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September 23, 2014

How to Get Your Hands on a New iPhone — for a Good Price

By now you’ve probably seen your neighbor, your friend or your cousin Bob running around with a new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, gloating about how it’s so much bigger, faster, cooler and, well… bigger than their old iPhone. Perhaps this has you yearning to join the ranks of iPhone 6 owners. Yet with a retail price starting at $649 off contract, you may be wondering just how to afford the newest must-have gadget. Here are our tips for snagging a good deal and getting some money back from your old phone should you take the leap and get a new iPhone.

First, a dose of reality: in its first day of pre-orders, sales of the iPhone 6 hit roughly four million devices and Apple has announced that orders already exceed the initial pre-order supply. Your first hurdle may be simply tracking down an iPhone 6 to purchase.

It could save you hundreds to shop around for the best price on the phone, particularly if you are still in contract with a service provider. Lucky for you, the major cell service providers are embroiled in a battle to get your business, with some carriers (T-Mobile, for example) offering to buy out your current contract with a rival service provider in order to get you to switch. Knowing what you can get from a competitor will help you negotiate the best possible deal with the carrier you prefer.

AT&T and Verizon are sticking with their traditional contract plans. The two carriers offer similar pricing, with an iPhone 6 starting at Apple’s recommended price of $199 (for 16GB with a two-year contract). Wal-Mart is discounting the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus an additional $20 off Apple’s recommended price when purchased with a two-year Verizon, AT&T or Sprint contract.

If you aren’t keen on locking yourself into a service contract for the next two years, Sprint and T-Mobile offer purchase plans that allow you to pay off the full-price of the phone (starting at $649 for a 16GB iPhone 6) over the course of two years. If you want to walk away from the cell service provider before you’ve paid off the phone, you’ll need to pony up the amount remaining to purchase the phone, but you won’t have to bear hefty contract termination fees. Throw in their low-priced unlimited data options, and these smaller players in the market are carving out a bigger piece of the customer pie.

iPhone devotees that upgrade every two years may want to look into Sprint’s newest “iPhone for Life” lease plan which lets you lease the new iPhone for $0 down (with good credit) and monthly payments starting at $20 for a 16GB iPhone 6 plus $50 for unlimited talk/text/data. Every two years, you have the option to trade in your phone for the newest iPhone and continue the lease for no additional cost.

The best way to afford a new phone is to trade-in or, even better, sell your existing phone. While the simplicity of trade-in can’t be beat, top dollar will only be had if you go to the effort of selling your device through eBay or Craigslist.

Verizon is offering a $200 gift card toward the purchase of a new iPhone in trade for a working iPhone 4, 4s, 5, or 5c (a working 5s in good condition could fetch a $300 credit). Sprint and AT&T are promising to match carrier’s buyback pricing, up to $300 for eligible devices, and T-Mobile says it will beat any other major carriers’ trade-in rate AND give customers a $50 credit.

These offers out-price Gazelle, one of the more well-known sites for buying mobile devices sight-unseen, which is currently offering $230 for a pristine iPhone 5s with 32GB of storage.

Glyde is another option for relatively painless third-party transactions. Enter the information about your phone and select a price based on their suggested market value. The phone will be listed for sale and proceeds transferred to your account (less a transaction fee) if and when it sells. Transactions are easy for the novice seller, with no interaction between you with the buyer. If you don’t want to risk it not selling on the open market, Glyde will purchase your phone instantly but you’ll net less than you would using Gazelle.

For the best chances of getting top dollar for your old phone, you’re best off selling it on eBay or Craigslist. It will require more effort: you’ll need to set up an account, list the item with photos and description, and be wary of scammers looking to steal your device using fraudulent methods like fake cashier’s checks. Study up on tips to ensure a smooth transaction and selling direct to another person will likely garner you an extra $100 or so.

Before your old phone leaves your possession, be sure to wipe your data and contact your cell phone service provider to un-link the phone from your account. Apple offers tips for clearing your data off your iOS device before selling, trading or donating here:


Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds On Call, which offers onsite computer and laptop repair service for homeowners and small businesses. Based in Redding, Calif., it has locations in five states. Contact Eldridge at