Most people in the United States sell or trade in their older phone when they buy a new one. And the value of your old phone affects how much you actually pay for a new one.
For Android smartphone owners like me, the resale calculation is difficult.
A used iPhone holds so much more value than other high-end smartphones that you might want to think twice about buying another iPhone. I hate to say it, but it’s true.
A smartphone may be the most important and perhaps most expensive piece of technology in your life – especially when you also consider the cost of cell service. We must consider all parts of the price calculation, including resale values.
The resilient value of an iPhone
I knew used iPhones held their value. I was still surprised at how big the gap in resale price was.
Let’s take the two-year-old Google Pixel 6 phone that I own. Used Pixel 6 devices with signs of wear are selling for an average of $185 each on B-Stock, a provider that buys and resells used smartphones in bulk.
The average is $410 for B-stock for used two-year-old iPhone 13 devices in similar condition.
That means a two-year-old used iPhone is still worth about half of its original price of $799. A Pixel device of the same age is only worth 30 percent of its original price of $599.
It’s not just the pixel. According to B-Stock, a used iPhone 12 from 2020 is worth 35 percent of the new price, while a high-end Samsung Galaxy S20 released in the same year is only sold for 15 percent of the new price.
There is a huge value gap in pretty much everything any “A used Android phone compared to a comparable iPhone,” said Joe Dube, director of mobile accounts at B-Stock.
B-Stock auctions a large number of phones that are returned, broken devices that are covered by insurance, or phones that we trade in to a company like T-Mobile.
These auction prices are not what you would personally get for your used phone. But they show the trend of what Americans can expect when they sell their old phone or trade it in to buy a new device.
The trend is usually towards iPhones.
I found that an iPhone 13 was worth up to $300 more than a similar Pixel when I wanted to sell a used phone on a site like Gazelle or Swappa. The difference in resale price was about the same as a comparable used Samsung Galaxy phone.
Mobile phone providers’ exchange offers for older phones are everywhere. On a used iPhone 13, trade-in offers were in some cases $100 or several hundred dollars more than a comparable Android device, but in other cases they were about the same or less.
In general, experts say iPhone trade-in values are higher than similar high-end Android phones, but not always.
Studying resale values has changed the way I feel about my Pixel.
A new Pixel costs less than a new iPhone. (Samsung’s top Galaxy S devices cost about the same price as comparable iPhones.)
But the iPhone seems like a better deal if I can sell it in a few years for up to hundreds of dollars more than I’d get for a used Galaxy S or Pixel.
Why a used iPhone is worth more than an Android phone
Dube said one reason for this is that Apple doesn’t discount its new phones and releases new iPhones every year on a set schedule.
A predictable flow of new devices at predictable prices gives bulk cell phone buyers confidence in what they are willing to pay for used devices. And what you pay goes into the trade-in or selling price of your old phone.
Dube also said that compared to phones from Samsung or other Android makers, there are more replacement parts for older iPhones and people who know how to repair them.
This means it costs less for used phone wholesalers to replace a battery or replace a broken screen on an old iPhone. Again, these repair costs are factored into the value of your old phone.
Consumer demand is also part of the equation. Most used smartphones are purchased outside of the US and many people like to buy a used iPhone.
What you should do with this resale knowledge
This resale price information is subject to limitations.
While Apple rarely offers discounts on new iPhones, there are discounts on new high-end Android phones. This could offset the relatively low value of the Android phone you’re replacing.
When you buy new smartphones from one of America’s big three phone companies, trade-in values are, for now, divorced from market reality. You could get as generous a trade-in price for your creaky old Samsung Galaxy as your friend got for her used iPhone.
And resale value is most relevant if you buy a new high-end smartphone every few years or so. If you keep a smartphone for many years – or buy lower-quality smartphones – the resale bill becomes less important.
After all, our purchasing decisions are not based solely on price. Maybe you prefer a Galaxy, Pixel, or $300 smartphone over an iPhone. Great!
However, keep in mind that if you normally buy a fancy device, the iPhone might be the most sensible choice.