AT&T iPhone Trade In – Is it Worth It?

The AT&T iPhone trade in program is aimed at the customers of all wireless cellular carriers (most major companies have a similar program) that, at least on the surface, sounds very appealing. We mean, you already pay a monthly fee to your provider, just have your old device evaluated and you get an offer for the next generation of iPhones.

As we have stated, that all sounds fine and dandy, but in this post we will establish that the AT&T iPhone trade in program (and the corresponding other such initiatives from the other carrier companies such as the upgrade plan from Verizon) are a ploy to keep the customer faithful to his/her provider without being a true aid to the consumer.

How Does the AT&T iPhone Trade In Program Work?

Things are quite simple. Let’s say that you have an iPhone 5S or an iPhone 6, and you naturally desire an upgrade to the iPhone 6S or, come autumn, the iPhone 7. Your old device is evaluated and becomes credit in your AT&T account, to the purpose of purchasing the new device. Here, a knowledgeable individual should raise the first question signs. How can a standardized mode of evaluation function properly? Aren’t these criteria a bit arbitrary?

By the way, what are these criteria? We have performed an online simulation. Our device is an iPhone 5S 16 GB and our provider is AT&T.  The crude criteria for assessing the state (and by consequence the value) of your smartphone are: does it power on and off; is the activation lock enabled or disabled; is there a significant amount of scratching on your screen (a foggy criterion if I ever saw one); are there any other cracks on the surface of the device. If your iPhone corresponds all across the board of criteria, then you get $80. Sarcastic laughter in the background.

As every clever marketing ploy, in September 2015 AT&T has introduced variants to the program. We are talking about the “Next 12” and “Next 18” plans. The numbers are about the months you opt for in your installment plan and the program entails that you can keep your device rather than trade it in for the next generation model. That being said, it remains to be seen how the pre-order list will work. For our taste, things are getting more and more unclear.

What about Other Offers?

If you want to dispose of your iPhone (excluding programs such as “Next 12”), then you have three options at your disposal – carrier’s offers, buyback companies, and private buyers.  One curious blogger has made an instructive experiment, concerning an iPhone 6 Plus.

Besides the AT&T iPhone trade in program, similar plans exist on the offers of other carriers: Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The best deal you can get is at T-Mobile, which is a credit of $286, and the lowest value is at Sprint, $225. The average value in the carrier’s programs is $258. It has to be said that the offers stand for a device that is (more or less) in an excellent state.

Another caveat is that most users recommend Apple’s program of trading in the outdated devices. Various buyback companies exist (this data varies widely because of geographical factors), and on the whole they offer a much better deal than the trade in programs of the various carriers, offering between $325 and $350.

Again, when it comes to the private market the data varies widely. With no official figures to discuss, it must be stated that the lowest figures are around $375 and the highest, somewhere around $450. Now that is 50%, or better, than the figures proposed by the carriers. However, that requires putting a little effort into it.


As you have clearly noticed by now, the figures show that our preconceptions are backed up by the reality of the numbers. That being said, the numbers game shouldn’t have even been played. That is because this prejudice has been based on notions of elementary organizational sociology.

The main goal of every organization (as is the case with every human being) is to survive. Economic entities cannot survive without turning a profit. AT&T and other similar companies buy devices directly from Apple, the mother-company. Therefore, they must interact with the public in such a way as to recover their purchase costs and turn in a profit.

There was no way the AT&T iPhone trade in program was ever in the interest of the customer. Stick with the less regulated, more demanding (at least time-wise) private market alternatives, for it is there where you will find the best deals.

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