The Curious Case of the Used iPhone

True or False: There’s an iPhone somewhere in the vicinity?

Without getting too particular, the probability that the above statement is ever false is increasing low. Clearly those not in ownership of an iPhone, or living in isolation, will recall a scenario in which one of Apple’s earth-shattering devices wasn’t within a 100 ft. radius, but other than that? Really think about it. It’s a rare sight to find an iPhone alternative in the hands of anyone under… thirty well, any age really. I’m trying to stress the prevalence of the iPhone in numbers here, not popularity.

The production numbers of the iPhone 4 and 4S are arguably the highest of any iPhone model to date. Hundreds of millions were produced in the four years between the iPhone 4’s introduction in June 2010, to the 4S’s discontinuation on September 9, 2014. I still use an iPhone 4, albeit not by choice. In any case, despite the several variations of iPhone 5’s and iPhone 6’s roaming the streets, the iPhone 4 and 4S stand resolute. What other phone has stood the test of time besides the Motorola Razr V3? It doesn’t happen often.

My Question

With millions of iPhone 4 and 4S’s still in existence, and quite frankly dominating your area’s Craigslist “Cell Phone” classifieds, why hasn’t someone capitalized on the availability and ever falling market value of both models?

Yes, Gazelle.com. I don’t care to look at the ridiculous number of options I have to “turn that used iPhone into cold, hard cash.” That’s not what I’m referring to. Firms like Gazelle have established services to make it easy and hassle-free to receive money in exchange for your old phone. That’s all well and good, but if in 2014 you find yourself looking to get some cold, hard cash for your old iPhone 4, Gazelle’s willing to hand over a hefty $15 for an 8GB model in ‘flawless’ condition. FYI, that’s five more one-dollar bills than you’d get if it was ‘good.’ I won’t delve into the fact that they turn around and sell 50% as refurbished for only 10 times more than they pay you for a flawless trade-in.

Services like Gazelle are great, don’t get me wrong. They’ve found a way to capitalize on the availability and shrinking market value of all phones. I’m speaking strictly of the good ole iPhone 4 here. The thing is ancient, but it’s still an incredible phone for a huge demographic. Smartphones have largely taken over the world, yes? Well, name a few family members or friends that really don’t utilize a smartphone to it’s fullest extent or maybe even nowhere near it. If we all knew just two people who fit that bill, the total would be astonishing. I’m thinking we do.

The Problem

So let’s assume there is a substantial demographic of people who just don’t use a smartphone remotely close to what it’s intended for. Combine them with countless other people, all having their own reason for not truly needing a smartphone, be it age, money, or ease of learning, that demographic is HUGE. But what do cellular providers do to address the needs of this market segment? Why, they offer the most glamorous of Samsung flip-phone’s or your choice of twenty feature-filled, entertainment-oriented, productivity-boosting, pixel-packed smartphones. Leaving the majority of people using a smartphone out of the desire not to carry around a ten year-old piece of technology.

Call it inevitable, but when these same people upgrade beyond an iPhone 4 what are they getting in return? The carrier gets $200 and another two years, the customer a minor physical update to a phone they were once hesitant to buy and use out of conformity.

Looking Forward

What we need to do is breathe new life into what was once the epitome of cellular innovation. The iPhone 4 and 4S are two amazing devices more than viable to several demographics. Provide these segments with an inexpensive solution with a stand-out advantage or two and I believe there’s a potential for profit. What more interesting is the thought of these customer’s being able to strategically utilize their now pointless upgrades to coincide with the release of a major phone. Now you’ve provided that customer with a phone that suits his needs and an extra $600. Assuming all goes perfectly.

I’ve even pondered the possibility of users being able to essentially give their upgrade to this fictional service and have them handle the selling process. There are sure to be a slew of problems, legalities, downsides, and what-not that accompany such an idea. I can think of quite a few. But with the help of the right minds anything is possible. Critique away!

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