Got a New Android Phone? Here is How to Properly Get Rid of Your Old Phone

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 27 Dec 2016

Whether you got a smartphone under the tree or plan to gift yourself a handset soon. And hope the joy of the holidays extends to your relationship with your new phone. But don’t forget about the old phone! You might not need it in your pocket. But if you’re not planning to repurpose the device or keep it as a backup. You shouldn’t just toss it in a drawer or shove it in a closet somewhere. That dated device might still have cash value. Or you could donate it to a good cause, possibly for a tax write-off. At the very least, if you don’t plan on using the phone again. You should recycle it and ensure that the harmful materials within don’t end up in the dump. Whatever you plan with your old device, be sure you do it right. Which extends to clearing all your personal data off the storage. Here’s a guide to wiping your phone, and finding a new home for it. Whether it’s with a buyer, a charity, or a disposal service. And if you’re the one gifting a phone this season, be sure to pass along this advice.

First, Wipe It Clean

Suppose you have used that old phone for the last couple of years. In that case, it’s undoubtedly loaded with all sorts of personal information. Accounts, contacts, photos, passwords, and other little bits of data you may not even realize. Unless you’re passing your phone off to a friend or family member. You probably won’t know who will have their hands on it next. In fact, no matter who is taking over your phone next, you shouldn’t risk it.
First, you need to encrypt your data. That puts a password on all the content on your phone. Keeping it under lock key should anyone else try to crack it later. First, head to Settings, then hit the Security menu. You’ll find the encryption option there. The process can take an hour or more; your phone must be fully charged and plugged in. In other words, don’t try to do this 10 minutes before meeting a Craigslist buyer. If you have a newer phone, it may already be encrypted by default. Just don’t get rid of your old phone without checking!

Follow these steps within Settings to ensure your phone’s data is safely banished.

Factory Reset

There are other things to do next, particularly if you’re running Android Marshmallow or newer on your old phone. In that same menu, turn off any screen lock you might have. And then, go to Accounts under Settings, and remove every listed account. That will ensure that the next person who sets up your phone. Has no issues with the Factory Reset Protection function introduced in Marshmallow.

Finally, it’s time for the factory reset. While any Android operating system updates you’ve applied remain intact. The phone will otherwise act like it’s just been pulled out of the box for the first time. It’ll be a blank slate again, ready for its following user’s accounts data. To finish the job, go to Backup & Reset under the personal tab in Settings and select Factory data reset. Once the process is complete, the phone’s software will be new.

What’s It Worth?

If your phone still works well and is relatively recent or desirable, you might consider selling it. Secondhand devices can fetch a decent amount of money. Mainly since off-contract flagship phones sell brand-new for hundreds of dollars or more.

When considering this route, the main question is this: What’s more important, the money or convenience? Suppose you want to make the most cash. In that case, you’ll probably do so by listing your phone on Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook’s Marketplace section, trying to find a direct buyer. This could take some time, effort, and communication. There’s always the potential for fraud, but that extra hassle could bring extra money by cutting out a mediator.

Gazelle Amazon make it easy to sell your phone directly to a service, rather than deal with another person.

Otherwise, consider selling to a service like Gazelle or Amazon. In either case, you’ll agree to an offered price based on their listings, then send it in for inspection. Gazelle will mail you a carton for the phone, complete with a mailing label. While Amazon will email a label to print out, and slap on your own box. Once they receive the phone, affirm its condition, and you’ll get your money or credit.

How much money you get back for your phone can depend. Which service you choose and the device’s condition, so shop around. For example, a G4 from Verizon in good condition could net you $65 cash as of this writing from Gazelle. At the same time, Amazon will pay you $60 in credit. And an unlocked Samsung Galaxy Note 5 could be worth $140 cash from Gazelle. While the Amazon credit is bumped up to $155. Not a huge difference in either example, but it’s something.

Trade It

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to trade in your old phone for a newer one. Meaning you didn’t get a new one just yet, then you have local options. Many carrier stores take trade-ins towards new phones and often have promotional offers, as do retail chains like Best Buy. Again, compare offers if you can rather than jumping at the first one you find.

You could also try selling to EcoATM, which has automated machines at malls that offer cash on the spot for your phone. They also may provide money for broken phones, which isn’t always the case elsewhere. So you might be able to pick up a few bucks for your wonky handset. However, the payment prices seem much lower. The website says that an unlocked Galaxy Note 5 would only snag you $75. But at least you’d get it that day.

Consider Passing It On

Suppose you’re feeling particularly benevolent or don’t think you can score much money for your old phone. In that case, you can always donate the phone to a charity. Here are a few good options to consider. However, you might also see if you can donate a device to a local organization in your own community.

Verizon’s own Hopeline collects phone accessories from all carriers. Refurbishes them, redistributes them to survivors of domestic abuse, or sells them to raise funds for the exact cause. Hopeline has collected more than 12 million phones since 2001. On the other hand, hopephones unrelated take the money earned from selling your gadgets and put it towards purchasing phones for healthcare workers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Donate your phone to charity, or just find a nearby place to recycle it.

Donate It

Cellphones for Soldiers uses money earned from selling donated phones to buy phone talk time for active U.S. military members. And to provide emergency funds for veterans who struggle once they get home. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also takes phone donations, laptops, game consoles, and other old gadgets. If any of those causes speaks to you. Check the site, and see if your unneeded device can help them out.

All four of those charities take broken phones. You can ship phones in any condition to them via the contact information listed on each website. Hopeline also lets you drop your phone off at any Verizon retailer. Which might be the easiest option for dropping off an unwanted or nonworking phone within your neighborhood. However, note that donations to Hopeline are not tax-deductible, while those to the other three organizations are. Otherwise, you ensure the phone doesn’t end up in the dump. You can search for nearby electronic recycling drop-off locations via the Consumer Technology Association’s Greener Gadgets initiative. Some big box stores, including Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot. Take used electronics for recycling, as do many wireless retailers.

Don’t Throw It Out!

Clearly, you have some great options. And whether you sell the old phone. Give it away to a friend or family member, or donate it to charity. You can ensure that it has more life purpose beyond collecting dust in your home. But even if you’re not motivated to pursue any of those options. You’d rather keep the phone handy in case you need it. Make sure that it doesn’t eventually wind up in the garbage.
Meanwhile, newer phones are supposedly less toxic than earlier devices. You’ll still find chemicals like lead, mercury, and cadmium within their components. You don’t want those decaying in the ground with other garbage potentially infecting the earth or water supply. Do your part to ensure that the phone is safe and adequately recycled by professionals. Besides, that phone undoubtedly served you well for a couple of years. Keeping you connected, entertaining you during dull moments, and probably saving you in a pinch or two. Show it a little love and ensure it has a happy future or a respectful resting place.