iPhone buyback firms unruffled by Apple's trade-in plans

Quote volumes climb as early adopters prep for next month's new iPhones

Buyback firms today remained unconcerned about a reported Apple in-store iPhone trade-in program, saying that if accurate, it simply vindicated their business models.

"Apple [doing buyback] would be great for our business," said Anthony Scarsella, chief gadget officer at Gazelle, in an interview. "It will only add a ton of awareness to the idea of re-commerce."

Jeff Trachsel, chief marketing officer at NextWorth, agreed. "This is more a validation of our business model than anything else," Trachsel said when asked about Apple's purported plans.

Gazelle and NextWorth are two players in "re-commerce," the buying of used consumer electronics like smartphones, primarily in developed countries, then refurbishing them for resale in less affluent markets.

Their sentiments were in line with comments by re-commerce companies in June, when news first circulated that Apple would this fall begin accepting older iPhones as trade-ins for new models. On Monday, those reports intensified, with TechCrunch saying that some Apple retail stores were already running pilot programs.

Scarsella and Trachsel contrasted their programs, and others like them, with what Apple is expected to offer. Gazelle and NextWorth pay cash for used smartphones, while Apple will only offer in-store credit in the form of an Apple gift card. Both Gazelle and NextWorth accept a wide range of devices, giving consumers who want to switch from an Android-based phone a sell-back outlet.

Scarsella was the most aggressive in downplaying the threat, noting that Apple's program required that customers visit a store. "I think this could be a nightmare," said Scarsella, referring to the lines that often form outside Apple stores at the launch of a new iPhone. "With us, it's fast and easy, and you wait until you get the new one before you send the old one back."

Both Gazelle and NextWorth offer a lock-in period, a span of X days during which they guarantee a quoted price for a trade-in. Usually, that's long enough for consumers to buy a new phone, switch their number and transfer their apps and content before shipping off the old smartphone.

On Monday, Gazelle extended its usual 30-day lock-in to 50 days, or until Oct. 15. NextWorth offers a 30-day lock-in period.

Apple is expected to unveil its new iPhones on Sept. 10 and begin selling them Sept. 20.

Talk of those dates has, as usual, boosted activity on re-commerce companies' websites as consumers decide whether to sell their older iPhones before purchase prices drop further.

NextWorth iPhone 5 offer
NextWorth, one of several 're-commerce' companies, offers $340 for a 16GB iPhone 5 that works on AT&T's mobile network.
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