Apple is widely expected to announce its latest and greatest iPhone on Wednesday, Sept. 9. That might sound like exciting news now, but just wait until you see the price tag.
Last month, Verizon announced it’s doing away with annual contracts and subsidies on phones. Reminiscent of T-Mobile (and AT&T, who has sort of flown under the radar on this front), Verizon’s move is a huge game-changer in how people will have to pay for new phones moving forward. But here’s the short version: The next iPhone might cost you a lot more than your previous ones.
But there’s a great way to fund your next iPhone: Selling your old one. According to research by electronics reseller Gazelle, the best time to sell an iPhone 5s 16GB Verizon model is in the eight days prior to the launch of the next one.
Here’s how to unload your current sidekick to get yourself a spiffy new model.
1. Back it up.
Before you move on to your next iPhone, you need to preserve the content and settings of your current one. The only way to do that is by backing up your handset, but there are multiple ways to get this done.
The first, and easiest, is by using iCloud Backup. Accessible through the Settings app on your iPhone, this method is as easy as flipping a switch, and if you’re on Wi-Fi, it begins instantly—no computer necessary. The downside, however, is that it can take hours to upload a copy of your iPhone to the cloud, and you’re going to have to pay a monthly fee to have Apple host all that data. If you have a 16GB iPhone, you can back up to the cloud for just $.99 per month. If your phone has more storage than that, it will cost $3.99 per month.
The next way to back up your iPhone is by syncing it with iTunes. There are two different ways to do this, either by plugging your iPhone into your computer or by syncing over Wi-Fi. If you haven’t synced your iPhone over Wi-Fi previously, now is not the time to start, as this process takes almost as long as iCloud Backup. But if you’re committed to over-the-air backups (or if you can’t find your iPhone’s cable) here are the directions for setting up Wi-Fi Syncing.
Plugging your iPhone into your computer is another way to back up your iPhone. Using this tried-and-true method, you can simply copy over your apps and settings, or select “Encrypt iPhone backup” for a more in-depth archive that saves your passwords and other sensitive data. I recommend using this setting, because (in theory, but sometimes it doesn’t work as it should) you won’t have to peck all your passwords into your apps once you move to a new iPhone.
2. Unlock it
After backing up your phone, I recommend you “unlock” it, if possible. “Locked” phones can only operate on the mobile phone carrier that you’re currently subscribed to. Most phones bought with a subsidy from a carrier will come locked, and cannot be unlocked until the terms of the contract are fulfilled.
Only your carrier can unlock your phone, but the process—which varies from provider to provider—is usually simple and takes less than 5 minutes. Typically contract terms last for two years, so if you’ve had your handset for longer than that, be sure to get your phone unlocked. Other than your own personal information, the only info you’ll need from your phone is your IMEI number, which can be found on your iPhone under Settings -> General -> About. Take a screenshot of this page (done by holding down the Home and Power buttons simultaneously) so you can hold onto this information in case you need it later.
3. Wipe it clean
Once you have your phone backed up, unlocked, and the IMEI number saved, it’s time to disown your phone. Well, not literally, but figuratively, by removing every trace of your digital life from it. This can be done by going into your iPhone under Settings -> General ->Reset and selecting “Erase All Content and Settings.” Before this irreversible action is thrown into motion, you’ll be asked for confirmation, and you’ll also need to enter the password associated with your Apple ID (it’s the same password you use to buy apps). This is in place to make sure no one but you can erase your phone. Keep in mind that you’ll need the actual password—Touch ID is not an option in this instance.
Also, if you have “Find My iPhone” enabled on your handset, you’ll need to be sure this feature has been disabled before you erase the handset. To do that, you’ll also need to insert your password. That feature can be toggled by going to Settings -> iCloud -> Find My iPhone on your device.
In addition, you might want to give your iPhone a physical wipe-down. If you’re planning on selling it on eBay (more on that below), using a dry, static-free cloth is a great way to make sure the screen has no streaks. Also, spraying a light mist of Windex onto a cloth towel can refresh the rest of the handset, power cable, and headphones, if you’re also including those as part of your sale.
And finally, insert a paperclip into the hole on the side of your iPhone. This will eject the SIM card tray. Remove your SIM card and re-insert the empty tray. Your SIM card is still active—think of it as your key to unlocking your carrier’s network—and you do not want to give it away with your phone. You will need to insert it into your next phone to reconnect to your mobile network.
4. Find your best resale option
There are many ways to sell your phone. Finding the best one for you depends on your needs and the condition of your phone. Here are some of the most popular options:
Apple: If you’re just unloading your iPhone to upgrade to another one, Apple’s Reuse and Recycle Program might be the right option for you. The company accepts all sorts of Apple devices in a range of physical conditions via mail, and pays in Apple gift cards. For comparison’s sake, a 16GB iPhone 5s in good condition fetched $165, while one in less-than-good condition was only accepted for recycling (meaning that Apple wasn’t willing to pay anything for it).
Craigslist: The site most people turn to when they need cash fast, Craigslist has unfortunately developed a reputation as a place where scammers and fencers turn to rip people off, or even rob them. That’s a bum rap—you can get great deals on the local bulletin board website—but it’s also a harsh truth. As a result, police departments across the country have started developing safe places to consummate online deals. A quick scan of good condition iPhone asking prices on Craigslist sites across the nation averaged $285, but keep in mind that the actual sale price is probably much lower after negotiating.
eBay: If you’re willing to put the work in, you can get the most money for your gadgets through eBay. Currently, good condition iPhone 5 16GB phones are selling between $275 and $350. There are so many ins-and-outs about the site, so it’s difficult to say how to maximize your returns, but one expert tip that has proven to be very effective is using eBay’s mobile app.
Gazelle: Balancing the least amount of work with the best guaranteed cash payout, Gazelle makes selling your iPhone very easy. Just go to the website, pick out your handset, say what condition it is in, and agree to the price, ship the device to the company for free, and you get paid. Currently, the website is offering $171 for an unlocked iPhone 5s, and is guaranteeing that it will beat the trade-in credit offered by Apple or other wireless carriers (which, by the way, will also gladly buy your old handset off you, in exchange for a credit). The offer is only good until Sept. 9, when the new iPhone is expected to be announced. But if you’re late to the resale game, or just plain lazy, this may be your best option to get a good value for your digital sidearm.