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What Happens to My Cell Phone Once I Trade it In?

Over 70% of Americans don’t realize that they can recycle their old phones and tablets for cash; a shocking stat when you consider that equates to about 220 million people who either hang on to their old devices, or worst of all, chuck them in the garbage. (source:

What Happens to My Cell Phone Once I Trade it In?

A question that we get asked quite a lot, is “What happens to my cell phone once I trade it in?”. So we thought we would help answer that question by showing you the steps a phone takes once you have sold it on

Step 1. Securing the Best Price

Securing the Price

The first step in the process is securing the best price, so once you have searched for your phone on you will be presented with a list of buyers all offering you different prices. You will need to choose the best price and then enter some information such as:

– Your name

– Email address

– Postal address


You will also be able to select your preferred payment method, and instructions will be sent to your email on how to send your phone off to the buyer.

Step 2. Sending your Phone Off

Sending your Phone Off

The second step is sending your phone off, and at this point you will have received some free postage materials from your chosen buyer. You can now package your phone up safely and then send it into the buyer using instructions sent to you via email. The next stage of the process is the bit you don’t see, after you have said goodbye to your device.

Step 3. Tested and Graded

tested and graded

Your phone has just arrived at the buyers location. This is where they will unpackage your phone and proceed with testing it. This action is carried out to see what condition the phone is actually in and if it matches to the condition that you have stated when placing the order.

Travis May, MD of goes on to say “Things we test are wifi, touchscreen, external sound, all buttons, and we will make a test call.”

Once tested it will then be given a grade, which is assigned dependent upon the condition of the phone.

Step 4. Is it Blocked or Stolen?

Blocked or Stolen

Your phone will also undergo a central database check to make sure that it doesn’t have bad ESN/MEID/IMEI.

ESN = Electronic Serial Number

MEID = Mobile Equipment Identifier

IMEI = International Mobile Equipment Identity

The checks will show the following:

– Whether there is money owed on your contract

– If the phone has been reported lost or stolen

– If the phone is still active on your carrier’s account

Step 5. The Data Wipe Process

Data Wipe

After the initial testing, grading, and checks that are performed on your phone, the recycler will do a data wipe. Even if you have wiped the data off the phone yourself, each recycler will still perform a full wipe for you. Some recyclers such as will also use ODIN or Z3x programs on some occurrences.

This gives you peace of mind that any data will be removed before moving on to step 4.

Step 6. Starting a New Life

We work with lots of different buyers and they all reuse the devices they receive in a variety of different ways. You will be happy to know that all of our buyers operate a zero landfill policy, so each device is re-used in some way. Recyclers use specialist repair companies to repair any faults and refurbish devices to ‘as a new’ condition.

Below we have listed the different routes a phone can take:

Route 1 – Re-used in the US market

Resold in the US

75% of phones are redistributed back into the US (Source: TheWhizCells)

Insurance companies in the US are a big buyer of refurbished cell phones because if someone claims on their insurance policy for a lost or broken cell phone they are often supplied a refurbished device that has come from one of our buyers.

Samsungs in particular seem to be the main type of phone that gets resold back into the US, as Travis explains

Samsung phones tend to be resold here in the USA”.

Route 2 – Sent overseas to emerging countries

Sent overseas

20% of phones are sent overseas (Source: TheWhizCells)

The biggest overseas markets are China, South America, Africa, India and Russia, in these markets there are large populations and few landlines so there is a huge demand for used mobile phones. In China there are 1.3 billion people and 1.2 billion in India.

In terms of which devices get sent overseas, iPhones are actually the biggest model of phone as Travis states:

“iPhones tend to be sold overseas rather than pushed back into the US”.

There is a thriving second hand phone market overseas because of the following couple of reasons:

a) Economic conditions mean that not every person can afford a brand new cell phone, so many people prefer to buy second hand phones.

b) In countries like the ones we have mentioned above, they tend to have a huge land mass so fixed lines can often be expensive to install and use. What this has resulted in, is mobile phones becoming a very popular and attractive alternative option.

Route 3- Beyond Economical Repair (BER)

Beyond Econmical Repair

5% are broken down for spares or sent to smelters (Source: TheWhizCells)

Finally, a very small proportion of phones that get traded in are beyond economical repair. For phones that are too badly damaged, that can’t be repaired (or costs to repair the phone far outweigh the phones actual value), they take on a slightly different route.

a) They are firstly broken down for spares, so any working components will be removed and then used as parts for other phones.

b) The rest of the device that is essentially useless is sent to smelters who will then break the phone down and reclaim some of the precious materials that make up the internal workings of your everyday cell phone or Smartphone, saving them from hitting landfills across the US

A lot of people don’t know what goes into the manufacture of a cell phone; they simply see the nice shiny outer body of a phone. Believe it or not for every 1 million cell phones that are recycled contain the following materials:

– 35,274 lbs of copper

– 772 lbs of silver

– 75 lbs of gold

– 33 lbs of palladium


These materials can then be recycled back into various markets all across the World. For example, Palladium can be used in the creation of jewelry, whilst Copper can go on to help with the construction of air-conditioners, motors, radios and TV sets.

In Summary

Every single device sold through our site is re-used, re-sold or processed in an environmentally friendly way. Not only is recycling good for the environment but it is also a way for you to get cash back on old cell phones you no longer need. So if you haven’t already traded in your device, then check out how much you can get here at