Updating Your Smartphones? How Businesses Can Sell Unwanted Phones Without Hassle

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Man's hand shows mobile smartphone in vertical position, blurred background - mockup template

If you buy smartphones for your employees to use, they’re inevitably going to need replacement, either due to breakage or due to simply aging out or not having a feature that you’ve developed a need for. Unfortunately, unless you have some sort of an ongoing relationship with a phone provider that involves bulk buy-backs for credit on new phones, that leaves you with a pile of broken and obsolete tech that represents money down the drain.

Sure, you can sell old phones on eBay. You may be hesitant to do that because of data security concerns, however, or because anonymizing the sale through a third-party account and individually shipping phones to buyers isn’t worth the hassle. You don’t have to let these factors stand between you and what could potentially amount to thousands of dollars in savings each year, however. The process of wiping data and selling used phones can be made fairly painless, and today we’ll examine exactly how.

Wiping A Phone’s Memory

There are two basic components to phone data storage: internal memory and external storage cards, such as micro SD cards. For the latter, you simply need to remember to remove the card before selling it. Wiping internal memory gets a bit more complicated, however.

Most phones come with some sort of a “factory reset” option that purports to clear your phone of all personal data. The problem is, it usually doesn’t work. The data is no longer available to the casual phone browser, but anyone savvy enough to use a recovery tool can still potentially get at it. That’s because the data is never really deleted when these resets are activated; the blocks in which it is stored are just flagged as being available to be overwritten by new data. Until enough new data actually overwrites all these blocks, the old data is still there and can still be recovered.

Fortunately, it’s not too hard to put data completely out of the reach of probing buyers. A good first step is to encrypt all the data on the phone prior to doing the factory reset. This way, the encryption key will be needed to get at the invisible data that is left behind. You can then do a full overwrite of the phone’s storage with garbage data to ensure that the old data is replaced. There are various apps that make this process easy and straightforward. Android and iOS both have their own internal encryption features, and you can use a free app like Secure Delete to automate the process of overwriting the memory.

Selling Phones Without Hassle

Once the phones with critical data have been properly wiped, there are some options that make selling the phones off much easier and more painless.

You can bring them to a variety of brick-and-mortar locations, for starters. For example, phones can be sold at Radio Shack and Best Buy locations. Radio Shack only offers store credit toward new electronics purchases, but Best Buy may offer the option of receiving either a check or a gift card in a larger amount. Newer models of phone in good condition are more likely to be accepted by these stores.

EcoATM kiosks can be found in some shopping malls and are an option for selling older or broken phones that retail stores won’t accept. The phone is scanned by the automated kiosk, and an offer is made based on the current market value of the phone and its condition.

Wireless carriers sometimes offer trade-in programs at their stores for older phones, though the credit usually can only be applied to purchase of a new phone or service. Amazon also offers a trade-in program similar to those of brick-and-mortar retailers. They accept certain phone models in exchange for a gift card, and the transaction is done directly with Amazon rather than selling through their marketplace, so you can potentially offload all of your phones in one easy shipment.

There are also any number of independent businesses online happy to make arrangements to buy a bulk lot of older phones, often even willing to take broken phones. There is still a market out there for smartphones that are even a few years old, particularly in foreign countries. So don’t pack those old phones off to the crusher just yet!