Gazelle, one of the longest-running used smartphone buyers in the US, has announced the end of its core trade-in program, which let phone owners mail in phones and other electronics devices in exchange for cash.
The news, revealed in an email Gazelle sent to some customers on Wednesday and shared with The Verge, means any prospective Gazelle customers will have to receive a quote and initiate the trade-in process by January 31st, 2021 (allowing 30 days to mail in the phone) if they want to take advantage of the program. The service will shut down officially on February 1st, while any active trade-ins will be honored, the company says.
This isn’t the end of Gazelle’s business. Gazelle’s parent company ecoATM, which has been around since 2006, operates kiosks that let you get instant cash for a used device, and the Gazelle website is now used as a retailer for selling those devices at reduced prices after they’re then refurbished. (The catch is that ecoATMs may not pay out as much as the traditional Gazelle mail-in program, which typically has offered more than $300 or so for a prior year’s flagship like the iPhone 11 Pro.)
Gazelle doesn’t give a reason for the decision, but there are a few major trends in the US mobile business that point toward a general decline in the benefits of cash trade-in services. For one, many more people now than in years past lease their smartphones instead of buying them outright, a broad shift from the days when US carriers offered reduced price phones in exchange for firm two-year contracts.
Now, it’s quite easy to pay a modest monthly fee for a phone through a program like AT&T Next Up or Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, with the option to trade that device in for a new one after a designated amount of time. Unless you decide to pay off your leased phone early, you can’t turn around and sell it to Gazelle — and you wouldn’t necessarily want to do that as it doesn’t make much financial sense.
Additionally, Gazelle’s early business boomed on iPhone trade-ins back when selling your phone to get the latest Apple product was a popular strategy for early adopters. Now, Apple has a robust trade-in program of its own (in addition to the leasing program) that pretty much gets you the same result.