Study finds $47 billion in old phones gathering dust

People aren't trading in their old gadgets, instead preferring to give them to someone, donate them to charity or throw them away.

By Benzinga Feb 13, 2014 3:55PM

Image: PDA with stylus (© Tetra Images/Corbis)By Tim Parker

If you've ever wondered why Apple (AAPL) would waste its time getting into the used cell phone business, a recent survey will answer your question.

According to new data from the annual "Mobile Mountain Study" conducted for mobile resale site, Americans have enough phones sitting in drawers to collect a combined total of $47 billion in trade-in value, according to MarketWatch.

Some $13 billion of that total is exclusively old iPhones.

"Americans are still unaware of the money they can make by trading in their old mobile," Keir McConomy, founder of, told MarketWatch.

In the most recent quarter, Apple sold a record 51 million iPhones, according to its most recent earnings report, and although it has managed to convince many consumers to trade in their phones, 50 percent still say that they have an old phone sitting at home gathering dust -- down from 55 percent the year prior.

What are people doing with their old phones if they're not trading them in? About 20 percent say that they give them to a family member or friend, 12 percent donate the phone to charity, and 9 percent say they throw them in the trash.

In a world of Target security breaches and NSA spying, security is less of a concern to consumers than in previous years, surprisingly. Only 18 percent of those polled said that security was concerning to them -- down from 23 percent one year ago. That could be due to Apple's frequently talked-about security protocols.

Interestingly, when asked why they don't just trade in their old phone, 20 percent said they were "too lazy" while 40 percent say they wanted a spare phone in case something went wrong. Another 36 percent seemed to not know about the trade in programs.

These numbers prove what Apple already knows. While it isn't directly handling all of those iPhone trade-ins that it collects in its stores, it gets a piece of the revenue. With 50 percent of consumers holding on to their old phones and 36 percent seemingly not knowing that they can trade in their phone and receive up to a couple of hundred dollars, Apple stands to make a substantial amount of easy money in a market in its infancy.

Companies like SellCell, Gazelle and NextWorth, along with carriers like AT&T and Verizon are in on the action as well.

At the time of this writing, Tim Parker was long Apple.

More from Benzinga

Feb 13, 2014 5:52PM
BS! They give you next to nothing for them! I'd rather throw it in the river!
Feb 13, 2014 6:23PM
Well people could stop buying new phones when their old one works just fine .. 99% of people getting a new phone don't need or use the "new" feature they pay 100s for every 6-18months
Feb 13, 2014 6:22PM

GIANT SCAM!!!!!   Just sell it yourself on craigslist.  You'll get between 6-10 times the money then using these god awful companies like SellCell and Gazelle.   

Feb 13, 2014 6:13PM
you might get 200 dollars for that new iphone 5s you just bought for 600 and are under a 2 year contract.  but why would you sell that phone, then you have to find another phone to fulfill your 2 year contract.
what's that iphone5s going to be worth at the end of your 2 year contract?  probably not much as iphone17.5 will be out by then and your screen will have a scratch and your port will have pocket lint in it.
i would rather give the phone to charity or let my kids play with it than give it to apple for basically nothing for them to make another 100 off it.  or better yet, sell it yourself on ebay and give them 20% of the final value fee.  oh just wait, that's why i don't sell on ebay any more with their ridiculous fees.

Feb 13, 2014 6:15PM
What a beautiful example of our commodity fetishism and consumption driven world.
Feb 13, 2014 6:25PM
They'll take em and give NOTHING in return, like this other one said, in the river it goes ;=)))
Feb 13, 2014 6:20PM
Go to Craigslist and sell them.  You can sell them for 10x times the amount that these god awful places like Gazelle and SellCell offers you.  They offered me $45 for my used but in perfect condition.  I told them to suck a dick!   I went to CL and sold it for $225

Who ever thinks that these crooked as companies will give you couple of hundred dollars for your used phone is on crack!   They offer you like $40 and then turn around and resell it for $250.

