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 How to safely get rid of your old phones.

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Accessed on 12 July 2022, 1537 UTC.

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PCMag SecurityWatch
How to Safely Get Rid of All Your Old Phones
I made a strange discovery while unpacking in my new home office last week. I opened a medium-sized box expecting to find a couple of keyboards or maybe my lost Cricut machine and found a graveyard of smart devices instead. Under a mass of wires and cords, I unearthed one Samsung Galaxy S7, four iPhones, three Kindles, one Kindle Fire, and two iPads. 

Every time I move, I inevitably transfer my old and obsolete tech from a desk drawer to a box and then forget about it. I’d like to break that cycle and declutter my tech responsibly by trading in my devices, but I need to find the time to back up my personal data and make sure I completely erase all my private information before handing over my old phones and tablets to a stranger. I also don’t want to walk into my mobile service carrier’s store and go through a long trade-in process for my devices. It’s easier to just buy a new phone and chuck the old one into a drawer. 


Leaving Money on the Table (or in a Box)

I’m not alone with my pile of old tech. A new study from device lifecycle management company MCE shows that on average, American households have four or more obsolete or broken mobile devices sitting in drawers. The unused tech could provide value to consumers either in the form of cash or by lowering the price of a new device at trade-in. 

Furthermore, of the 3,000 US survey respondents, 42% said they had never traded in a mobile device, and 58% percent said they experienced a long or frustrating trade-in process. More than a third of the respondents who had never traded in a device said that data backup and privacy concerns kept them from giving up their old devices in exchange for cash or account statement credits. 


How Sellers Can Improve the Mobile Device Trade-in Process

The MCE study shows that customers want convenience, price transparency, speed, and privacy at all points in the mobile device buying and trade-in processes. More than 40% of respondents said knowing that the data on their old phone was completely erased would make them more likely to trade in the device.

MCE offered viable suggestions for mobile device sellers to improve the trade-in process. 

  • Sellers could offer an app-based trade-in process. Instead of requiring an in-store visit to trade in a device, smart tech companies could create an app that guides consumers through transferring their data securely, printing a shipping label for their old device, and choosing a new device from the carrier.

  • Sellers should provide a price guarantee for trade-ins. 62% of the US consumers surveyed believe they won't get a fair price when trading in their mobile device, and nearly a third of respondents claimed they received different price quotes at different stages of the trade-in process. Take the guesswork out of trading in old tech and earn consumer trust with a guarantee that the initial cash or credit offer for a device is what they’ll get when the trade is complete.

  • Speed is key. More than 40% of survey respondents said their mobile device trade-in process took more than half an hour. Cutting down the number of steps people have to go through to trade in their devices could help to speed up the process, and lead more consumers to offer up their phones and tablets for recycling.

  • Trade-ins must emphasize security.  More than one-third of respondents who didn’t consider doing a trade-in were concerned about their privacy being compromised when trading in their mobile devices. Mobile device sellers should all offer step-by-step online guides for preparing devices for recycling.


Secure Your Mobile Device Before a Trade-In

Making sure to wipe your data from your Android or iPhone is just one step you should take prior to making a sale or trading in your device for a new one. Here are three steps to take to safely get rid of that smart device graveyard on your own while you wait for mobile carriers to make the recycling process smoother for consumers. 

  1. Back up the data stored locally on your device. PCMag offers guides for backing up your iOS device and backing up Android phones or tablets.

  2. Disable tracking apps and remove the device from your associated accounts. Turn off Apple's Find My (the app that offers device tracking) and Google Activation Locks on your smart device. You can also manage your Amazon smart devices online. Removing the old phone or tablet from the list of devices associated with your account prevents new owners from being able to access information about you, such as your name, birth date, and home address.

  3. Completely erase the mobile device after backing up your data to your computer or the cloud. If you’re using iOS, navigate to Settings>General>Transfer or Reset iPhone/iPad. Follow the prompts to erase your content and settings once you are sure you have backed up all of the data. Android users can find the Reset option in the Settings menu on their devices.

I recommend starting the trade-in process online, rather than in-store. Most of the major mobile cellular service providers offer online device trade-in assistance over the phone or via live chat. You may not be able to complete your trade-in from home, but you can make sure your information is in the company’s system and avoid a long wait for in-person assistance.

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