After a week and a half of anticipation, Friday is the day you can finally get your hands on an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus—well, if you preordered or you don't mind waiting in line, anyway. But choosing a screen size isn't the only decision you have to make: What are you gonna do with your old phone?
You’ve got plenty of options. Here are a few worth considering.
Why not turn that old iPhone into a slightly used, slightly-thicker iPod touch? That old phone of yours can still connect to Wi-Fi networks and run iOS apps, and if it’s an iPhone 4s or later, it’ll upgrade to the forthcoming iOS 8 operating system just like your new phone will. What’s more, we’ve found that old phones make fun hand-me-downs to age-appropriate children.
Finally, should anything go wrong with your new phone, it never hurts to have a backup device in easy reach.
Return it to Apple or your wireless carrier
If you want to get a little bit of money for your old device, Apple features a Reuse and Recycling Program. In August, the program was offering to pay $225 for a gently used, AT&T iPhone 5; that price drops for phones with scuffs, scratches, and water damage. The 5s and 5c are not yet eligible turn-in models, but you can recycle the iPhone 4, 4s, and 5.
The payoff comes in the form of an Apple gift card—the value of which can be applied to your new iPhone purchase.
Verizon also has a trade-in program that lets you get an online appraisal on your current phone; the company will pay you in the form of a Verizon gift card or let you donate the phone’s value to victims and survivors of domestic violence. AT&T, meanwhile, has its own Reuse & Recycle program—though it asks you to bring your old phone to one of its stores. And Sprint has a buyback program that promises to pay up to $300 in account credit for used devices, no matter which carrier it’s from.
T-Mobile’s trade-in program works slightly differently—you can only trade in a device after agreeing first to purchase a new phone from the company. But a 16GB iPhone 5S was bringing an estimated $230 in credit from the company as of Sunday.
Sell it to a third party
This is, admittedly, the trickiest route to take. There are many resellers—among them NextWorth, Gazelle, YouRenew, and CashforiPhones.com, all of which will gladly pay to take your iPhone off your hands.
On Sunday, offers ranged between $257 and $357 for a 16GB iPhone 5s in good condition—with a little bit extra for unlocked iPhones—but the law of supply-and-demand rules here: Those prices will start coming down quickly as those companies are flooded with used phones from owners upgrading to the next iPhone.
Given the amount of legwork that goes into checking up on resellers, you may find it easier to sell your unwanted iPhone yourself, either through Craigslist or eBay. It could be more financially rewarding, too, as you can set your own price.
It’s also a good idea to do an online checkup on the companies offering to buy your iPhone to see which ones have good reputations and which have a string of unsatisfied customers. Start by checking with the Better Business Bureau website. eBay, Gazelle, NextWorth, and YouRenew are all accredited with the organization; CashforiPhones.com is not—and BBB says that the website’s parent company, Laptop & Desktop Repair, LLC., has been the subject of more than 400 complaints in the last three years. “According to complaints in BBB files, consumers allege the business obtains their interest by offering a high quote online and then lowering the quote upon the business’ receipt of the electronic device,” the bureau says. Sellers beware.
Pass it along
This maybe doesn’t have the same allure in recent years, as anyone can pick up a last-generation iPhone directly from Apple itself for free. (For another week, at least, that free model is an 8GB iPhone 4s.)
But your old iPhone can still make a nice hand-me-down for some folks, or kids getting their first real phone—and not just as an iPod touch. Before handing off the phone, however, make sure that your lucky recipient really wants to take on a two-year commitment with a wireless carrier.
If you’re handing off the phone before your two-year agreement is up, you’ll want to get free of your obligation to it. That can mean paying early termination frees to shed your responsibility—generally in the range of $325 to $350, minus $10 for every month of contract fulfilled, but not necessarily. (You can call AT&T or Verizon to hand off your contract to a friend; contact your carrier for guidance on transferring service to the new owner.) Sprint also has a website where you can start the change of ownership process with relative ease.
Clean it up
No matter how you sell or repurpose your old iPhone, you’ll want to make sure that the phone is stripped of any personal data before it leaves your hands. Most importantly, disable the “Find My iPhone” feature and your iCloud account from Settings > iCloud; if you don’t, your phone may prove inoperable for resellers and new users.
From there, it’s fairly easy to erase all your data from your phone: Just go to Settings > General > Reset, and touch the Erase All Content and Settings button. You’ll also want to guarantee you’ve backed up all the data on the device first, so that you can restore it to your new phone. Don’t forget to back it up first, though, so you can restore the settings to your new phone if you desire.