What To Do With Your Old Mobile Phone

How many mobile phones have you gotten through these last few years? 

We’re all guilty of throwing out our old phones after only using them for a few years (or months, in some cases). Or, we may simply leave them sitting in a drawer for years to come.

Wild to think about, devices with the sort of technical capability that would have made us feel immensely powerful just a few years back, relegated to the role of ‘expensive paperweight’ in barely any time at all.

But nothing beats having the newest model smartphones in our hands, right? Even if our current phone is perfectly good, as upgraded features meet with social pressure, it can be very easy to buy new and forget the old.

Our phones have become an extension of ourselves - devices we can’t live without. It’s no surprise that Ofcom’s latest study showed that Brits check their phone every 12 minutes, and 65% of adults aged under 35 first look at their phone within 5 minutes of waking up (guilty). 

But times are changing. It’s likely that you’ve landed on this page because you want to give your old device a second life, or make some extra cash. Maybe you’re concerned about these devices clogging up landfill, and the environmental cost of our ‘throwaway’ culture.

When you’re changing devices - the following questions may come up:

  • Why should we recycle old phones?
  • Are old mobile phones actually worth anything?
  • How do I exchange my phone?
  • How safe is it to sell my old phone?
  • What charities can I donate my old phone to?

Why it’s important to recycle your old mobile phone

Start digging, and you’ll see it’s pretty eye-opening to see what e-waste does to our planet. According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020, e-waste is the fastest growing and most problematic waste stream in the world.

“A record 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste was generated in 2019, and only 17.4% of that was collected and recycled”

Every time a phone is improperly recycled or ends up in landfill, harmful toxic chemicals including mercury, arsenic, lead, bromine, cadmium, and chlorine leak into the groundwater. When that happens, these harmful toxins damage the soil and water supply. Then, they enter the food chain, having a ripple effect on vegetation, animals, and humans.

For example, one phone contains up to 2 grams of mercury. Exposure to this chemical, even just a small amount, can contribute to brain and kidney damage. 

“Up to 80% of a phone is recyclable”

Mobile phones are also made of high-value materials - such as gold, silver, copper, and platinum. Things we can recycle and reuse, instead of burning or dumping them. If they’re easy enough to recycle, there’s no real excuse not to. 

“High-value recoverable materials found in electronic devices conservatively valued at US $57 billion - a sum greater than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries”

What’s your old mobile phone worth? 

Recycling your old handset can recoup you a hundred pounds or more. If someone offered you the cash right now, would you take it? Of course you would.

Of course, this does vary. The worth of your device is usually decided by the following features:

  • Original price
  • Model series
  • Condition
  • Age
  • Storage capacity
  • Market demand
  • Colour

The criteria for valuing the condition of a your phone will be different from store to store, but most buyback companies will break this down based on the following categories:

  • Brand new: Mobile phones that are unused. They’ve been bought and returned within a few days because the buyer changed their mind. Usually come with their original box and accessories.
  • Mint: Pre-owned with no visible signs of use and looks brand new, in pristine condition. 
  • Very good: Minimum wear and tear, probably only a few very small marks on the back or sides.
  • Good: It has a couple of visible scratches or marks, but are in full working order.
  • Needs repair: It has cracked, scratched or a broken glass screen. This also includes phones that need software or hardware repair.
  • Parts-only: Cracked screens, bad ESN numbers and any other damage that would make the device useless to anyone besides a repair shop looking for scrap parts. 

The most popular and best selling devices from Apple and Samsung are of course the most popular in the recycling market, and so, you’ll see the biggest return. 

Here are the top 10 models of each brand with the highest value in the global used and refurbished phone market for 2020/2021.

Apple

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  1. iPhone 12 | iPhone 12 Pro | iPhone 12 Pro Max | iPhone 12 Mini
  2. iPhone SE 2020
  3. iPhone 11 | iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro Max
  4. iPhone XR | iPhone XS | iPhone XS Max | iPhone  X
  5. iPhone 8
  6. iPhone 7 | iPhone 7 plus
  7. iPhone SE
  8. iPhone 6 | iPhone 6 Plus

Samsung

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  1. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
  2. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G
  3. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5G
  4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G
  5. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G
  6. Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
  7. Samsung Galaxy A11
  8. Samsung Galaxy A51 5G
  9. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
  10. Samsung Galaxy S20

Even if you don’t own one of the above, your old phone can still help earn you some extra pennies. So start digging out the old devices from your drawers, and do your research when choosing a good reseller.

