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Cash in by recycling phones and tablets

published: 13 March 2012
Read time: 5 minutes

Given the rate at which new phones and tablet computers are released, it seems daft to pay full price for a new model when you can subsidise the cost by recycling your old gadgets.

Moore’s Law says the number of transistors we can fit on a circuit board doubles every two years, which means a steady flow of cheaper and more powerful gadgets. Never has this been truer than in the current smartphone market, which can sometimes make it difficult to keep up.

For example, the new iPad surpasses the iPad 2, just over a year since its predecessor’s release. With many mobile phone recycling companies now accepting tablets, you could get the new iPad for around half price by recycling your iPad 2.

Here’s a look at how recycling works and why it can be a smart option when upgrading your old phones and tablets.

How does recycling work?

We’ve all seen the adverts telling us we can get cash for our old gadgets, but what exactly happens to them when we send them off, and why are these companies willing to pay us for them?

The majority of recycled phones are sent to be sold in developing countries. In places like Africa, India and South America, they can be used to offer low-cost access to mobile communications.

When you send a device that no longer works, the recycling companies either refurbish them so that they do work, or break them down into their component parts to sell them for spares. Another option is to salvage the valuable materials within, such as gold, silver and titanium. Older phones in particular contain a lot of these materials.

It’s through these processes that the recycling companies earn their money and pay you for your old phone or tablet.

woman with laptop showing MoneySuperMarket on her lap

How much is my phone or tablet worth?

The amount of cash you can get from recycling varies from gadget to gadget. Generally speaking, the newer the phone or tablet is, the more you’ll get for it.

For example, if you’re in the market for the new iPad, you might want to recycle your iPad 2 to subsidise the cost of the new tablet.

The basic model new iPad (16GB Wi-Fi only) costs £399. Recycle your fully-working 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad 2 with our mobile phone recycling partner today and you’d get £220 for it. This would get you the new iPad for £179 – less than half price.

Recycle a 16GB Wi-Fi only first-generation iPad and you’d get just £130, reflecting the fact that it’s an older model.

The amount you get for recycling also depends on the condition of the device.

For example a 16GB iPhone 4S in full working order – which means it must turn on and off, have no cosmetic damage, a working screen, no scratches on the screen or body, its own battery and no water damage, would earn you £232.

For that same phone in non-working order you’d get £132.80.

The recycling companies assess the condition of the phone when they receive it from you and may revise their offer if it has scratches or other damage on it. You will be informed of the new offer, though, and you’re not obliged to accept it – simply say no and the device will be sent back to you.

Anything else I should know?

If you’re sending off a phone or tablet, make sure you back-up any important data you wouldn’t want to lose – or inadvertently share with anyone else! The best thing to do is to transfer all the data from the phone or tablet to a computer and then format the device or return it to its factory settings.

In the case of Apple you could use iTunes to back it up. With many Android devices you can simply mount the device as a disk drive by connecting it to your computer with a USB cable. You then copy and paste the files into a new folder on your computer.

If you use a PIN to secure the device, make sure you remove it before sending because it will be useless to someone who doesn’t know the code.

There’s no need to send the charger or any other accessories, all that is needed is the handset and its original battery, even if it’s flat.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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