The phrase "Old with the old and in with the new" is usually associated with New Year's Eve, but in the technology realm change occurs a lot more quickly - and with results more noticeable than hitting the gym more often.
A year in technology is like 7 years elsewhere (similar to dog years). When you think about devices from just 5 years ago, they seem horribly outdated. In 2010, Blackberry was still largely holding the reins in enterprise mobility (though they were coming down from their biggest market share between 2007-2014), the iPad Mini didn't exist, and the base Samsung Galaxy S model debuted with Android 2.1; a pale comparison to the current 5.0 version. The "mobile era" was underway, but nowhere near today's capabilities. In fact, the differences between 2015 and 2010 are reminiscent of the film "Back to the Future" where 17-year old Marty McFly travels from 1985 to archaic 1955!
The rapid pace of change isn't all glorious, however: it also leaves behind old gadgets you don't use, or which perhaps you'd like to offload in preparation for an upgrade (and which might finance said upgrade if you can sell them at a fair price). Either way, it can be a pain figuring out what to do with devices you no longer use. Throwing them out isn't an option in today's environmentally conscious world. Sure, if they work maybe you can give them to a friend or family member or, if you need to recoup some of the cash, sell them on E-bay. Assuming you don't mind posting the ad, fielding the questions and shipping the device after you (hopefully) close the deal, of course.
Here's where ecoATM comes in.
You know those coin machines at the supermarket which can take your jar of nickels and dimes then give you paper currency? ecoATM works on the same principle. You feed it your old cell phone (MP3 players and tablets are also accepted) and the kiosk determines the value of your device based on model, condition and current market price. It provides a quote for you and if you accept it pays you the cash immediately. The kiosks also accept chargers, cases and other accessories for recycling, but there is no payout for them. Devices from all carriers are accepted.
What do I need to do?
First you should completely wipe the phone and remove any micro-SD card (if applicable) to protect your data and eliminate any personal information. Secondly, make sure you have the appropriate ID to conduct transactions on an ecoATM; their site states that they "accept most government or US state issued identification cards except for Military IDs, passports (book), passport cards and enhanced driver's licenses." Then just find a nearby kiosk; these can be found in more than 1800 grocery stores, malls and discount retail stores through 42 states (excluding Alaska, Maryland, Hawaii, North Dakota, Nevada, Minnesota, Delaware and Connecticut). You can locate the nearest one via http://www.ecoatm.com/locator or using their mobile app.
I live in Massachusetts and according to the locator page there are 23 kiosks within a 50 mile radius from me, so that is more than convenient.
How does the process work?
ecoATM will accept nonworking devices, but obviously to receive the best price the device has to be in good condition. This means that it powers up and has a functional screen. iPhones should have the "Find My iPhone" feature disabled (instructions can be found here). You should charge it up beforehand if you can, but the ecoATM provides a USB cable if you aren't able to do so.
Put the device into their test station for analysis. It will then scan it and present you with a quote. If you agree, it takes about 3-5 minutes to complete the transaction. Once it is complete you get paid and ecoATM either arranges for reuse or recycling of your former device.
How much can I expect to be paid?
You can price your phone online to get a feel for what it's worth, then compare to other sites. An ecoATM spokesperson pulled together a chart for me highlighting current up-to trade-in values from ecoATM, Gazelle, Nextworth and uSell to give you an idea of what you can get from different buyers:
*Up to $450 instant cash for iPhone 6 trade ins; guaranteed at least $400 for any iPhone 6 in good working condition; Up to $200 instant cash for Samsung S5 trade-ins; guaranteed at least $150 for any Samsung S5 in good working condition
**Quote reflects price of a "Good" condition Verizon Apple iPhone 6 16GB as of 4/15
***Quote reflects price of a "Good" condition Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5 SM-G900V as of 4/15
How does ecoATM guard against stolen devices?
That's a key element to this process; since mobile devices are often lost or stolen ecoATM wants to ensure their services aren't abused by criminals as a cash cow. Their security standards are quite stringent. When you insert your device into an ecoATM you must also present them with suitable identification. The ID is scanned by human eyes (NOT computerized sensors) and then compared to photos taken of you standing at the machine. If the photos don't match the ID, or the ID isn't valid, or you're not 18 the transaction is declined. You must also provide a thumbprint scan to complete the transaction. Device serial numbers are recorded and kept on file.
ecoATM works closely with law enforcement partners in the event they do accept a stolen device and will help in locating thieves and returning stolen items. Since they keep all newly-acquired devices "on hold" for 30 days before processing them this gives them a window of opportunity to set things right in the event a crime has been involved with one of their transactions.
What if I change my mind and want my device back?
You can buy back the device by contacting ecoATM Customer Service , so long as you have the relevant details regarding the date, time, and location of the transaction and the device IMEI or serial number.
So, I have some old BlackBerry Bolds which I use as MP3 players and PDF readers (great for offloading these tasks from my Samsung Galaxy S5).
In fact, you might say I have a fleet of these (hey, they were free where I work):
Yes, I will admit - I am something of a hoarder, at least when it comes to spare devices. I was curious about how much they were worth so I checked ecoATM. Turns out they're worth between $0 and $3 (they once priced at $199!). Hmm... well, it's good to know if I decide to offload them I might at least be able to turn my collection of BlackBerries into a pizza instead of cluttering them in a landfill where they might harm the environment.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.