Call it a hunch, but we have a feeling a bunch of perfectly good iPhones are about to get dumped on Craigslist. Like, today.
Here’s how to take advantage of all those AT&Turncoats and grab a (barely) used iPhone 4 for cheap.
Maybe Verizon will see a massive influx of new iPhone 4 customers this February. Maybe not. Either way, there’s a lot of seriously pissed off AT&T customers who have been praying for the day they can ditch the company for greener networks.
That, in turn, means the Internet is about to see an uptick in used iPhones. This is good news—particularly for existing (non-iPhone 4 using) AT&T customers who don’t want to start a new contract. Time to dealz hunt!
The Waiting Game
Start the process the way you normally would: by browsing the current offerings on Craigslist and eBay and use the tips we outlined in our perpetual upgrader piece. These sites give you the best sense of what the current (fair) market value is. Keep in mind that while there will be deals elsewhere on teh Webs, buying on Craigslist gives you the opportunity to inspect the phone yourself and interact directly with the seller. This will be immensely important, since we’re still talking about a fairly high-priced item.
A specific note on timelines: The Verizon iPhone is available today. That means the smart sellers have probably already thrown their phones on the market in hopes of eager iPhone shoppers gobbling them up for a hefty price. Don’t be one of those buyers. If you’ve waited this long to get an iPhone 4, you can wait a week or two longer. Once the market gets engorged with used iPhones, competition among sellers will grow. Ultimately, that will mean better deals for you.
At this point, many sellers are hoping to recoup at least a portion of the early cancellation fees they’re likely paying to AT&T, plus have some money toward signing a new contract. As time goes by though, they’ll have to match the prices of other sellers, and could be happy just to sell their phones for the price of signing a new two-year contract. That waft of early adopter desperation is what you’re looking for.
You want an iPhone 4 in as close to perfect working condition as possible…for as little as possible. The soon-to-be Verizon iPhone user wants to get rid of the GSM version and grab as much possible money. Depending on his or her desperation level (and whether they’ve read Lifehacker’s wonderful guide to selling your iPhone 4), your negotiating will have to be fluid and flexible. Here are a few key things to ask/demand once you’ve found a potential seller:
• Request the serial number before you even consider buying. This will help you verify the model number. You can go to Apple’s Service and Repair page to confirm the precise amount of warranty time left on the phone. (Given that the iPhone 4 came out during the middle of last summer, it should be a little over six months old at most) The site will also help you determine whether the phone has been flagged as stolen or missing.
• Ask about warranty and included materials up front, too. Craigslist is not without its scammers and creepy sellers. Someone who can provide not only a receipt, but also the original box and all materials is likely not one of those people. If the warranty info you get from the serial number and the seller’s response don’t match up, that’s a bad sign.
• Ask why the seller is selling. The Verizon iPhone, duh! Even if that’s the case, knowing the reason(s) why someone is trying to get rid of their phone will help in the negotiating process. There’s a big difference between a gadget geek who wants to immediately migrate to Verizon and someone who’s just looking to make a little extra cash.
• Make sure it’s still working before you head out to look at it. Kinda goes without saying, but sellers—in their infinite haste—often remove the micro SIM. Tell them to hold onto the card as you’ll want to give the phone a good test run.
• Ask whether the phone has been jailbroken or unlocked. In most cases, doing a full restore will fix any potential issues associated with jailbreaking. But occasionally, this can create problems down the road and void that one-year Apple warranty.
• Try to arrange a return policy. This can be tricky because in essence you’re saying: “I don’t trust you.” A reasonable seller won’t be offended. In the event you don’t get what you were promised, you’ll want the flexibility to return it and get your money back. To that end, ask for a home address and phone number.
• Don’t get ripped off. Keep in mind that a 16-GB iPhone 4 in near perfect condition is currently selling for around $345 on gadget trade-in sites like Gazelle. Mention this fact if someone is trying to highball you.
So you’ve settled on a seller and an iPhone. Awesome. Here’s what you need to do when you arrive:
• Physically check the phone for cracks and dings. Many will not be visible in the Craigslist pics. Plus, who knows if they were real to begin with.
• Make a test call. Remember the whole thing about insisting that there be a working microSIM. Yeah, this is why. You need to know whether the phone will actually make and receive calls. Do this both in speaker mode and normally.
• Test the screen. Using (or downloading) a drawing app and filling in the screen will help you determine if everything is in working order.
• Check for dead pixels. Head over to the iPhoneDPT page and go through the four steps.
• Make sure the phone can connect to a Wi-Fi network.
• Double check the volume buttons. Listen to some music and go to YouTube and watch a couple videos. Do this using both the speaker and through headphones.
• Take a good look at the phone’s 30-pin connector and the headphone port to see if the normally white liquid contact indicators have turned red. Red=water damage and a voided Apple warranty. Don’t buy.
• Toggle the mute switch to make sure it’s working properly. The phone should vibrate once the phone is unmuted.
• Test the camera. Take a few shots of solid colours if possible. Try, red, blue, yellow, white, and black to make sure its accurate.
Now Head to AT&T
Everything appears to be in good working order and you’ve made the deal. Now you need a new microSIM. In some cases, AT&T has simply transferred service if you’re already an existing customer. It’s likely you’ll have to pay a one-time activation fee (~$35), but that micro SIM should be free. Bam, you have yourself a contract-free new (used) iPhone 4. Now make any necessary adjustments to your plan and enjoy. And hey, if enough of those AT&T defectors leave, that iPhone may turn out to be a decent phone, too.
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