Tips on Selling Your Old Phone

By: Christine Persaud

May 3, 2016
Photo by Sony Mobile Communications

Photo by Sony Mobile Communications

Chances are you swap your phone out every three or four years. A recent Catalyst report suggests that most Canadians are already on their second smartphones. In 2014, the mean number of smartphones ever owned by a person was 2.12, and that number increased by 12% to 2.37 by 2015. With two-year contracts now the norm in Canada, and stellar new smartphones being revealed each year, sometimes quarter, it’s likely that this healthy upgrade cycle will continue.

But what do you do with your old device? It might be handed down to a friend, family member, or colleague, or recycled if it’s no longer usable. But sometimes, we aim to make a buck and resell them. Gartner predicts that the worldwide market for refurbished phones sold directly to end-users will reach 120 million units by 2017, equating to around US$14 billion.

Protect your data

That said, many people don’t realize that deleting data from a device requires more than just removing the SIM card.

Software company Avast ran a test in 2014 whereby they purchased 20 Android devices that random people were selling on eBay, and attempted to retrieve supposedly-deleted information from them. The result: they managed to recover more than 40,000 photos (including 1,500 of children), 750 e-mails and text messages, and contact information for more than 250 people, including names and e-mail addresses. Consider that for potential thieves, a name and an e-mail address is all they need to begin the identity theft process. Beyond that, Avast was also able to determine the full identity of four of the previous owners, and even gained access to a completed loan application.

So what do you need to do before handing your old device off to a stranger? Here are 5 steps you should take.

1.Backup your content

The first thing you should do after transferring all of your contacts, apps, photos, and other content from an old phone to a new one is to backup the data. Even if the transfer went smoothly, you never know if something was missing. Always keep an up-to-date backup stored locally on your computer, or in the cloud.

2.Reset the phone

When everything is sufficiently transferred and backed up, run a factory reset of the old device. This will remove all of your data from it, and leave you with the device exactly as you first got it. At least it should.

3.Double check that all data is gone

Don’t just trust the reset process: double check that all data on the device has been wiped. This includes not only stored data, but also things like your account information for downloading apps, Web search history, and old saved text conversations.

4.Encrypt the data

By default, data on an iPhone is encrypted. If you have an Android device, it’s worthwhile to encrypt the phone before resetting it. Doing this, which can be accomplished through the Settings menu (refer to your phone’s manual, which should be available online if you no longer have a paper version), adds a PIN code for access. This way, if someone manages to retrieve contents from the device, they’ll only see it in the form of random numbers and letters.

5.Add some fake data

If you want to be extra diligent, once you’ve wiped your device, input some fake data into it, then run the reset again. Oftentimes, the process for retrieving deleted data pulls up the last set of contents on a device; similar to retrieving photos from a wiped flash memory card. By adding a fake profile of sorts, including false contacts and nondescript photos, it’s likely this information is what a potential thief will get, not your real content. Taking a few minutes to do so will not only help protect you, but it can be kind of fun to create a humorous alternate identity to throw thieves off.

Post away!

Once you’re ready, post the device for sale on your favourite buy/sell site, or via your social media accounts. Look up average worth and selling prices based on the specific phone model and its condition, and be transparent about details, like a replaced screen, battery issues, or if it’s locked to a specific carrier. Don’t forget to include the power cord as well. Then wait for the offers to come pouring in, and hopefully make a few bucks to put toward your new device purchase.

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