What you must do before selling your iPhone

Alex Kidman 28 August 2017 NEWS


Avoid these common mistakes to keep your data safe and make the most out of selling your iPhone.

If you're an iPhone owner, you're probably aware that there's a strong resale market for Apple's very popular handsets, which means that your investment in a premium phone can return some of its value even after it's been used.

Apple's handset pricing in the second-hand market usually dives when there's a new model released, typically around the October-November timeframe in a given year. This means that earlier in the year is an ideal time to sell your old iPhone and prepare for the new model if you want the latest and greatest.

As with any handset, the specific age of your phone and its condition will be the primary determinants of its value. Got a current model iPhone in pristine condition with all its accessories? You can expect top dollar on the resale market for it, especially if it's a model with high storage. Still rocking an iPhone 3GS 8GB with a scratched screen and no box? You're probably looking at pennies, and realistically you're probably better off turning that handset into an iPod Touch by simply taking out the SIM card.

However, before you assess the market and work out how you're going to sell it, there's a step that every iPhone seller absolutely must undertake, and that's clearing the handset of all your personal data.

How to clear your iPhone before selling it

  1. Back up your data
  2. Sign out of iCloud
  3. Reset your iPhone

While it's a somewhat tedious process, unless you fancy handing over all your private emails, photos and access to your iTunes account (and possibly the ability to buy content and charge it to your credit card) to a complete stranger, clearing your iPhone is a must-take step before you hand it to anyone.

What that means is ensuring that you've got all your vital information backed up, either in the cloud or on a desktop or a laptop running Apple's iTunes.

If you're using Apple's iCloud for your photos and personal data, then you're covered for backups, or at least you should be. Head into Settings, then iCloud, then Backup, and check that every data type you want protected is ticked on. That should ensure an always-available copy of that content.

If you synchronise your iPhone using your computer, you'll need to perform a full backup of your device from within iTunes itself. Bear in mind that this can be quite data intensive as it saves a virtual ghost copy of all your data locally. The one advantage here is that restoring to a new device from a local backup should be faster than via the cloud as well as potentially saving a significant quantity of mobile data usage.

The actual process of resetting your iPhone back to its factory state is quite simple.

First of all, sign out of your iCloud/iTunes account.

If you're using iOS 10.3 or later, tap Settings > [your name]. Scroll down and tap Sign Out. Enter your Apple ID password and tap Turn Off. If you're using iOS 10.2 or earlier, tap Settings > iCloud > Sign Out. Tap Sign Out again, then tap Delete from My and enter your Apple ID password. Then go to Settings > iTunes & App Store > Apple ID > Sign Out.

Stay in the Setttings app, and from there, choose General, then Reset. Choose "Erase All Content and Settings". You should then be prompted to enter your passcode.

Enter that, and you'll then be reminded that a button that reads "Erase All Content and Settings" will, not shockingly, erase all your content and all your settings on the iPhone in question. This is not a reversible step, so don't press Erase iPhone until you're absolutely certain that there's no content on the phone that you want and that you haven't securely backed up somewhere safe. Once you press "Erase iPhone" you should be prompted for your Apple ID to ensure that you're authorised to wipe the phone. Once you're through this step, your iPhone should be cleared and ready for sale.

What's the best way to sell my old iPhone?

There's no absolute one "best" way to sell an iPhone because both prices and options change over time. As noted, the condition and age of your phone as well as the specifics of its storage will all play a part in the kinds of prices you can reasonably expect to secure for an older iPhone handset.

The really critical thing to do is take some time to research the market. Prices fluctuate over time, with a lot of activity just prior to a new iPhone launch as existing users look to maximise what they can get in order to put it towards a new device. However, that glut can mean that prices drop as demand is oversaturated.

Online auction sites: eBay, Gumtree

In one sense, you're actually only dealing with one business here because local auctions site Gumtree is wholly owned by eBay, but there is a practical element to take into consideration when choosing to sell your iPhone via online auction. eBay will offer you a wider audience, potentially including an international audience, to sell your device to. Of course, this brings with it issues around shipping costs and disputes, including the potential for you to be defrauded. Gumtree isn't immune from these issues either, but as a low-cost way to easily sell your device, it's worth consideration.

Apple trade-in

If you're selling your old iPhone because you plan to pick up a new iPhone, the easiest way by far is to trade it in via Apple's own trade-in scheme. Apple will assess your device, either in-store if you're close enough to an Apple store or via post if you're not, and give you the value assessed towards a new iPhone purchase.

While Apple's scheme is simple and covers other phone types if you fancy switching to iOS, our previous analysis of the scheme does suggest that what you gain in convenience, you lose significantly in terms of resale value.

Online resale: Mobile Monster, Mazuma, Cashaphone

The other option if you're keen on selling your iPhone for direct cash is to sell it through any number of online sales sites that specialise in second-hand phones. Again, it's worth doing your research because most of these sites operate on the understanding that you'll send your precious phone to them and essentially accept the price they offer you once they've had the opportunity to assess your device. Still, if you don't fancy dealing with private buyers, they can offer a simple, low-fuss way to directly monetise your old iPhone.

Need a new SIM-only plan to go with your new iPhone? Here are the latest plans:

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