Update: Tablet trade-ins spike as 'iPad Mini' event nears

Buy-back firms say jump is much smaller than for last March's roll-out of the iPad 3

Even before Apple sent invitations for the Tuesday launch event where it will likely unveil a smaller iPad, consumers were unloading their old tablets in increasing numbers so they can trade up to Apple's latest, according to gadget buy-back firm Gazelle.

Today, rivals of the Boston-based company said that trade-in volume continued to climb, with owners of 7-in. tablets from the likes of Google and Amazon joining the bandwagon.

A week and a half ago, Anthony Scarsella, chief gadget officer at Gazelle, noted that tablet trade-in volume was up 80% in the previous 30 days over the same stretch before that.

"Volumes started going up in mid-September, when they doubled in one day," said Scarsella. "Since then, they've stayed pretty stable."

Although rumors of a smaller iPad -- usually pegged as a tablet with a 7.85-in. display, considerably smaller in total area than the 9.7-in. iPad -- have circulated for years, talk in mid-September centered around the tablet hitting production at a major Apple supplier.

Follow-up speculation a few weeks later tapped Oct. 17 as a launch date, with a Nov. 2 on-sale debut. Those rumors did not pan out; last week, Apple invited reporters and analysts to an event tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 23, where virtually everyone expects it to reveal the small "iPad Mini" -- the name most have used as its until-launch label.

"Most of the tablets being traded in are original first-generation iPads," said Scarsella, adding that 60% of the requests for quotes were from users seeking a price on the 2010 model.

"It looks like upgraders want to turn in their first-generation iPads," Scarsella. "I assume that they're looking for a more updated model, since the presumed specs [for the iPad Mini] are similar to an iPad 2."

As of 4 p.m. ET today, Gazelle was quoting $125 for a 16GB first-generation, Wi-Fi iPad in "good" condition, $130 for a 32GB model and $140 for a 64GB device.

Between that initial Oct. 11 interview with Scarsella and today, Gazelle has seen even more activity.

"Since the October 23 event invites went out last week, we've seen a significant increase in the number of iPad trade-ins," he said in a follow-up email today. During the week of Oct. 15, quote requests were up 320% over the week before, Scarsella added.

Unlike the early interest, the most recent has been more about selling the newest iPad, which jumped 520% in quote volume. "Perhaps most interestingly, the number of iPad 3s traded in has increased tremendously, accounting for more than 40% of total trade-ins in the last week," Scarsella said. "We're expecting the new iPad and iPad Mini to have the same Lightning connector as the iPhone 5, which is most likely what's driving consumers to trade in their older devices."

Although iPad Mini prices have not yet been revealed -- Apple has not even confirmed that Tuesday's event will introduce a smaller iPad -- bets by experts and pundits have ranged from $249 to $329 for the entry-level configuration.

Other trade-in vendors have seen activity jump as well.

iPad trade-in prices
NextWorth's current quote for a first-generation, 16GB iPad is $130, about half the lowest predicted price of an 'iPad Mini.'
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