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Trade-in site Gazelle promises top dollar for your old iPhone

The site vows that it will beat the trade-in deals from both Apple and the wireless carriers with special pricing. But don't dawdle, the deal ends in a week.

Gazelle says it will beat the trade-in deal offered by Apple or your carrier for your old iPhone. But you'll still want to shop around.

CNET

Gazelle, which offers cash back for trading in your used electronic devices, is offering a new, limited-time deal in which it's vowing top dollars for your existing iPhone.

Running from now through September 9, when Apple introduces its new iPhone lineup, Gazelle's latest promotion promises to beat the price or credit offered by Apple as well as all four top US carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint) if you trade in your iPhone. The carrier must be your current one, so you can't use the deal to switch to a different carrier.

Trade-in deals such as the one offered by Gazelle take advantage of the hot demand for smartphones, especially for consumers who always want the latest model. Carrier plans are getting more complex, with providers gravitating away from subsidizing your phone and instead charging you the full retail price. Trading in a a phone that you've paid for in full is one way to try to recapture as much of its retail value as possible.

Here's how it works: Gazelle will offer at least $1 more than your carrier or Apple for the trade-in value of your iPhone 5S, 6 or 6 Plus. To qualify for the offer, you have to submit proof of the trade-in deal offered by Apple or your carrier via an email to customercare@gazelle.com. You'll also need to provide your iPhone model and a copy of the price from Apple or your carrier. And whereas the carriers sometimes offer trade-in value in the form of credit, Gazelle is promising cash in return in the form of a check, Amazon gift card or PayPal credit. The promotion covers all colors and capacities of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

So is the deal worth taking? That depends on whether you want to check out other sources beyond Apple and your carrier. Gazelle specifically states that it won't try to beat the trade-in prices from third-party vendors such as CashforiPhones.com, Amazon.com or Nextworth.com. This deal is valid only against trade-in prices from Apple, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon. Those of you who'd rather sell your phone on Amazon or eBay or check out other trade-in sites could score more cash back for your old iPhone. But the Gazelle offer is worth considering, especially if you're in a hurry to sell your existing iPhone in order to buy one of the new ones that Apple will unveil next Wednesday.

So what kind of prices can you get for trading in your old iPhone? That depends on the model and the condition. The phone can have a cracked screen or other flaws but it must be capable of powering on. A phone is considered in good condition if it works but shows normal signs of use. And it's considered flawless if it seems like it's never been used.

Here are a few examples:

  • A 16GB Verizon or AT&T iPhone 5S in broken condition will score you $60, while the same model from Sprint or T-Mobile will net you $35.
  • A 64GB Verizon iPhone 6 in good condition will get you $401, while the same model from the other three carriers will pay you anywhere from $311 to $362.
  • And at the top of the range, a 128GB Verizon iPhone 6 Plus in flawless shape will score you $481, while the same phone from the other carriers will go for anywhere from $371 to $388.

Why does Gazelle pay more for Verizon iPhones? All existing iPhones are compatible with Verizon's CDMA networks and the GSM networks used by other carriers so the phones can work on both types of networks. The difference is that Verizon iPhones come with GSM unlocked, according to a Gazelle spokesman, so they can be used on any GSM network with the right SIM card installed.

Gazelle is also touting the trade-in deal as less confusing than those cooked up by the carriers.

Trade-in deals from carriers may force certain conditions on you like activating a new account or applying credits toward your bill. And the situation is trickier now that carriers are cutting back on subsidized plans in favor of plans that stick you with the full price of the phone in exchange for upgrading to a new one at anytime. Such upgrade plans may require you to return your old phone without receiving any cash back for it.

Gazelle said that it recently polled more than 500 US smartphone owners and found that 42 percent were angry about losing carrier subsidies when buying new iPhones, which retail for at least $650, an amount that has to be paid either all at once or in monthly installments.

"Consumers are frustrated by confusing carrier offers that often require a lengthy commitment or other terms and conditions," Gazelle chief marketing officer Sarah Welch said in a press release. "Unlike the carriers, Gazelle prides itself on offering a simple customer experience with no strings attached."

Gazelle suggest that consumers do their homework when looking at trade-in offers. And that's always the best advice. If you're in the market to sell or trade in your iPhone, check Gazelle's offer. Check the offers from Apple and your carrier. And unless you're in a rush, check other sites where you can trade in your phone or sell it yourself. But don't wait too long. Historically, the trade-in value of an existing iPhone starts to drop once a new model is announced.