Blog Post

How-To: Selling Your iPhone for Instant Gratification


With the iPhone 3G S on sale in a matter of days, a rush of 3G and original iPhone owners will be selling their phones and upgrading to the new model. If you are planning on selling your current iPhone, there are a few simple steps that can help maximize your resale value.

Before beginning the process of selling your current iPhone, ponder one last time whether it’s a good idea. There’s a lot to like in the new iPhone, but more than a few features are still missing. If you purchased an iPhone 3G last July from AT&T (s t), you will not be eligible for the “standard” upgrade now, incurring $200 in additional cost unless you wait until December. Of course, December will be just six months from the next iteration of the iPhone, so why not just wait until June 2010, for a potential 4G iPhone, possibly on the Verizon (s vz) LTE network? Obviously that last bit is a little friendly speculation.

So, again, why not just wait until next June? Because I don’t want to.

Setting aside better battery life, a better camera, and a compass with an app that looks like it’s from Myst, the iPhone 3G S is at least 50 percent faster than previous models, and has a better GPU too. From playing games to booting apps to rendering web pages, the extra cost of upgrading now will be saved in time spent using the iPhone 3G S. All that remains is to minimize that upfront cost as much as possible.

Step 1: Presentation

Even before choosing a selling venue, take at least one photo of your current iPhone and everything sold with it. Using a picture of the actual iPhone is superior to an advertising photo in that it both shows the prospective buyers what they are getting and that the phone is working. As you can see in the picture below, the headphones are not included. Frankly, anyone who would buy earbuds with a year’s worth of my ear wax and sweat from the gym coating them is not someone I want to sell to. Or meet. Having said that, you can sell your new headset from the iPhone 3G S with your old phone. It’s your choice, unlike where you’ll likely sell your iPhone.

Woodgrain is a nice background, clutter from your living space, not so much

Step 2: Where to Sell

Love it or hate it, it’s eBay (s ebay). Sure, if you live in a large city, you can use craigslist, but eBay is the virtual bazaar for most of the planet that wants to buy an iPhone. Last year, eBay had additional rules on selling iPhones, including requiring PayPal for transactions, but not so far this year. Regarding price, the iPhone 3G appears to be going for between $300 and $400 right now, the original model a little less. Of course, you’ll have to decide whether or not to jailbreak the phone, which would likely increase the eventual selling price. Also, opting to sell worldwide will garner higher bids. For me, both those options were outside my personal comfort zone, but I still sold my original iPhone last September for close to $400, which brings us to the details.

Step 3: How to Sell

Apple iPhone 3G 16GB Black *Warranty* *Free Shipping*

That listing, the picture, and a short description is all you need. In the description, I state that my iPhone (s aapl) is in excellent condition, that it is being sold to upgrade to an iPhone 3G S, and that buyers have the “option” of unlocking it. I also state when the warranty will expire. One-year warranties on iPhone 3Gs will start expiring as soon as July 11. Free shipping sets my ad apart from others, and is one less thing prospective buyers have to worry about. Considering the large numbers of used iPhones that will be coming on the market in the next few weeks, opting for a shorter auction makes more sense. It means an ad with fewer days buried behind thousands of others. As for a minimum selling price, I’m going with $300 for an iPhone 3G.

Step 4: Sale, Packing, and Shipping

A lot of people are going to e-mail with questions or propositions of a dubious nature. Stick to your auction rules, which in my case includes selling to U.S. residents with a lot of positive feedback. It goes without saying that you don’t ship until they “paypal you the monies.” Once the sale is made, wipe the iPhone: Settings ? General ? Reset ? Erase all Content and Settings. Remove the SIM card, clean the iPhone thoroughly, then pack it in its box, and pack that box in a larger one filled with styrofoam peanuts or other packing material. Don’t go cheap at the end. For me, that means UPS, a tracking number that I can follow every step of the way, and a signature required for delivery.

Step 5: Count the Cost

Since I do yearly upgrades, I always opt for the low-end iPhone. The retail cost of a 16GB iPhone will be approximately $450, tax and activation fee included. I expect that that my iPhone 3G will net me $350, taking into account shipping and PayPal fees. That means my iPhone 3G S will cost me about a quarter a day over the next year.

That’s a small price to pay for the fastest, most powerful, most hyped iPhone yet.

29 Responses to “How-To: Selling Your iPhone for Instant Gratification”

  1. I just found out the phone I was trying to sell for my roommate who bought it new in Dubai that it was a FAKE IPHONE from CHINA that is MODEL a1221 so we can just scrap it I guess. BE AWARE of the China Model A1221 everyone. They are impersonating apple iphone by changing just a number on this and that……..

  2. Yes i would like to sell my iPhone edge on eBay for the best price.When i bought it i had no idea about credit checks my first cell .Anyway, they sold it i paid cash and back then we did the sign up at home on itunes.I was upset that i did not have enough credit history but those kind ppl they set it up as prepaid go phone So does anyone know if the edge iPhone can… still used as pay go or post pay? And what about 3Gs too thanks!

