How to sell your old phone before upgrading to the iPhone 5

If you're itching to buy a brand new iPhone 5 the minute it hits store shelves but already have an iPhone (or any other smartphone, really), selling it can help offset some, if not all of the cost, especially if you're not yet eligible for an upgrade and have to pay a premium. Odds are you've already decided which capacity and color you'll be getting when the iPhone 5 drops so you have some idea of how much money you need to get out of your current iPhone to cover the purchase.

So if you don't fancy handing it down for free to a family member or using it as a backup phone, we can guide you in the right direction when it comes to selling your old iPhone and getting top dollar for it.

Getting top dollar for your iPhone

sell iphone accessories included

Many people who buy their iPhones second hand are most likely planning on using it with a pre-paid service or on a carrier that doesn't currently carry the iPhone, such as T-Mobile. Here are some things you can do to make sure your iPhone will fetch top dollar.

Jailbreak and/or unlock your iPhone

If you've got an iPhone that's on a firmware version that is currently unlockable, your phone will most likely sell a lot quicker than other iPhones that aren't unlockable. AT&T and some other carriers will unlock out of contract iPhones so if you're out of contract you may be able to just call your carrier and request an unlock. This will most likely work for most people with an iPhone 4 or older generation iPhone as most will be out of contract by now.

If you aren't out of contract, you may still be able to unlock it through jailbreaking it and using a tool like ultrasn0w. This will depend on which model iPhone you have and what firmware you're running so make sure your iPhone can be unlocked before attempting it.

Even if you can't unlock your iPhone, jailbroken iPhones and ones that can be jailbroken tend to fetch a higher dollar amount than ones that can't. So be ready to answer that question if a seller asks if the iPhone can be jailbroken. Check out the following links for more information and help with jailbreaking and unlocking.

Condition and pictures

iPhones hold their value rather well as long as you take care of them. If you've taken excellent care of your iPhone you can probably get a little more for it than someone else who is trying to sell off their banged up iPhone. The key to making a quick sale is to make sure you're honest and open about the condition of your iPhone.

To make sure you are representing your product, take high quality pictures of the actual iPhone and avoid stock images at all costs. Many buyers will skip over listings that have stock images in them and only buy from sellers that include pictures of the actual iPhone. If there are any minor scratches or nicks, photograph those too. Buyers like honest sellers and it helps build trust.

Include accessories and original cables

If you've got the original cables and accessories that came with your iPhone, that's a great selling point. If you have the original box it came in, that's even better. For an even quicker sale, you can include some accessories or cases you've purchased for it over time. If you're upgrading from an older generation iPhone to the iPhone 5, cases won't be compatible due to the size difference. So throw them in to sweeten the deal and sell your iPhone faster.

Putting your iPhone up for sale

sell old iphone craigslist

Now that you've got all the information collected about your iPhone and what accessories you want to include in the sale, it's time to actually list it sell it. There are many places online that you can utilize as well as listing sites that allow you to meet up with buyers locally. We'll cover the ones we recommend and you can decide which one is best for you personally.

We'll go over some options first that'll get you cash or credit quickly and then we'll take a look at services like Craigslist and eBay that may fetch you more for your old iPhone but will require a little more patience and maybe some haggling with an actual seller.

Apple Reuse and Recycling Program

Apple will gladly buy back your old iPhone and either reuse it as a refurbished unit or recycle it on your behalf through their Reuse and Recycling Program. You'll be asked a series of questions regarding the condition, capacity, and color of your iPhone. It's important that you're honest because Apple will of course check that what you told them matches the actual condition once they receive the iPhone.

After Apple certifies that the iPhone is in working condition they'll issue you an Apple Store gift card that you can use towards any purchase. For most of you, that'll be towards your new iPhone.

Apple's program is currently offering up to $345 for a mint condition 64GB iPhone 4S. While it's an easy way to get some quick Apple cash, other services can probably fetch you far more for your old iPhone. Unless you are only interested in quick cash and enough of it to cover a new iPhone, continue reading for more options.

Amazon Trade-In Store

Amazon, like Apple, will buy back your old iPhone as well through the Amazon Trade-In Store. The only hitch here is that you'll be given payment in the form of an Amazon gift card. If you're looking for hard cash to put towards a new iPhone purchase and you don't want to wait for Amazon to have it in stock, it may not be the best option.

If you're okay with Amazon credit though, it's a pretty painless process. You'll choose the model, capacity, and color of your current iPhone and add it to your trade-in. You'll then be given a shipping label and instructions. Once Amazon receives your old iPhone, they'll issue you an Amazon gift card for the trade-in value. Amazon is currently offering around $400 for a mint condition 16GB iPhone 4S which isn't a bad deal at all considering that's higher than what Apple is offering for a 64GB iPhone 4S.


