Your old iPhone is worth big bucks. Here’s why

Apple this week widened the price range for its flagship smartphones, announcing the iPhone 12 mini at $699 for users who balk at spending over $1,000 for more premium models.

But for people who want to spend even less — in one case, absolutely nothing — to upgrade, Apple (AAPL) and major wireless carriers are doling out big discounts to those trading in their old devices.
T-Mobile (TMUS) and Verizon (VZ) are offering customers trade-in credits ranging from $200 to $850, depending on how old their phone is and whether they already have a plan with the carrier. AT&T, meanwhile, will effectively give customers a free phone if they commit to an unlimited data plan for 30 months while also trading in older phones with a value of at least $95. (AT&T (T) owns CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia).
Apple and other smartphone makers also offer their own trade-in programs, as do some third-party resellers. Apple is currently offering discounts up to $500 for the iPhone 12 lineup if you trade in your old smartphone, depending on its age and condition.
The trade-in values of old smartphones can be surprisingly high because the trade-in has become a critical piece of the device’s lifecycle. Beyond providing users with an opportunity to get a new phone for a fraction of its price, it helps companies boost sales by prompting more frequent upgrades, gives carriers a way to lure customers into long contracts, delivers more affordable devices for secondary markets and provides raw materials that companies can reuse to make new phones more environmentally friendly.

The upgrade push

Trade-in programs give wireless carriers and manufacturers a way to entice new customers and prevent existing customers from switching away from their products — as we saw with AT&T’s free iPhone deal.
“It’s probably the closest thing to reviving subsidies, which were rife in the US when the iPhone first hit the market,” said David McQueen, research director at tech advisory firm ABI Research.
A major issue trade-ins aim to address is the growing tendency of smartphone users to hold onto their devices for longer, often skipping a model or two (sometimes even more) before buying a new one.
“The motivation for subscribers to upgrade smartphones has been a problem over the past few years with most flagships having very little differentiation with their predecessors,” McQueen said.

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