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Why I sold my used iPhone to Gazelle.com

Websites like Gazelle.com buy used consumer electronics and sell them at a discounted rate.
Websites like Gazelle.com buy used consumer electronics and sell them at a discounted rate.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gazelle.com is a "reCommerce company" that buys used electronics on the spot
  • The company buys more than 20 categories of electronics
  • More than than 90 percent of the used devices that Gazelle.com buys find new homes
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Editor's Note: Amy Gahran writes about mobile tech for CNN.com. She is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and media consultant whose blog, Contentious.com, explores how people communicate in the online age.

(CNN) -- I'm one of those people who won't throw out electronics just because they're outdated.

If a device is still working and potentially useful, I'd rather get it into the hands of someone who will continue to use it. And even when devices are broken or useless, I can't bring myself to landfill them -- I save them up for local electronics recycling drives.

But even though I take steps to keep my old electronics out of landfills and environmentally disastrous overseas disposal doesn't mean I'm willing to spend large amounts of time and effort to figure out what to do with them.

I bought a Droid Incredible last month. Since then, my two-year-old iPhone 3G has been gathering dust on my dresser. That iPhone served me well enough for a long time, and there's nothing really wrong with it. I'd love to pass it along to someone who wants it.

...Well, OK, there is one thing wrong with it: a few months ago I made the mistake of updating its operating system to iOS4, which drastically slowed its performance. (Cult of Mac, Wall Street Journal and many other venues are reporting the same problem.)

This problem apparently is reversible, but not easily so -- and I just don't feel like trying. I've got many more pressing concerns.

My phone's iOS4 performance problem is severe enough that I would be embarrassed to give this phone as a gift to anyone I know, or even to sell it directly to another party via Craigslist or eBay.

So I found a middleman to shield me from embarassment, keep my old iPhone out of the landfill and let me make some easy money all at the same time. I'm selling my old iPhone -- as is -- to Gazelle.com, a "reCommerce company" that says it provides "a practical, responsible, rewarding way for consumers to get value for used electronics."

In less than a minute Gazelle.com agreed to buy my old iPhone for $93. This week they're sending me a box to ship it to them, and after they've checked out the phone they'll PayPal me the money. (I'll report back if that part of the process doesn't work as promised.)

Admittedly, $93 is less than half of what people here in the Bay Area are asking today for an 8GB iPhone 3G on Craigslist (although that may not be the price they're actually getting). And it's toward the low end of the price range for what folks are asking for this phone on eBay today. So yes -- if I want to sell my old iPhone, I definitely could make more money elsewhere.

I don't care. My time is worth money. Avoiding hassle is worth money too.

Frankly, if I had to deal with the hassles and risks of selling this phone myself via Craigslist or eBay, and also reverting it back to an older OS so it's bearably functional again to assuage my conscience, that iPhone would keep sitting on my dresser until the next electronics recycling drive. And then I'd have to pay someone to take it away. So for me, that $93 is a total gain.

Gazelle.com spokesperson Kristina Kennedy explained that the company, which buys over 20 categories of electronics products in addition to cell phones, ends up "finding new homes" for more than 90 percent of the used devices they buy. Mostly they resell devices through sites like eBay or Overstock.com, or through wholesalers.

"Our brand appeals mainly to the upgrader market, the gadget geeks, the people who always want the latest devices," she said. "There tends to be a large secondary market for their used devices, which normally aren't very old."

For instance, before the iPhone 4 was unveiled June 7, Gazelle.com was getting about 25 used iPhones per day. But as soon as iPhone users knew when they could get their new model, trade-ins on the site soared to 1500 units per day for two weeks. Since then it's tapered off (currently about 500 per day).

Kennedy noted that there also is a thriving global market for refurbished older devices, such as a four-year-old BlackBerry. "We tend to resell those for reuse overseas," she said.

Gazelle.com has a no export / no landfill policy for recycling and disposing of products at the end of their useful life. This applies to their own operations and those of their downstream partners.

Gazelle.com also follows the EPA's Responsible Recycling (R2) practices -- which is a good start, even though a recent Government Accountability Office report points out that the federal agency "does not specifically regulate the export of many other electronic devices, such as cell phones, which typically are not within the regulatory definition of hazardous waste despite containing some toxic substances."

The Gazelle.com site did not ask me which operating system is on my iPhone 3G. Their short list of questions concerned the physical condition of the hardware, which accessories I have, etc.

I asked Kennedy whether, given the widely reported troubles with iOS4 on the iPhone 3G, they'd start taking that into account into the price they offer on trade-ins.

"Right now we sometimes ask those kinds of questions, but only about computers," she said. "As phones become more like computers, we might start to pay closer attention to that."

However you get rid of your old cell phones, be sure to protect yourself with proper precautions to delete your data. Also, remove your SIM card (if your phone has one).

[TECH: NEWSPULSE]

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