  3. Jennifer

    Great article. I found out Thursday that I qualified for the standard upgrade so I decided to go for it. Picked up a 32gb on Friday morning before work and posted my 3G on eBay. It sold in 18 minutes for my buy it now price of 315 bucks. When all was said and done, my new iPhone cost me about $30. Woot!

  4. How those ebayer get iphone without contact (It new)? Are they scamming us? I bought one before and went to rogers to sign up but they say We will have to put u on 2 years contact I felt i got rip off so I sold it back for the same amount but made 20 dollar profit lol. Im guessing I get iphone later cuz I those trust those E bayer cheap ass scammer cuz the carrier screw u up.

  5. “So, again, why not just wait until next June? Because I don’t want to.”

    No, because you’re a fanboy.

    Unlike the first upgrade, there’s nothing that screams ‘buy me!’ with the new iphone. Don’t get me wrong, welcomed features. But there’s nothing that goes from edge to 3g, or no gps to gps.

    There is a segment of apple users that will always upgrade, even if the only difference is updated stickers. Nothing wrong with that. Just admit it and get your credit card out.

    • DaveHater

      Wow, this “dave” guy is a real smarmy, sarcastic bastard. He fits a profile of a classic complainer that thinks he’s so cool (or “kewl” as he’d probably spell it), with his lame faux-hawk and probably soul patch. Move to Brooklyn if you don;t already live there, you Generation-Y hipster-doofus.

    • I actually think this upgrade has more to offer than the first. Much better camera, video capabilities (better than Cycorder, which I use a lot), teh snappy, battery bump. My town got 3G literally two days ago, and I’ve never had any real use for GPS. I waited until last summer for my first iPhone, but I’ll probably only wait until December for my second.

  6. Chris Wanja

    Something you may want to add on there is: if you have the ability, and chance to – go get it swapped at the Genius Bar and leave it in the plastic wrapping (tell the Genius replacing it to do so – as a previous tech. for Apple, we had no problem doing that). If you show that it is in the plastic wrap, it could boost your sales as close as 30 – 50 dollars.

    Last years, I was able to see three 8GB iPhones (unlocked and jailbroken pre-sale) for 400$ each. Of course I bought the new one just as well.

    • Chris Wanja

      It is all about security. Lets say something goes wrong with the transfer process (cause it is AT&T remember?) and you can not keep that number. First, punch your AT&T rep., but then your old SIM is still active (possibly). To prevent the POSSIBLE cause of someone getting a hold of your SIM and the goodies on it, pop that sucker out and hold on to it. Should AT&T and Apple run this show like last time, the 3Gs will come with their own SIM. But who knows, a couple days we will all find out.

  7. Bob Cauttero

    I had the foresight to sell my iPhone 3G two weeks ago for $300. It was in perfect shape, had the box too. Did the same thing last year with my original iPhone. With a $99 new price tag, I doubt anyone would pay close to $300 now. Snooze you lose.

    Besides, unless you’re going to unlock the phone, whether you buy it from new from AT&T or from Joe Blow, when you activate it with AT&T on an iPhone plan you have to commit to a 2 year contract.

    • Bob Cauttero

      Dave, at the time no one knew that Apple would keep the 3G in it’s lineup and sell it for $99. At the time I sold it, $300 was a fair price. Not only that, but I had at least a dozen people who were fighting to buy the phone minutes after I posted it on a popular phone message board. As for my “forsight”, I knew the WWDC was coming and I keep up with all the iPhone rumors.

  8. I don’t get it – aren’t they selling brand new 3Gs for 99$. Why would anyone pay 350$?! (Of course, if I’m wrong, I’m definitely going to sell mine)

    • I assume it’s because people want to use it with another network, and therefore don’t want to sign a 2-year contract which is how you get the $99 price.

    • Chris Wanja

      As said above, the plus is you get it without the attached contract or need for you to get it in contract. You could use it as a iPhoneTouch for a while if you wanted.

  9. William Humphreys

    Thanks so much for this post.
    I am currently selling my iPhone 3G on eBay and this will help a lot.
    If anyone is interested, you can check it out at:
    It is in great condition. It spent it’s whole life (sense March!) in a case.
    i am selling it because I am addicted to the newest and latest thing, especially Apple products!
    Thanks again.

  10. Regarding monthly service cost, AT&T is a screw job. Having said that, if you already own an iPhone, you are already getting screwed on your service plan. It’s also true that original iPhone owners pay less for the data plan, but EDGE would be hell even if it were free.

    Regarding unlocking, it’s not a particularly difficult task, and a lot of people do it. Of course, the market for unlocked iPhones may be smaller now, since more countries sell iPhones, China being a big exception. If you are going to unlock the phone, you really should consider selling it overseas. If you don’t feel comfortable with selling overseas—I’m not—then I wouldn’t jailbreak either.

  11. You should update this with the final selling price. I’ve been content with my 3G, but this article is making me reconsider.

    @Stephen: I think he means over the cost he has already incurred.

  12. Do you have any specific tips for those of us that might be selling a 1st gen iPhone? Anything specific that might be a selling point (easier to unlock, or anything like that?) What is your take on unlocking versus saying “able to be unlocked?”