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Is T-Mobile's iPhone Trade In Deal The Right One For You?

T-Mobile is ready for their close-up. Beginning today, April 12, the No. 4 carrier in the U.S. is selling the iPhone 5. Earlier this week, we reported on T-Mobile’s “un-carrier” offer for current iPhone users who want to upgrade. How good is this deal? We attempted to find out.

The Deal

T-Mobile is heavily promoting the contract-free iPhone 5 as just $99.99 down, plus 24 monthly payments of $20/month. Customers can also pay a one-time charge of $579.99. These numbers, however, are for the 16GB iPhone 5 model only. Prices on the other two models are:
  • 32GB, $679.99, or $199.99/$20 per month
  • 64GB, $779.99, or $299.99/$20 per month
We reached out to T-Mobile about their special trade-in offer that runs until mid-June. In particular, we wanted to know what the trade-in value would be on a 32GB and 64GB iPhone 4S. According to a T-Mobile spokesperson:
With the $0 down iPhone trade-in promotion, well-qualified customers who bring in their iPhone 4S or iPhone 4 can get an iPhone 5 for $0 down plus monthly payments, with a no annual service contract Simple Choice Plan from T-Mobile. With trade-in of iPhone 4S, customers may purchase an iPhone 5 for $0 down and 24 equal monthly payments of $15. With trade-in of iPhone 4, customers may purchase an iPhone 5 for $0 down and 24 equal monthly payments of $19. Or, depending on the trade-in value of their device, customers may choose to receive a credit of up to $120, which can be used toward monthly payments, an existing T-Mobile bill or the purchase of accessories or another iPhone.
This means that T-Mobile is offering iPhone 4 users savings of at least $123 ($99 plus $1 for 24 months), while iPhone 4S users would receive $219 ($99 plus $5 for 24 months). As hard as we tried, T-Mobile would not confirm how this deal changes, if at all, when one moves beyond 16GB models on either, or both the buying and selling side. For example, would someone trading in a 16GB iPhone 4S receive a 64GB iPhone 5 for zero down? By contrast, would someone giving up a 64GB iPhone 4S for a 32GB iPhone 5 only receive savings of $219?

Other options

We reached out to a number of companies that buy used handsets. USell said that they were offering up to $285 for an iPhone 4S, and $160 for an iPhone 4. By contrast, NextWorth will pay up to $220 for Apple’s last handset model, and $148 for the 2010 model. These prices are for “near perfect” handsets. However, it should be noted that even a broken iPhone could be worth upwards of $199.

Bottom line

Your older iPhone is worth some money. How much it is worth is up to the buyer, and the condition of the handset. Even with some unanswered questions, T-Mobile’s trade-in plan looks respectable, and convenient. However, we would strongly suggest pricing out a trade-in at sites such as USell and NextWorth, and take that information to T-Mobile when you want to make a trade. This could prove useful in making sure that you get the best possible deal.
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