhone if it is unlocked, so try getting it unlocked from your carrier before you sell it. Verizon iPhones are always unlocked out of the box.
Similar to backing up your phone before you upgrade the OS, you should also back up your old phone, make sure all security measures are cleared, and perform a hard reset before trading in or selling your current smartphone.