I don't understand what idiots call these places and sell them their used phones when you can just go online to craigslist and sell it yourself for much much more money.  

Don't believe any of the commercials that these awful crooked companies tell you.  The commercials will tell you one thing to sell you.  They won't be able to quote you on the exact amount since they need to take a look at the condition of the used phones so they tell you to mail it in on your prepackaged envelopes and by the time they receive it they offer you DIRT!!!!  and it's too late to take your phone back. 

These god awful companies all should be shut down immediately.  It's nothing but a giant SCAM!!!!!

Feb 13, 2014 7:26PM

51 million clueless people overpaying for a phone that's 2 years behind the times in a 3 month period.

No wonder Apple has so much cash on hand.  Hard to believe people spend hard earned cash on a product that's not advancing to a company that is Ebenezer Scrooge with its money to shareholders.

Feb 13, 2014 7:04PM

this just goes to show if you give someone a free phone they will not take care of them like they would if they paid for them themselves.

Feb 13, 2014 7:33PM
A fool and his money are soon departed never rang any truer.
Feb 13, 2014 7:54PM
I totally agree with the other commenters. When a person actually checks into these scams to trade in their old phones you MIGHT get $15-20. When the iPhone 4 was the newest model I checked with Sprint just days after buying it to see what they would give me. I paid $199 for the phone and Sprint said they'd give me $89. Less than half of what I'd paid just days before. Think about these companies that sell refurbished phones. They give customers $10 for a trade in and turn around and sell them for $50-100. Talk about a markup and a profit. 
Feb 13, 2014 7:08PM
Why are we not extracting the rare heavy metals from these? China is our only supply of these EXTREMLY rare elements...Disquieting...
Feb 13, 2014 7:52PM
Tried 3 times due to reading STUPID articles like this selling them "high dollar HTC" phones. Best quote they gave me was 6.00. ROLMFAO. Seriously. Nobody is going to WASTE THEIR TIME for that pittance. Obviously the author of this article has absolutely no clue what reality is, as is true for most articles I've read on here lately.
Feb 13, 2014 7:04PM
Also, if you a girl or have your wife/girlfriend sending you sexy image, people could recover those image too. Private email? Could be recovered. Password? YESSS... Be careful. I can't stress it enough.

All my smartphone collect dust b/c I don't trust the next person that wan tot buy it. Who would want to buy a used old phone on Ebay when they are giving away NEW phone for almost free. 50% chance, someone trying to steal your information.

Feb 13, 2014 7:38PM
Its better in the long run to keep your old phone and not pay the insurance for your new one. They charge you 7 bucks a month for insurance plus a 50 to 100 deductible on any claim. If you decline the insurance that comes up to a 220-275 dollar savings over the two years of a contract. Then if you lose your new phone or it breaks you can use your old one as a backup to fulfill your contract. This is a much better deal that selling the old one for 20 or 50 bucks. This si what I do.
Feb 13, 2014 8:53PM
The only people getting 48 Billion for used cell phones are the ones that take them as trade ins!  The consumer get very little if nothing for their old phone!  I won't get a new phone until my old phone no longer works.  Trade in value?  Zero.
Feb 13, 2014 8:45PM

So what is the big deal.

Sounds like people are talking about Used cars, can't see much difference between the two.

Buy a new car, get low balled on the trade-in, and watch the value drop instantly, same with smart phones of today.

Feb 13, 2014 8:19PM
If they are well kept sell it yourself on ebay or a similar type outlet and pocket the full value of the used phone yourself. Hell why make the rich richer when you enrich-en  yourself.
Feb 13, 2014 7:25PM
Welcome to the machine, granted you may sell for a reasonable price on CL but there are scum out there that want to meet you in person (Bad Move) these items are a hot ticket to cash at kiosks. How bad do you need the cash? Sell it to someone you know, everyone will be much better off.
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