Apple rolling out in-store trade-in program for iPhones

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Staying on the cutting edge of smartphones just got a bit easier: Apple on Friday launched a nationwide program for customers who want to trade in their current iPhone for credit towards a new one. The move has been widely rumored since June, but news of the launch was first reported by CNBC.

It’s unclear at present exactly what the program entails, but reports from CNBC suggest that users who want to trade in for a new iPhone must leave the store with a new contract. Apple already offers an online service, its Reuse and Recycle Program, that offers Apple Store gift cards to those who turn in their used iPhones (as well as iPads and Macs or PCs); for example, a used 32GB iPhone 5 in good condition can fetch $366—well on the way to helping someone afford a new iPhone, not to mention in many cases providing a device that Apple can refurbish and resell.

Of course, Apple’s offering is not the only player on the block. Services like Gazelle, NextWorth, and YouRenew have long offered cash for used phones. Likewise, carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all recently launched new programs to keep users on the cutting-edge by bundling upgrade costs into monthly service fees; in those cases, though, the benefit may be less to the consumer and more to the carrier itself.

As to why Apple would expand its trade-in program to the Apple Stores, one major reason comes from a report earlier this year that only around 20 percent of iPhones are sold through Apple’s retail store—a number that CEO Tim Cook would allegedly like to see raised to around 50 percent. Aggressively offering credit for traded in phones could boost that bottom line by making the Apple Store a more attractive place for consumers to go when they’re looking to upgrade.

And, of course, this launch comes just a few short weeks from what is thought to be the announcement of a new iPhone. That primes the consumer market by putting the newest, shiniest iPhone in the reach of more consumers.

Macworld has reached out to Apple for more details on the trade-in program.

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