mobile phones

Consumers received back billions of dollars of value from their mobile device trade-ins in 2023, a report found. | Maxx Studio/Shutterstock

The value returned to consumers for their used mobile device trade-ins hit a record high $4.3 billion in 2023, thanks to strong demand for new devices, a bump in the worth of old smartphones and other factors.

The total is 13% higher than 2022 and built off of a $1.6 billion fourth quarter, also a record for that stretch of the year, according to a report published this month by global insurance company Assurant, which owns reverse logistics company Hyla Mobile. The report combines the company’s own analytics with industry market data to give insight into North American trends. 

Various versions of iPhone 11s and 12s were the most frequently traded-in devices, the report found. The average trade-in value of those and other types of smartphones overall was about $142, up from a significant slump in 2022. Apple Watch trade-in values ranged from $60 to $195. 

Consumers are also hanging onto devices slightly longer, with the average timespan before trade-in steadily increasing from 3.26 years in 2021 to 3.46 years in 2023. 

“2023 was a record-breaking year for device trade-ins, highlighting the growing appetite for these programs for increasingly cost- and eco-conscious consumers,” Biju Nair, global connected living and international president for the company, said in a written statement.

“Looking ahead, we expect to see the demand for trade-in and upgrade options continuing to grow, but this can only be made possible through the support of carriers, OEMs, retailers and MSOs [multi-service operators] that offer attractive trade-in promotions and upgrade programs,” he added. “Cross-sector collaboration is crucial to expand the secondary device market and make current smartphones more accessible and sustainable.”

The fate of discarded devices has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with federal officials considering the national security implications of conserving critical minerals and other observers raising concerns over the environmental and human side effects of e-scrap. 

In response, Apple and other producers have stepped up efforts to make devices more recyclable and to use more recycled material in their manufacture. 

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