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Looming iPad 3 launch sparks tablet trade-in stampede

Buy-back companies, eBay note 8X-to-10X higher interest in dumping old iPads as Apple preps new model

February 29, 2012 01:33 PM ET

Computerworld - Talk of the impending debut of Apple's newest iPad, including the company's announcement yesterday of a March 7 launch event in San Francisco, has pushed tablet trade-in volumes to record levels, buy-back companies said today.

Their reports were consistent with those from online auctioneer eBay, which said that it had fielded 10 times more tablet trade-in offers -- nearly 98% of which were for iPads -- on its Instant Sale site this month than during the same stretch last year before the iPad 2's debut.

"People are very eager for the iPad 3," said Anthony Scarsella, the chief gadget officer of Gazelle, attributing that enthusiasm for a 500% jump in quotes that his company has served compared to last month. "The jump in volume happened a lot earlier than last year for the iPad."

Gazelle is one of several companies that purchase older devices, including smartphones and tablets, from users, then refurbish and resell them direct to consumers via eBay and, as well as to wholesalers.

The new iPad, dubbed iPad 3 by almost everyone -- even though Apple hasn't officially given it a name, priced the various models or even disclosed changes from 2011's iPad 2 -- will be the third in Apple's tablet line. It's expected to go on sale shortly after the launch event Apple will hold in San Francisco next Wednesday.

Rival buy-back company NextWorth has also seen a massive jump in iPad trade-ins, Jeff Trachsel, that company's chief marketing officer, said in an interview today.

"There wasn't a lot of activity in January, I think because people were keeping their powder dry," said Trachsel about the rumors that swirled even then of an impending iPad 3. "But recently we've seen a pretty massive increase, as much as 800% above last month, in [trade-in] quotes for the iPad."

Both Gazelle and NextWorth provide trade-in quotes to potential customers, who select options to describe the conditions of their iPads and designate the model.

"Most of the trade-ins are iPad 2s, which shows that the early adopters -- people who bought an iPad and then an iPad 2 -- are the first to commit to the iPad 3," said Trachsel.

Scarsella agreed, saying that iPad 2 quotes accounted for 75% of all iPad buying offers Gazelle has given.

The waning and waxing of trade-in activity is directly tied to the news and rumors that float to the top of the Web, said Scarsella and Trachsel.

When talk surfaced three weeks ago that Apple would unveil the iPad 3 the first week of March, trade-in interest shot up 400%, said Scarsella. News Tuesday that Apple had sent invitations to reporters and analysts for the March 7 event sent them soaring even higher.

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