Trade-in service sees big boost ahead of new iPhone

The gadget trade-in service says it's seeing what it says is a highly unusual number of iPhone trade-ins well ahead of when the next version of the device is expected to be released.

Gazelle's iPhone sales page.

With the release of Apple's next iPhone expected to be just around the corner, at least one third-party trade-in service is seeing what it calls an unusually high amount of trading activity from people trying to offload last year's model.

Gadget buyer Gazelle, which purchases iPhones, iPads, and devices from other manufacturers, today said it's seen an 84 percent "spike" in people trying to sell off their used iPhones to the service compared to the same time two weeks ago.

"This launch has been so delayed and overdue, there's definitely a lot more of a hype," said Anthony Scarsella, Gazelle's "chief gadget officer" in a phone interview. "For us, this is really an unprecedented behavior, as gadget owners always wait--usually until a new product is announced--to trade in."

Scarsella suggested that the spike is even more peculiar given that the iPhone is a type of device where people usually only sell it after getting their hands on a replacement.

"This is especially true with mobile phones, because you can't really trade in your phone and go without it. With a tablet, and other categories, you can trade in your camera, wait two months, and buy a new camera. But with a cell phone, it's kind of like you need one on you at all times," Scarsella said.

Scarsella said that the make-up of trade-ins in the past two weeks has been an "even blend" of the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4. Not included in that mix is the original iPhone, which the company pays around $36 for.

The company does not disclose what portion of its buy-ins are Apple products, but a Gazelle spokeswoman noted that the iPhone is currently the company's top trade-in, and usually is "except around other major product launches."

Gazelle expects to get around 2,500 iPhone trade-ins this week, which the company buys at a price that's based on a mix of condition and demand.

"Last year we were getting about 100 a day pre-announcement, and it spiked to about 2,000 per day post-announcement. So we haven't even hit it yet and we're almost at 2,500 this week," Scarsella said.

To encourage sellers, the company offers a 30-day price lock, guaranteeing the price even if it goes down between when a seller sends their item to the company. The company will also give sellers more if the going price is higher the day the actual trade is processed.

Gadget trade-ins have become quite a business for companies like Gazelle, as well as online retail giant eBay, which features its own trade-in service. In February of this year, eBay reported gathering some 130,000 offers for used smartphones within three days of beginning a trade-in promotion that coincided with the release of the iPhone 4 on Verizon. The company also said there was an 800 percent spike in Instant Sale offers for the first-generation iPad the week after its successor was announced.

Apple's next iPhone is expected to launch next month. A report from AllThingsD this morning made waves for claiming Apple would hold its announcement event on October 4, with a release to follow "within weeks."