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Hock That Handset! 5 Tips For Selling Your Used Smartphone

by Adriana Lee | September 16, 2011September 16, 2011 8:45 pm PST

Selling your phone
It’s hard to be a smartphoneenthusiast these days. You stay up on the news, maybe even rumors, and make what you think is an informed choice – only to find your chosen handset less than spectacular in person. Or worse – you love it like no other for about four days, i.e. when a new phone that smokes your now lame handset’s middling specs suddenly hits the webs.

Sound familiar? Well, don’t despair. After all, there’s bound to be someone out there who will want that handset. The phone will end up with a user that appreciates it (instead of a land fill), and the transaction could yield enough funds to help — possibly even cover — that new, droolworthy device.

So if you’re eyeballing the Nexus Prime, iPhone 5 or another gadget that’s on the brink of landing, this might be a good time to consider your selling strategy for your old tech. Here are a few things to bear in mind:

(1) Set your goals. Would you rather have an easy, no-fuss experience or get the most cashola you can, no matter how much of a pain in the neck the process is? There are many ways to sell gadgets these days, and they offer varying levels of ease or value — including cash-for-gadgets sites (like Gazelle.com), retailer trade-in promotions (Apple offers 10% off new products with trade-ins), eBay, Craigslist, and yes, even yard sales. There’s also social media — while Facebook now has Marketplace, a pal of mine also sold her old EVO to a friend-of-a-friend just by casual mentioning it in her status update. This was an easy transaction, with neither party really worried about getting conned.

She probably could’ve gotten more money selling it to a stranger via eBay, but there she would’ve had far more steps to deal with, like putting up the listing, setting up the terms, creating the auction page, and handling the actual transaction, packaging and shipping. So she was pretty pleased overall.

(2) Consider your timing. Maybe the new version of your phone is still wandering around rumor-land. Or perhaps it just got announced, but not yet launched. In either case, timing can matter a lot here — once that new-gen model arrives, your old one could decline in value pretty quickly. So take your time and consider your options, but don’t take too long. Those months of indecision could wind up costing you.

(3) Research prices. Speaking of value, that’s another reason to do your homework. Although you may want the full retail price for your year-old handset, in most cases, you’ll probably have to set your sights a little lower. Scour places like eBay, Craigslist, or Amazon to see how much your smartphone is currently selling for, to get a sense of some more reasonable expectations.

(4) Set a “no pay, no play” policy. If selling to an individual, do not ship the gadget without (verified) money in hand. Larger companies may need to see the phone in person to truly assess its value, and that’s normal. But individual buyers are another thing entirely. I can’t tell you how many people I know who got scammed out of their gadgets, and prematurely shipping them was to blame! In some cases, the money was even PayPalled over, but was somehow charged back after the item shipped. Other times, a fake check was sent, so you want to be extra vigilant about getting scammed.

(5) Wipe that handset! You wouldn’t hand a stranger your email accounts, appointments, tasks and other confidential data, would you? Well, not wiping a smartphone would be the same thing. Of course, you’ll want to back-up and/or transfer your data first. But when that task is done, don’t merely rid all those accounts off the device — do a full factory data reset. Generally speaking, this is found under Settings (in the case of BlackBerry, it’s actually a little more buried, under Options > Security Options > General Settings > Menu > Wipe Handheld.) If your phone uses a microSD card, don’t forget to either pop that out, or wipe that too, if you’re including it.

A Couple of Other Considerations
A word about selling it abroad: I know plenty of folks who refuse to sell any of their gadgets internationally, for fear of overseas scams. There are also others who do so with great success, frankly because not all handsets are available in all parts of the world, meaning it could net you a premium. But it requires vigilance, attention to detail and a willingness to deal with international currencies, exchanges, shipping/delivery and possibly other concerns. So if you’re interested in this, weigh your options before jumping in head first.

To hack, or not to hack? Often times, a smartphone that has been rooted or jailbroken/unlocked can garner a higher price. I’m not exactly recommending this tactic, because there is some risk of doing something damaging to your phone, especially if you’re a novice at this yourself. But for information purposes, it’s worth noting that there are a lot of people out there who are interested in modifications, but are intimidated by the thought of doing it themselves.

Got any other tips that belong on this list? Add your advice to the comments below!


Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...

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