A Blog by Jonathan Low


Sep 3, 2013

Awesome and Awkward? The Reality of Apple's iPhone Trade-In Offer

There's no really polite way to say it. This is what used to be called greenwash: a self-serving marketing program of indeterminate benefit to the environment but of considerable value to the merchant proposing it.

In this case, we are referring to Apple's highly touted iPhone exchange campaign, launched over the Labor Day weekend. It is designed to convince customers to trade in their 'old' iPhone, the one they bought a year ago or, for the truly miscreant, two years ago. In return, they get cash or credit which they can apply to the purchase of a new Apple product, especially an iPhone which - and what a surprise this is, boys and girls! - will become available in two short weeks.

Ok, so let's give the company some credit: from a sustainability and healthful environment perspective there may be some putative advantage to exchanging an iPhone rather than giving it to one of your siblings - or parents. It is certainly better than throwing it in the trash. But then how many people do that these days?

Cloaking your marketing desperation in green, as it were, is an old trick. But the real come-down is that Apple felt compelled to launch this initiative at all. There was a time - like, a year ago - when the 'new iPhone fever' would start building in late summer and reach a crescendo just prior to the release of the latest device in the autumn. Cue photos of consumer lines, tents on sidewalk for overnight campers determined to be one of the first and, of course, a pic of the elated, if tired-looking winners waving their new toy.

That Apple needs to resort to this sort of promotional campaign is, well, a bit tacky. Apple used to be able to avoid that sort of thing. Evidently not anymore. The rest of the hucksters and shysters need to move over. That it is attempting to make it seem like an environmental program rather than a sales gimmick worthy of Walmart is further evidence to suggest that reality is, indeed, biting. JL

Thomas Claburn reports in Information Week:

Apple on Friday added iPhones to its recycling program to encourage past customers to trade their devices in for credit toward a future purchase.
Not coincidentally, Apple is expected to launch two new iPhone models next month, on or around Sept. 20, 10 days after a scheduled media event.
Although the company has not disclosed specific timing or the names of its forthcoming devices, reports suggest they will be called iPhone 5S and the more affordably priced iPhone 5C.
The iPhone 5S should come with a more powerful processor -- possibly a 64-bit ARM-based A7 chip -- and a longer-lasting battery and a sharper camera. The iPhone 5C is likely to be similar to the current iPhone 5 in hardware and performance.
Much of the pre-release coverage of imminent iPhones has focused on color options: The iPhone 5S is said to come in black, white and gold. That might matter more if protective iPhone cases weren't needed.
However, the iPhone's software is likely to get more attention than its hardware or color scheme. Apple's iOS 7 mobile operating system features an extensive interface revision and such changes tend to generate passionate responses, pro and con.
Todd Day, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, sees Apple's iPhone recycling program as an effective marketing tool.
"The trade-in program for Apple will attract customers to other Apple products and accessories," said Day in an email. "Similar to the effects of a retailer like Best Buy offering store credit, Apple can provide their customers with credit toward Apple products and services."
Apple characterizes its program as "helping support the environment." That might be the next best thing to not taking metal, minerals and other materials from the ground to manufacture new iPhones in the first place.
Apple will not be alone in trying to tempt past iPhone buyers to buy again. Best Buy is offering 50% off the purchase of an iPhone 5 with a two-year contract to those who trade in a working iPhone 4S or iPhone 4. Amazon and Radio Shack also have trade-in programs, as do AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. And there are online companies that offer cash for unwanted electronics, such as Gazelle.com.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Apple Stores will be evaluating used iPhones and offering somewhere between $120 and $250 in credit toward a new iPhone, including a two-year contract.
Gazelle.com currently is offering $205 for an iPhone 4S in "good" condition, with AT&T or unlocked, and $215 for one in flawless condition, without any requirement to enter into a contract.


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