Gazelle offers a service that lets you easily turn most electronic devices into cash. Simply send in your iPhone and Gazelle will send you money after confirming the item condition. The first thing you'll need to do is tell Gazelle what you're selling and what condition the item is in. You can choose from poor, fair, good or excellent condition, and it's important to be honest when rating the condition so there's no hiccups or snags along the way. It also helps if you have the box and original documentation and cables with your item. Also make sure you check for any water damage, as Gazelle will too once they receive the iPhone.

Currently, a 16GB iPhone 4S in normal condition will fetch you around $277 while one in mint condition will get you $290. Again, always be honest about the condition. While Gazelle is a quick way to get money for your old iPhone, you can probably get quite a bit more on services like Craigslist and eBay if you can be a bit more patient with the actual selling process. offers a similar service to Gazelle by letting you send in your old iPhone for payment with little to no hassle involved. They'll not only buy your old iPhone, but any Apple gear you have laying around. This is a good option if you have other Apple products you're willing to sell besides an old iPhone.

You'll be required to provide pictures along with a serial number next to your item description and condition. Once receives your iPhone they clean it, inspect it and verify that it's in working condition before they turn around and sell it on eBay. Users can receive payment via Paypal if they choose as well. SellYourMac's quotes are a little higher than other competing services such as Gazelle. A 16GB iPhone 4S in mint condition is currently worth $305 on SellYourMac.


Selling your iPhone on eBay is a pretty simple process. If you've ever used eBay for selling things in the past then you know the selling process isn't all that tricky, however there are still some things to keep in mind when using eBay to sell your iPhone. For instance, eBay charges fees for each auction based on the item you're selling and how much it sells for, among other things, so here are five quick tips to help you get the most out of your auction:

  1. Only ship to the buyer's confirmed Paypal address if using Paypal.
  2. Price competitively, especially if you're using Buy It Now as an option.
  3. Make sure the pictures you use follow your description and are good quality - post pictures of any physical blemishes on the iPhone and be up-front in your description.
  4. Use a fast shipping service and make sure you include that in your item description. People are impatient by nature so sellers that offer fast shipping tend to sell items quicker.
  5. Use keywords in your title and in your item description to attract more potential buyers.
  6. You may also want to consider insuring your item in case anything goes wrong during shipping. Watch out for low-feedback buyers and also keep in mind that Paypal charges processing fees as well.


Craigslist allows you to list items for sale in your area so you can perform the transaction locally and face-to-face. This is a quick way to get some cash for your iPhone on the spot and also an easy way to let the buyer check out the iPhone in person before committing to the purchase. As long as you were honest about the condition and specifications, you should have no issue in completing a painless transaction with a buyer.

  1. Don't ever put your personal or home address in an ad. Ever!
  2. Price your iPhone competitively. A good way to do this is to find existing ads on Craigslist in your area for iPhones that are the same model, capacity, and condition as yours and price accordingly. If your iPhone shows up next to someone else's and yours is grossly overpriced, it won't sell.
  3. Some buyers prefer being able to text or call you immediately about an item and it may increase the likelihood of a quick sale. Having a phone number that they can reach you at is ideal. Only do this if you're comfortable with putting your phone number on the internet. This is a good time to use a Google Voice number or other forwarding number if you have one.
  4. Meet in a public place, preferably in the daytime. A coffee place like Starbucks is a good idea. It's also never a bad idea to bring a friend or relative with you. While most buyers are perfectly friendly, there are shady people out there. If the person doesn't want to meet in a public place, pass on them and wait for someone who doesn't have an issue with that.
  5. Watch out for email scams, something Craigslist is notorious for. Anyone offering to pay you a great deal more than the list price or who asks you to ship the item to a foreign country is a scammer. Delete their e-mails and correspondence immediately and wait for a legitimate buyer to come along.

Sell your iPhone to a friend or family member

Even you aren't willing to part with your old iPhone for free it doesn't mean friends or family members aren't interested in buying it from you. Perhaps they don't have an iPhone or aren't eligible for an upgrade and don't care about having the newest model available. Using this method you ensure that your old iPhone finds a good home and you know the buyer isn't a scam artist.

Ask around and offer a reasonable price and you may be surprised how many of your friends or family members could be willing to snag your old iPhone. Throwing in accessories such as cases can help sweeten the deal as well.

Get more help selling your old iPhone

How to sell your old iPhone before upgrading to the iPhone 5

Whether you just aren't sure which method to use, need advice on what condition you should list your iPhone as, or what you should price it at, we're here to help. You can leave any questions you have about selling your old iPhone in the comments below or better yet, in our iMore forums where lots of our members have years of experience selling and trading gadgets of all kinds.

One of our members may even be interested in taking your old iPhone off your hands so be sure to check out our Marketplace forum as well!