Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Apple begins piloting in-store iPhone trade-up program

The in-store iPhone trade-up program we reported on prior to this year's WWDC is already being piloted, according to a Monday TechCrunch report. The service will allow customers to walk into an Apple retail store with their old iPhone and trade up to a new one at a discounted price.

The full program is expected to launch in September, the report added.

Although the full program has not launched, or even been publicized, Apple has been piloting the program in some stores, with reports saying the service has been running for several weeks, and that some stores are processing several trade-ups a day.

The program works as follows:

A customer brings a working and non-liquid-damaged iPhone into an Apple Retail Store. The employee assisting the customer uses an Apple website accessible via the Apple Store's iMacs or iPads to evaluate the device.

The customer is then quizzed by the employee, answering a series of questions about the condition of the device in order to complete the assessment.

A number of factors can affect the trade-in value of a device, including color, wireless carrier, and device wear-and-tear. Reportedly, the range of values is said to be between $120-200 for 16GB iPhone 4 and 4S models.

That is lower than at third-party trade-in sites, such as Gazelle, where a "flawless" iPhone 4S (AT&T) could go for $225. The top end of the range is comparable to Gazelle's rival trade-in site Nextworth, where a value of $197 is being quoted as of the time of this writing.

However, Apple's trade-in program has a big plus: convenience. Being able to walk in with an old device, and then walk out with a new device is attractive.

The value of the trade-in is then put on a gift card, with the balance applied to a new device. Any funds remaining are left on the gift card, and the store keeps the old iPhone.

The old devices are are not resold at the store where the trade-ins are being offered. There are presumably shipped off for refurbishment and resale.

The trade-in program is only available for those shopping for a new phone; a user can’t simply trade an old device in for a gift card.

There is a carrier check involved though: The trade-in value can be only used for a new device if the customer has a carrier upgrade available. Presumably, if a customer does not have an upgrade credit, they could pay the early termination fee and continue with the process, perhaps even switching to a different carrier.

Naturally, these details could change before the program officially launches. To date, customers have been excited about the program in the stores where it is being piloted.

Update: the program will begin on Friday, Aug. 30, rather than in September.

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