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EBay launches smartphone buybacks

Associated Press / February 9, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO — Anticipating a rush to buy Verizon Wireless’s new version of the iPhone, eBay Inc.’s electronics-buyback service will purchase used smartphones for at least $200 each.

Until Feb. 22, the Instant Sale service will pay $200 for a functional iPhone 3GS from Apple Inc., Droid X from Motorola Mobility Inc., Evo 4G from HTC Corp., or Galaxy S Vibrant from Samsung Electronics Co.

This price is the same price Verizon will charge for a 16-gigabyte iPhone (with a two-year contract) when it starts selling the popular device online today and in stores tomorrow.

Instant Sale will offer $200 to $450 for the iPhone 4.

AT&T Inc. has been the only US carrier for the iPhone since its launch in 2007.

Although AT&T has charged $200 or $300 for the iPhone 4 with a two-year contract, depending on model, those are subsidized prices. The phones cost a few hundred dollars more, but wireless carriers expect to make that back from service fees over the life of the contract.

Fans of the iPhone have long awaited its release on Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

Instant Sale, which eBay rolled out as a pilot program in October, is one of a growing number of services that let people trade in consumer electronics such as laptops, digital cameras, and digital music players for money. Such programs may also offer to recycle electronics.

Verizon’s own trade-in program gives gift cards in exchange for old phones. And Best Buy Co. just launched Buy Back. Shoppers will soon be able to pay a fee when they buy a gadget; that will let them bring the item back and receive a percentage of the purchase price in the form of a Best Buy gift card. The percentage will decline over time.

People can, of course, simply sell an old handset on eBay.com. From September to December, eBay users bought 27,283 iPhone 4 devices for $667, on average.