This season saw dazzling new flagship phones as the best Samsung phones and best iPhones hit the market, all with dazzlingly high price tags to match. Of course, if you already own a (working) smartphone (that isn’t cracked), you’ve got value in your pocket that you can trade for a new device. Be careful, though, because trade-in values vary wildly, and phone makers are just as tribal as you’d expect.
Apple pays much less for Samsung phones than it does for iPhones. Samsung pays very well, but mostly for its own devices. Sometimes it's even better not to trade your phone at all. We’ve done some research, and we’ll show you the best way to recoup the value of the phone you own so you can get the phone you want.
If you own an Apple iPhone...
- Apple gives you a fair trade price
- Samsung sometimes gives you more than Apple for an iPhone trade
- Selling your iPhone on Swappa is always a better idea
If you own an Apple iPhone and you want to buy a new iPhone, Apple will give you a fair price but it won’t be the best value you can get for your phone. If you have your eye on the iPhone 14 Pro Max as an upgrade to your iPhone 13 Pro Max, Apple will give you $720 in trade. If you’re upgrading from an iPhone X, you should expect a measly $130 for the phone that introduced the notch and killed the home button.
What’s strange is that Samsung will give you more for an iPhone X than Apple will. If you want to buy a Samsung phone, you can get $300 for the iPhone X. Samsung also offers the same $720 for the iPhone 13 Pro Max. If you have an iPhone 13 to trade, Apple will give $470 for that phone, but it’s only worth $370 to Samsung.
If you’re thinking of trading your iPhone to Google for a new Pixel phone, Google’s trade-in values are very close to Apple, usually within about $50. However, if you want to earn hundreds more for your phone, your best bet is to sell the device independently on a site like Swappa.com.
Swappa sales will net much more than a comparable trade for an Apple iPhone. That iPhone 13 will get you $470 in trade from Apple, but on Swappa you can sell it for an average of around $700, if it’s in good enough condition. If you keep your phone in a case and your screen isn’t cracked, you can usually get someone to pony up the site’s average value.
If you own a Samsung Galaxy phone...
- Samsung gives you the best value of all
- Apple gives you half of what the phone is worth
- Swappa is good, but Samsung loyalty pays off
If you own a Samsung phone, Samsung appreciates your loyalty and will give you much more value in trade than Apple will offer. In many cases, the difference is so stark that it seems like Apple is taking a casual dig at Samsung buyers by devaluing their trade-in devices.
For instance, a Galaxy Note 10 will get you only $120 from Apple, but Samsung will thank you with $425 in trade value for that device. For the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Apple offers a paltry $370, but Samsung will throw $775 your way. That’s a considerable distance across the price gap for a new device. Apple doesn’t even recognize the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as a trade possibility. Samsung will give you $900 for giving back last year’s biggest folding phone.
Those are very good trade-in values, and if you have a Samsung phone to trade, you are better off selling it back to Samsung than selling it on Swappa. If you are looking to get an iPhone after you unload your Samsung, then you should sell your Samsung phone on Swappa first. A Swappa sale is a better way to earn value than trading your Galaxy phone to Apple.
While Samsung offers a generous $425 for that Galaxy Note 10, Swappa says you’ll get around $264 on average for that phone. If you have a Note 10 and you want an iPhone, the Swappa value is much better than the $120 from Apple. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will earn you just over $800 on Swappa, which is much better than what Apple offers for that phone – bupkus.
Better than trading to the carriers
The cellular carriers will offer much more for your trade-in phone, often up to $1000 or more at the phone’s launch. There is a catch to their deals. They do not give you the entire value of your device at once. They divide that value over installments in a contract agreement.
If T-Mobile says it will give you $960 for your trade, what it actually means is that it will give you $40 a month for the next 24 months, as long as you remain a customer.
If you trade in a phone to a carrier and in a year decide to switch, you've now lost half the value of your trade and you owe money to your carrier. You bought a $1200 phone and agreed to pay T-Mobile $50 a month, while they agreed to pay you back $40 a month for your trade.
While you’re a customer, you only owe them $10 a month for the phone. When you leave, you still have 12 months on your agreement, so you owe them the $600 for the second year of the contract. You lost the rest of your trade value. Instead of $960 for the trade, you only accrued $480.
If you are 100% sure you will stay with the same carrier for the entire payment plan, this is undoubtedly a good deal. If there is any chance you will switch, you are far better owning a phone and then selling it back to a manufacturer or, even better, selling it independently to earn back what the phone is really worth.
Trade like for like, sell before you switch
Trading in a phone is the best way to cut down the cost of a new device, and it pays to know how to trade. If you are an iPhone owner buying a new iPhone from Apple, trading your phone is a great bet, but you can often get a little more by selling your phone on Swappa.
If you are a Samsung or Google owner coming back to your favorite Android phone maker, your best bet is to give the phone to the company you prefer. Samsung will give you more for your Samsung phone than you’ll get from selling it, and Google will do the same for Pixel phones.
If you want to switch, however, your best bet is to take matters into your own hands. Clean your phone, take some nice photos of it, and sell it on a site like Swappa. You’ll earn more than Apple will offer, and in some cases almost twice as much.
If you're still stuck on which phone to buy after the trade-in or sale, check out our list of the best smartphones for 2022.