What To Do With Old Cell Phones

The holiday season will be upon us soon. For many people, the holidays mean new gadgets. With special deals on devices coming up left and right, it can be hard to pass up on upgrading your device to the latest and greatest.

So, where does that leave you with your old device? 

Maybe you want to get rid of it in anticipation of getting your new device, or maybe you have been given that brand-new phone and now do not know what to do with your old one. We are here to give you some tips on what to do with that old phone now that you have upgraded to something better.

What To Do Before You Get Rid of Your Old Smartphone

Before we get into how to dispose of your old iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, there are specific steps you should take, no matter which method you will be using, to rid yourself of the old device. 

These are universal, important guidelines to ensure your security and personal info. Not taking them means that sensitive information about you could get into the wrong hands, which we want to avoid.

Most People Don’t Secure Their Phones Before Selling

Back in 2011, Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert, bought 30 electronic devices off of Craigslist to see how well people protected their security when selling an old device. 

He was able to get vital information from 15 of the devices, either using rudimentary hacking or just because the previous owner failed to clear the device. Several of the devices had even been wiped and restored to factory settings.

This means that even doing the basics is not enough to ensure your phone is safely scrubbed of your data. You must take full measures if you do not want anyone potentially accessing vital information like passwords and bank accounts. Luckily, we have a list of them.

How To Secure Your Phone Before You Sell It

  • While on a stable wi-fi connection, back up all of your saved information to local storage on a computer or cloud storage.

  • Unpair any attached devices.

  • Cancel any associated insurance or care plans with your current device.

  • Sign out of any relevant accounts, like iCloud or iTunes, and sign out of and deregister any associated emails.

  • If on an Android phone, disable Factory Reset Protection and screen lock features.

  • Download a remote wiping app. There are popular apps for Apple and Android that can erase data completely to the point that it can’t be recovered.

  • Clear the internal memory from your device.

  • Reset your device to factory settings.

  • Remove any SIM cards.

  • Remove your old phone from any list of trusted devices.

After all these steps have been taken, your phone should be ready for the next step. This is the exciting part, where you get to get rid of your old device and enjoy the shiny new one that you just got (or are going to get). So, what do we do with that old phone now?

In-Store or Online Trade-In Programs for Old Electronics

If your phone is in good condition and you have not purchased a new phone yet, then you can trade it in to reduce the cost of a new one. This is a great way to get a new phone for much cheaper. The ultimate value of the trade-in will depend on the condition of your phone and the generation of your phone.

Your first step will be to ensure that your phone is in a condition that will make it eligible for trade-in. Check the website of whichever retailer you are purchasing the phone from and review their requirements for trade-in. Minor cosmetic damage is generally alright as long as the phone is functional without any major screen damage or battery damage.

Once you have found the phone you would like to purchase, make sure it has a trade-in option available and check out with that phone using the trade-in option. You will receive your new phone as well as a pre-paid box for the trade-in, and then after you send in your old phone you will receive a statement credit if on a contract or a partial refund if not. 

You can also trade in your phone with Red Pocket! In partnership with Decluttr, you can purchase any phone and get bonus cash back with our special savings code. Watch out for deals like this when buying your new phone. 

Not every retailer will allow you to trade in your old device, and if you are going through one of the major carriers to get your new device, you may be stuck with having the phone as part of a contract. Selling your phone may be the best option for you instead if you want to buy your phone outright. 

Read on to see how to sell your old phone.

Sell Your Old Phone

If a trade-in is not a suitable option for you, then perhaps selling it outright is the best bet. After you have reset the phone to factory settings and removed all your data, you can start to sell it. People successfully sell mobile phones, laptops, and other tech online every day. Again, do not expect the most value from your phone if it is not in decent condition or a new enough model.

You have a few options here. You can sell it on local marketplaces, like Craigslist, or on national marketplaces like eBay. Of course, eBay will take a portion of your sale as a fee. The trick here is researching the value of your phone to make sure it is competitive. 

You will receive the most value from your phone by selling it yourself to another individual. However, there are also websites and dealers that will purchase your old phone from you with buyback programs like Gazelle or even automated kiosks that will take your old phone from you. 

These dealers will do the hard work for you, assessing the value and taking the device off your hands right away. But they typically will offer you less.

Recycle Your Old Phone

If your phone has no trade-in value or resale value, your first instinct might be to throw it away, but don’t. E-waste is a big problem for the environment, and recycling your phone can allow it to be harvested for vital, non-renewable resources. It also keeps a non-biodegradable item out of landfills where it can do extra harm to the environment.

It is easy enough to think we cannot recycle our phones, but they are actually simple to get rid of. You can drop your old phone off at certified recycling drop boxes, or get prepaid shipping boxes to send it to a recycling center. Call2Recycle is a well-known phone recycling program that can help you in the process of getting rid of a broken phone.

The EPA (environmental protection agency) has calculated that recycling all of the 100 million cell phones that are thrown away in a year could power 24,000 homes. We can all help out by just remembering to recycle those old devices and taking a few extra steps to drop them off at a designated recycling center. Do not forget that throwing some things away does untold harm to the environment.

Donate Your Old Phone to a Nonprofit

What if your phone is still working, but is not worth anything for trade-in? That phone could greatly help out someone in need instead of becoming part of a pile of electronic waste. Consider donating it to someone who could still make use of it.

There are drop-off programs that will help you recycle and reuse your working electronics like cell phones, chargers, and more to give to someone in need. They can even take phones that might have some damage and repair them to give them a second life. While it might not help you buy a new phone for cheaper, it is still worth looking into donating your phone.

You can also consider giving your old phone to a friend or relative. Plenty of people are generations behind and could use an upgrade, and you might know one of them. Help save them some money. 

A favorite way to get rid of an old phone is also to give it to a child once you have wiped it clean, then they have a mobile device they can use for gaming or browsing the internet if they are not yet ready for a cell phone, or they have their first phone if their family wants to activate it with a carrier by getting a phone plan and bringing their own device.

New Phone, New Plan

You have wiped your phone of any personal data, you have traded it in, sold it, recycled it, or donated it. The hard part is done now that you have gotten rid of that old phone. Your new phone looks nice and shiny and just wants to be used. Make sure you have the perfect data plan to take advantage of it.


How to protect personal data on devices you plan to sell | Los Angeles Times

How to Wipe Your Device Before Selling or Donating It | Webroot

How to Recycle Old Cellphones—and 4 Things to Do First | RD

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