It should come as no real surprise that Apple
is finally joining the trade-in game, but what's interesting is that it's doing so in its heralded retail stores. Stores that are known for precision, and stores that produce satisfaction ratings that Apple executives watch with keen interest. While secondhand markets such as Craigslist, eBay, Nextworth, Gazelle and others have provided avenues for users of older iPhones to sell or trade their devices, Apple has officially kicked off its own program: the Reuse and Recycling program.
The name isn't quite exact; in fact, it buries the lede. Yes, this is a way to ensure your iPhone doesn't just end up in a trash can, but let's be honest -- that was never going to happen in the first place. What this is is a chance for Apple to recycle revenue. It'll encourage existing iPhone owners to return to an Apple Store, take far less than their iPhone is worth, and then apply that credit directly to another on-contract iPhone. Plus, they'll be in a prime spot to spring for an accessory or two, try out a Mac, etc.
It's a brilliant plan by Apple, but it won't be easy. Imagine the rush of people who flock to Apple Stores after the iPhone 5S
is revealed: how will there even be enough staff to keep things humming? Will complaints crop up? It'll be a challenge for Apple to maintain its pristine retail image when it looks like the inside of a Walmart during Black Friday.
Outside of that, there's the backend stuff. For starters, Apple isn't handling any of the reselling; it has contracted with a company called Brightstar, which will be responsible for finding new homes for the traded-in iPhones. Next, even the latest and greatest iPhone, in perfect condition, will only net you $280 towards the purchase of another, and at least in the U.S., you have to use that credit before you even leave the store on another on-contract phone. You can't put it towards a Mac, for instance. Furthermore, you can't trade anything other than an iPhone; forget about bringing your old Galaxy S in. That's a major gaffe in our opinion, as this would have been a great chance to convert Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry users -- instead, it's just recycling its existing users.
Worst of all, the phone that you use the credit to buy has to be attached to a carrier, so forget about using it towards an unlocked device. All told, it's a fairly awful deal for customers. There are much easier ways (Gazelle and Nextworth) to get a lump sum for your phone that you can use towards anything, and those willing to sell it themselves will fetch as much as 2x on eBay and elsewhere.