Interesting fact: Really old SIM-free phones like the iconic Nokia 3310 (we all had it) or Motorola Razr are now being bought and sold for good money, because they’re classified as collector’s items. A phone to play snake on is now vintage and rare, who saw that coming?

Tip: People often replace the battery of their old phone to get a higher sales value. But some buyback companies might ask for the original battery, so you may need to talk to the reseller before you decide to send your old handset off.

How to stay safe when selling your old phone

You can sell your old phone either through a verified reseller or you can use a platform like Amazon or eBay. Other places like Facebook Marketplace can also be an option, but remember when opting for platforms and marketplaces, you usually have to pay listing fees and buyers might try to bring down the price. We all love a bargain.

A safe place to trade in or sell your old iPhone or Android phone is doji: The next generation marketplace where you can buy or sell refurbished phones, tablets, laptops, and other tech gadgets in a trusted, effortless, and sustainable way. Because you can see pricing data in real time, you’ll be confident you’re getting the best possible deal.

However you decide to recycle your old phone, there are a few steps you should follow to protect your privacy before you put your phone up for sale:

  • Take out the SIM card. Lots of your contacts might be saved on your old handset and you don’t want to lose them, or leave them in there for someone else.
  • Remove the memory card. It’s easy to forget to remove the MicroSD card if your old phone had one in it. Look behind the battery cover or in a slot on one of the sides of your phone.
  • Back up the device and erase your data. This is super important, so make sure you back up any important or sensitive data before you wipe it off the old phone. We have a blog here on how to do that. 
  • Log out from your Google account and all other social media platforms. It’s important to make sure that you have signed out of your Google account and any other linked accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Dropbox etc. We don’t have to tell you why.
  • Clean it. You’ll want to sell your old phone without fingerprint marks all over the screen. You can use a soft lint-free cloth, like microfiber or antibacterial wipes. But some substances may damage the device. Check out this BBC News video on How to clean your smartphone safely.

Pay it forward: You can also donate your old phone to a charity

Whether your phone is good or damaged beyond repair - you could think about donating it to a charity. No matter how your old phone looks, or how well it works, many UK-based charities accept donations through their shop collection points and electronics charity bins. 

Just bear in mind that when a charity gives your donated phone to a recycler, they usually only get back a small amount of money. However, if you sell it yourself and then donate the cash directly to the charity, you maximise your donation and be able to claim this back your tax the next year. 

If you decide to donate your old handset directly to charity, some popular options in the UK include:

  • Oxfam. Every phone donation can be used overseas or be recycled for cash. The charity can then buy vital kits such as water tanks, wells, tools, seeds, and school books.
  • Water Aid. The charity uses the money from recycling your donated old phone to provide clean water and good hygiene to the disadvantaged people.
  • Scope. The disability equality charity in England and Wales has supported hundreds of disabled people and their families since 1952.
  • Little Lives UK. The charity works with a number of schools, councils, and refugee centres, regularly supplying them with old electronic devices, which they offer on to children who need them.

As recycling collections and facilities may have been affected by the pandemic, you should always check with each charity or local authority for updates about their services, before you package it up and send it off. 

So, the next time you come across an old mobile phone gathering dust in the drawer, think about recycling or reselling it. You could get back some cash for your efforts, and even better, you’ll do your part to protect the planet at the same time.

If you’re looking for the best marketplace to buy, trade in, or sell your smartphones and other tech products, doji gives you the most competitive prices in the market for trading in or selling your old mobile phones, laptops, and any other tech gadgets. You can even set your own price for someone else to bid on.

From Apple to Samsung, Huawei to LG, doji is the smarter way to buy and sell smartphones. See for yourself, here.

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