Amazon Wants Your iPhone 4--But is the Buyout Worth the Risk?

By | Sep 6, 2012

The iPhone 5 is coming, and Apple's stock is heading northward as a result. Users, meanwhile, are salivating at the thought of getting their hands on a new iDevice and iOS, while other tech companies look at ways to cash in on the phone transition. Enter Amazon, who's offering to buy out a pristine iPhone 4 or well-used 4S and put some cash in the pocket of users. The catch? That the money isn't going to be greenbacks, but an Amazon gift card. Is this kind of buyout worth the risk?

We May Disagree on "Like-New"

According to a recent CNET article, the amount of Amazon money a user gets for their old iPhone, in part, is determined by its condition. A "like-new" iPhone 4S 32GB, for example, that doesn't have any scratches and still comes with all of the original box material will bring $455; one in just "good" condition yields $386.75. A like-new iPhone 4 8GB gets $230 but only $69 if it's just "acceptable" under Amazon's guidelines. A similar service at website Gazelle offers lower payouts for all models but also nets a user cash rather than a gift card for their trouble. Of course, the selling price is going to drop sharply as Amazon is flooded with resold iPhones, so expect these numbers to sink rapidly in the next few weeks. Still, for a consumer planning to upgrade, it might be worth the risk to jump in, grab an Amazon gift card, and use it to purchase a new iPhone 5. Food for thought.

IT admins should also give this deal some consideration--not for their personal use or as a way to sell their company's aging line of iPhones, but rather as another indication of the mobile market's permeability. It's not simply the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend that midsize IT pros have to deal with, but the fact that users are changing devices so quickly it can be difficult to keep up with access permissions and network monitoring, and the new iPhone release is only going to make this worse. A good idea here is to block all network access from any new device and force employees to bring their new iPhone, Android, or Windows smartphone to an admin for activation. It's worth knowing what's on your network, even if some of the steps taken may seem a touch Draconian--better a grumbling employee walking away with phone in hand than a satisfied hacker making off with a database.

Value on the Dollar

Despite its consumer rather than business-use focus, IT admins can expect to see the iPhone keep on coming, in large part because of Apple's clout in the marketplace. An article at Mashable talks about Big Fruit's dominant position in the industry--and across industries--and has a great infographic to illustrate. Some of the highlights? In 10 years, Apple's stock has gone up more than 8,000 percent; Amazon's has risen only around 1,400 percent. The company is currently worth $621.64 billion, which is "more than twice as much as America's largest media conglomerates combined" and has now claimed the title of "most valuable company ever." This is in some dispute because of Microsoft's 1999 record and the comparison of 2012 dollar values to those of the late 90s, but Apple is still on track to break that record plus inflation as well.

Simply put, Apple is coming to dominate its portion of the tech industry and, while it may lag behind Google's Android in terms of sheer units shipped, the release of the new iPhone 5 is pushing Apple's stock ever-higher and driving up the number of iDevices on the market. While companies shouldn't expect to see an all-Apple lineup anytime soon, IT admins can expect that they'll be fielding more questions about products from Steve Jobs' company in the near future and will very shortly be dealing with an influx of shiny new iPhones.

Amazon's deal and the rush of people willing to sell their iPhone 4 or 4S for online gift cards, combined with Apple's muscle in the industry means midsize IT admins need to prep for two trends: One, expect more Apple-branded items around the office and two, don't expect them to stay long. Brand loyalty for iPhones and iPads is high, but new smarthphones and tablets are losing their initial appeal more quickly than ever. An Apple a day keeps a user at bay, but only until an upgrade is available.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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