You’ve probably noticed that businesses like Walmart and Best Buy are still pushing the iPhone 6 and 7. Well, people are buying them, and not just for the headphone jack. Oddly enough, you can thank Apple for the iPhone’s resilience.
Old iPhones Were Once Premium Devices
When you look the iPhone 6, it’s easy to forget how it was once a premium, cutting edge device. But just put those 2015 glasses on for a minute. Look at the iPhone 6’s crisp screen, its sleek metallic body, and its 8-megapixel camera. It rivals many of the cheap phones that you’ll find in stores today.
Apple has always designed their products with expensive, reliable parts (with a few annoying exceptions). But this strategy contrasts the usual smartphone market. Most people replace their phone after about 3 years of use, so phone manufacturers tend to cut corners or use cheap parts when possible.
As it turns out, Apple’s commitment to premium parts is the main reason why the used iPhone market is so strong. Companies like Remade make millions repairing and reselling old iPhones, and the company focuses on iPhones (as opposed to Android phones) solely because iPhones are “the strongest product with the longest life.”
But here’s the thing. You can repair old phones as much as you want, but they aren’t going to work if they can’t run modern iOS. Apple forces all phones into iOS updates, and many apps (even native apps) won’t work on phones with out of date firmware. Thankfully, Apple designs new iOS updates to work on old phones.
After a Lawsuit, iOS Updates Work Well on Older iPhones
In 2017, Apple (among other tech companies) was brought to court under the accusation of planned obsolescence. Whether Apple planned it or not, the batteries that came pre-installed in older iPhones, like the iPhone 6, were degrading at an unusual rate. Additionally, forced iOS updates were slowing down older devices, and app support for older devices was dwindling.
Because of that lawsuit, Apple now offers $30 battery replacements for all old iPhones, even if they’re secondhand or out of warranty. But more importantly, new iOS updates are designed to work well on older phones.
The iPhone’s premium build, when mixed with Apple’s comprehensive updates, is the driving force behind the used iPhone market. A four year old iPhone can still function at an acceptable level, especially if it’s been refurbished.
Does the strong used iPhone market hurt Apple’s sales? Yes, new iPhone sales are declining, and the company’s shareholders are worried that stock prices could fall. But, sales aren’t everything. Apple’s “installed base” of iPhones is growing exponentially year by year. And at a time when the company is laser-focused on $1,000 devices, it doesn’t have to worry about its fanbase turning to cheap phones from competitors.
Where Can I Buy a Used iPhone?
If you’ve searched for used iPhones on eBay, then you’ve probably noticed that a lot of the listings look like they’re run by actual businesses, not individual people selling their phones. That’s because used iPhones are in high demand right now (it’s a million dollar market), and resale businesses have the scruff to repair and resell old iPhones at competitive prices. There are even websites like Gazelle that buy used phones direct from consumers, with the sole intent of reselling them for a profit.
Of course, the point in buying a used iPhone is to save money. If you’re in the market for a used iPhone, then try to find one for less than $150. They routinely go on sale on sites like Woot and Amazon, so just keep an eye out.
No, Used iPhones Aren’t Perfect
Before throwing $130 at a used iPhone 6, take a moment to think about any downsides. If you want a super high resolution camera, then you’ll need a new phone. If you want full support for a variety of apps (especially games), then you’ll need a newer phone. But more importantly, you should think about the longevity of your purchase.
Honestly, it’s hard to say how long an iPhone 6 or 7 will last. While most iOS devices die after about four years of use, two out of every three devices ever sold by Apple are still in use today. There’s a chance that a used iPhone will die on you after a year or two, but there’s also a chance that it’ll last another five years.
Of course, the lack of features and potentially short lifespan of a $130 phone may not be that important to you. A used iPhone could save you hundreds of dollars, even if it bites the dust after one year of use. Realistically, though, iPhones tend to plug along for a good while so unless you crave the features found the premium flagship models of today, the real value is buying the flagship models from prior years.