Blog Post

Is your smartphone a good investment? If it’s an iPhone, yes

Credit: Priceonomics

Priceonomics, which keeps track of the resale value of items like cars, bikes and gadgets, published a report Wednesday that shows how the value of iPhones(s AAPL), Android(s GOOG) devices and BlackBerrys(s RIMM) hold up over time. Short answer: iPhones, even years-old models, retain their value the longest, which means iPhone owners can recoup the most money when they go to resell their phones.

Here’s the method they  used:

We measure depreciation by comparing a phone’s current used price to its new price (without a contract) the day it was released. We examined all iPhone models and the 70 most popular Androids and 30 most popular BlackBerry models. We split phones into five different cohorts (newly released, 1, 2, 3, and 4 year-old phones). We then calculated which phones had the best resale by cohort, as well as which platforms in aggregate tended to retain their value the most.

The highest quality phones should have the best resale values over time and crappier phones should depreciate the fastest. The evidence is clear – the winner is the iPhone.

After crunching the data they came up with a series of charts, like one that shows that after owning a smartphone for 18 months, iPhone owners can resell theirs for 53 percent of the original price, Android owners for 42 percent and BlackBerry owners for 41 percent of the original price.

That part won’t be news to people who make a habit of reselling their old iPhone before or right after buying a new one a new one. There are sites like, eBay (s EBAY) and that regularly buy used iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android phones in order to resell them. The iPhone is always the easiest to resell and will go for a decently high price if you time it right.

But all is not lost for penny-pinching Android owners. One caveat to the data that Priceonomics found is that less expensive Android phones sold by prepaid operators do hold their value much better than their pricier Google-powered brethren, probably because those phones are highly subsidized by the operators. Specifically, the Motorola Triumph, HTC Wildfire and Samsung Exhibit 4G on average keep up to 86 percent of the original value.

Be sure to check out the original post for more interesting data.

13 Responses to “Is your smartphone a good investment? If it’s an iPhone, yes”

  1. Given that I’m hearing about how original iPhones that cannot run iOS 4 can’t even download old versions of apps from the App Store whose latest versions require iOS 4 or later, I’m not so sure about that. (Then again, the rest don’t fare much better thanks to fragmentation, lack of vendor firmware updates, etc.)

    It mostly depends on how often you upgrade. If you like to sell your current device to get the funds for the next iteration, go ahead, but for those of us who spend a lot of money for one device, expecting it to last for 5 years or even 10 years, it’s a blatant case of planned obsolescence.

  2. Kindroid

    I am glad Erica is not my investment adviser. If my portfolio drops by 48% in 18 months….whoa she might be as good as Morgan Stanley. But no consumer electronics are GOOD investments. More APPLE FUD.

    • Erica Ogg

      I, too, am glad I’m not an investment advisor. :) It would make the headline way too long, but as the post explains, the point is about which phone is a good investment relative to the other smartphones out there. Sure, basically every gadget loses its value. But I’m sure that doesn’t mean you don’t own any of them.

  3. Well, actually the phones last so well, they get handed down the line. My wife has my old 3G. When my contract runs out on my iphone4, she’ll get that, and the 3G will become an iPod touch with prepay data for one of the kids. I’ll upgrade to iPhone 5 8)

  4. Clearly, we have different ideas of what constitutes a “good investment”. Every one of these devices loses 3/4 of its value in 4 years, and therefore residual value is probably the last thing on the list to consider when buying a new mobile phone.

  5. A “good investment”? How the heck do you justify that title – nothing that loses 80% of its value in 3 years can by any stretch of imagination be considered a good investment..

  6. bstringy

    Can’t think of a good analogy, but it’s almost like comparing japanese and american car resale values. Without breaking it out by model, what can a consumer (one who drives a specific make/model) really glean from it? Not a lot. So thanks for putting up the data, but unfortunately it’s of no value to me.

      • ” unfortunately it’s of no value to me.”

        lol, according to the article, that’s the same way folks feel about iPhones.And the point you are trying to make is?.It goes both ways moron damn typical fanboys enoy hanging from Apple’s sack.

      • Rudy Batz

        Thursday, February 9 2012
        ” unfortunately it’s of no value to me.”

        lol, according to the article, that’s the same way folks feel about Android phones.

        LOL are you serious that stupid of a fanboy.It goes both ways idiot.Once again the iCRAP fanboys showing their intelligence.

  7. Joseph Biancofiori

    Everything Apple is a good investment…look at their computers, they still sell close to original price even a year later…most PC will drop in value within 30 days