If you've dropped, cracked, or otherwise damaged a phone, you're not alone. In fact, AT&T researchers say 72 percent of adults have broken their phones at least once.
You could keep living and working with that broken hunk of junk. Motorola says 23 percent of people with cracked phones keep using them even after their fingers bleed from tapping the cracks. If frugality is part of your nature, you probably have the bandages to prove your dedication to your old phone.
But at some point, you'll need a new model.
Don't store the old one in the back of your junk drawer. You can:
Try talking with the manufacturer, although you might not get much cash.
Talk to your service provider, although you won't get much money here either.
Head to cell phone resale companies.
Work with your local recycling company.
No matter what route you choose, you'll need to take a few careful steps to ensure your sensitive data isn't stolen when you part with your phone.
Your Options Vary by Manufacturer
Do you know all about your next phone? Put your shopping skills to use. Reach out to the company that makes the device you want, and see if you can arrange for a trade-in.
Be aware: These companies aren't likely to give you much money. Some won't even take broken phones. But if you're determined to get the same model of phone, it might be worthwhile.
The underlying vision of these programs is similar, but the specifics vary by manufacturer.
Apple: This program is for Apple fans only, as the company won't work with phones made by other manufacturers. To make it work, bring your iPhone to the Genius Bar or send it into headquarters. The team will scrutinize your device, and they'll run tests to see how well it works. You'll get credit on your next purchase, or you'll walk away with a gift card to use later. If the team determines that your device is so broken that it’s worthless, they'll recycle it for free.
Be aware: Apple has strict rules about accepting broken phones. If the damage is significant, the company is likely to offer very little money. Here's an example. Reporters say an iPhone 7 in flawless condition has an Apple trade-in value of $325. But if the screen is cracked, the value drops to $95. Ouch.
Samsung: Log into the company's website, and tap in details about the phone you have now and the device you're longing for. The company will take trade-ins of all kinds of devices, including models from Apple and Motorola. You'll get a trade-in estimate and pay the balance for your new phone.
You'll ship your device over, and if the company finds additional problems, you'll get notified. You can either take your broken phone back or pay extra to make up the difference in value.
Samsung has a strict policy about damage, and some kinds of cracks, scrapes, and screen grit will disqualify you.
Google: Log into the website, and tap in notes about the make, model, and condition of your current phone. Complete a purchase of a new phone, and Google will send you a box you'll use to send in your old device. Any value will be refunded to your credit card.
This program also works for devices from multiple manufacturers, but again, the rules are very strict. If your phone is very broken, this might not work for you.
This is a sample of three types of trade-in programs, but there are many more. Before you jump, make sure you have a good understanding of the functionality of your phone. Very broken models aren't likely to get you much, if any, money.
Your Options Vary by Carrier
Perhaps you haven't decided on what type of phone you want, but you know you won't switch carriers. That's good news. Your mobile service company could also offer a trade-in program to help you move into a new phone.
AT&T offers a trade-in program for makes and models supported by the company. You can walk into an AT&T shop or visit the company website to start the process, and some types of damage are accepted. If you take the offer you're provided, you'll get a credit you can use toward your next purchase with the company. Cash values for broken phones are depressingly low, but some are available.
Verizon offers a similar program, and you can trade in up to 10 devices at one time. If you have a box full of broken phones at home, this could be an exceptional way to raise money for the device of your dreams. Log onto the company's website and provide information about the devices you're selling. Send those devices in the prepaid box you're sent from the company, and you'll get credit toward your next purchase. If you're not interested in a purchase, the company will even pay you via PayPal, so you can buy whatever you want.
Both of these companies will recycle your products if they find they can't use them as credit.
What About Private Companies?
Private electronics companies accept phones for all sorts of reasons, and often, they work as the first stop for repair shops. That means these companies will buy phones in a variety of conditions, so they can use the guts of broken devices to fix up others.
Companies like this typically ask you to provide details about the make, model, and condition of your phone. You're sent a box for your phone, and you ship it to the company. You're notified of the worth, and if you accept, you're paid.
It's a straightforward process that results in cold, hard cash you can use to buy anything at all, including a new phone.
Companies like this tend to ask fewer questions about how long you've had your phone and how you've cared for it. They also tend to have higher damage thresholds since they plan to use some devices for their parts. These are exceptional opportunities to transform a broken phone into cash.
What About Recycling?
In some cases, your phone is so damaged that you know it's not worthwhile to sell it. You ran it over with a car, you dropped it into a body of water, you used it as a baseball — you know you've ruined it for good. When that happens, don't chuck your device in the garbage.
Smartphones are full of elements that can damage the environment, and they can't go into household recycling. Contact your local waste-management company, and ask what to do with your phone.
In some cities, you can put your phone in a plastic bag for pickup. In others, you'll need to take your device to the waste treatment plant for proper disposal.
Electronics stores like Best Buy will take deeply damaged devices, and sometimes, they'll offer you a bit of money too. You can bring your phone to a courtesy clerk, or you can look for a donation bin that accepts phones like yours.
How to Prepare Your Phone
No matter whether your trading in your phone or sending it to a recycling center, you'll need to take steps to protect your privacy. Even when broken, your phone contains bits of information that could cause harm in the wrong hands.
If your phone turns on, perform a factory reset. Typically, you'll see this option under a setup menu, and it should wipe all of your memory files from your phone.
Then, pull out your SIM card and your SD card. If you're not sure how to do that, take your phone with you to your phone provider's office and ask them to help.
When your phone is wiped and cards are removed, check your phone for private information. The Federal Trade Commission recommends looking for the following:
Text messages, both sent and received
Email, both sent and received
If you see any of this data, your device isn't considered clean. Perform another factory reset, and recheck the data.
These steps shouldn't take long to take, and they're critical for your future safety and privacy. That way, you can move into your new phone without worries of the past haunting you.
Broken Phone Stats: Heartbreaking? Or Hilarious? (September 2017). AT&T.
How Bad Is the Cracked Smartphone Screen Epidemic? Motorola Gives Us the Lowdown. (October 2015). Digital Trends.
Apple GiveBack. Apple.
AT&T Trade-In Program. AT&T.
How to Recycle Your Phone for Cash. (December 2017). CNET.
Disposing of Your Mobile Device. (June 2012). Federal Trade Commission.