Give your old iPhone new life

Joel Mathis
10 October, 2011
View more articles fromthe author

If you plan on upgrading to the iPhone 4S, you’ve got just under a week to anticipate life with your new phone before its October 14 release date. But if you’re an existing iPhone user, it means you’ve also got to make plans on what to do with your soon-to-be redundant smartphone.

The good news: You’ve got plenty of options, starting with the most obvious choice – turn that old iPhone into a slightly used, slightly thicker iPod touch. Your calling capabilities and 3G/EDGE connectivity may have moved on to the iPhone 4S, but that old phone of yours can still connect to Wi-Fi and still run iOS apps. (And if you upgrade to iOS 5 next week, you’ll add even more capabilities to your supposedly defunct phone.) Should anything go wrong with your new phone, it never hurts to have a backup in easy reach.

But if you’re ready to let go of that iPhone 4 or iPhone 3GS, here are a few more options worth considering.

Return it to Apple

Apple features a Reuse and Recycling Program; simply take your old iPhone into an Apple Store to receive 10% off your next purchase.

Sell it to a third-party reseller

Want to know what makes an iPhone launch such a circus? It’s not just the buyers. While crowds lined up outside Apple Stores last year to buy the then-new iPhone 4, they emerged to be greeted by dozens upon dozens of representatives from electronics resale companies, offering cash for the user’s newly discarded iPhone 3GS.

You don’t have to hurdle the hustle-and-bustle outside a store to get rid of your iPhone, though: There are plenty of companies willing to do the job online. Many resellers – among them NextWorth, Gazelle, YouRenew, and – will gladly pay to take your iPhone off your hands. Earlier this week, offers ranged between US$160 and US$314 for a 32GB iPhone 4 in good condition; don’t expect those offers to last as older iPhones start flooding the resale market.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to sell your aging electronics to a reseller, it’s a good idea to do an online check-up on the companies offering to buy your iPhone to see which ones have good reputations and which have a string of unsatisfied customers. Start by checking with the Better Business Bureau website. eBay, NextWorth, and YouRenew are all accredited with the organisation; Gazelle is not, though the bureau hasn’t recorded any complaints against that company. isn’t accredited either; its parent company, Laptop & Desktop Repair, has been the subject of 142 complaints with the bureau during the last three years.

“They’re good for the environment and good for the budget,” Katherine Hutt, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau, said of companies that buy and refurbish iPhones. “But know who you’re dealing with.”

Given the amount of legwork that goes into checking up on resellers, you may find it easier to sell your unwanted iPhone yourself, either through Craigslist or eBay. It could be more financially rewarding, too, as you can set your own price.

eBay was offering big money for used iPhones.

No matter how you sell your old iPhone – whether via a reseller or all by yourself – you’ll want to make sure that the phone is stripped of any personal data before it leaves your hands. Apple has some pretty clear instructions on how to erase your phone’s memory and settings. Just go to the Settings -> General -> Reset, and touch the Erase All Content and Settings button. You’ll also want to guarantee you’ve backed up all the data on the device first, so that you can restore it to your new phone. iTunes should do that when you sync it before buying your new phone, but to be extra sure, select the iPhone in iTunes’ Source list, right-click on it, and choose Back Up.

Passing it along

An iPhone 4 will make a nice hand-me-down to a family member or friend, especially for people who don’t want to pay to buy a new iPhone 4. Before handing off the phone, though, make sure that your lucky recipient really wants to take on any contractual agreement, if one applies. Also make sure you perform the phone back-up and erasing steps outlined above.

Jailbreak it

With the many improvements that will come with iOS 5, iPhone users now have fewer reasons to jailbreak their phones. Some still remain, though: Having full access to the iPhone’s complete file system is attractive to the technically inclined so that they can easily transfer files between their computers and iPhone. With a jailbroken and unlocked iPhone you can use your phone overseas without incurring roaming charges. And clever hacks exist so that with the correct cable you can project the iPhone’s entire interface to a TV or projector.

The danger is that not only are you breaking your license agreement, but you’re now engaged in the cat-and-mouse game. You jailbreak, Apple releases an update that disables that jailbreak, and you either don’t update your phone for the latest features (or, more importantly, security fixes) or update and wait for the jailbreakers to come up with a new way.

One Comment

One person was compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. meinrosebud says:

    Mount your old iPhone in your car using an indash insert device, you will have an in-car phone, ipod and navigation device… also if your car is stolen and the iphone has power you will be able to find it with ‘Find my iPhone’. There’s life in the old iPhone 4 yet!!!

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us