When it comes to trade-ins, iPhones are a safe bet

Are you on the fence between a new iPhone and the Pixel 2? CNET’s Marguerite Reardon could sway your decision with some advice about trade-in values.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
4 min read

Though Apple and Android fanboys and girls will scratch each other's eyes out arguing over which phones have the best technology, when it's time to trade in your old phone, there's still only one clear winner.


That's something to consider when investing in your next phone. The glory days of the wireless carrier subsidies are long gone, which means people actually have to pay full price for a brand-new phone. With high-end devices like the iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costing $1,000 or more, savvy shoppers know the best way to avoid sticker shock is to trade-in an old device.

Does it matter which brand you buy? In this edition of Ask Maggie, I answer that very question.

Dear Maggie,

I'm in the market for a new phone. My biggest priority is one with a terrific camera. I've owned iPhones, Samsungs and other Android phones in the past. I don't feel strongly about one operating system over the other. It seems like the new iPhones (the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X) and the latest Google Pixel 2 would be great choices.

But I'm having a hard time deciding. One thing I'm concerned about is resale value. Do iPhones still have better resale value than Android phones? Now that I trade in my old phones to help offset the cost of paying for a new one, is it smarter to go with an Apple product over something else?

Thinking Ahead

Dear Thinking,

The latest iPhones and the new Google Pixel 2 are supposed to have what are among the best smartphone cameras on the market. So when it comes to taking pictures, I don't think you could go wrong with either option. But you brought up a great question that's overlooked when people are shopping for a new phone.


iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 8


The short answer to your question is yes. An Apple iPhone tends to retain its value better than any other smartphone on the market. If you're on the fence between the two, that's a great reason to go Apple over Google.  

Let's look at some numbers. Compare 2016's flagship models from Apple, Samsung and Google. The iPhone 7 has retained about 54 percent of its trade-in-value. The Google Pixel has retained 46 percent of its value. And the Samsung Galaxy has retained just 31 percent, according to Flipsy.com spokesman Brian Morris, whose site lets people comparison shop for the best trade-in value for a phone.

The difference in trade-in value may shrink over time as devices age. For example, the iPhone 6S, released in 2015, has retained 33 percent of its trade-in value. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S6, released the same year, has retained 21 percent of its value. Still, the fact remains that you'll still get less money for that Samsung phone when you trade it in or sell it after two years than you'd get with an iPhone.

This makes sense says Chase Freeman, a spokesman for Gazelle, a site for buying and selling used phones and other gadgets. Freeman listed the five biggest factors that influence the value of a phone at trade-in. Here they are, in order of importance.

1. Brand
2. Device condition
3. Size of screen
4. Memory
5. Age of device

"You definitely get more bang for your buck if you buy an iPhone, because you'll be able to get more money back when you trade it in," Freeman said.

Watch this: Reasons not to buy the Google Pixel 2 XL (Top 5)

The difference in trade-in values has existed since the iPhone was launched a decade ago, a fact that's infuriated many a Samsung and Google Android fan. Even when another phone may be technically more advanced than the iPhone, and even when it costs the same at retail, the iPhone will still likely net you more when it's time to trade up to your next device.


Pixel 2

James Martin/CNET

This fact is more important now than ever, since wireless carriers are no longer subsidizing the cost of a new device every year. Now you're expected to pay full retail price for a new device, whether that's in a lump sum or broken up into payments. With high-end phones costing upwards of $650, most people trade in their older devices to help defray the cost of a new one.

The bottom line
There are lots of reasons to buy the Pixel 2 or the latest Samsung or LG devices. But if value is what's most important to you, and you're truly on the fence when it comes to the operating system, go with the iPhone. The iPhone 8 will cost you $50 more at retail than the Pixel 2, but it will likely hold its value much better, which will give you a bigger chunk of change to put toward a new phone in a couple of years.

CNET an Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.

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