Apple took some time out of their WWDC presentation back in June to bring up their recycling program. This was the first I had heard about it, although it has apparently been running for many years now and has seen major improvements recently.
I used their recycling program a month and a half ago when I decided to hand in my first generation iPad mini. I had gotten it as a test device for Iconoclasm, but now that it’s been discontinued for ten months, there was no real point in keeping it around. I didn’t have much trouble selling off my other iOS devices, but no one ever showed interest in this one, so I figured it would have been less trouble to recycle it and get Apple Store credit in return.
The process is pretty simple. You just need to restore your phone, fill out a form with your phone’s serial number and answer a few questions about the condition of the device. They’ll send you a quote, which you can lock in for 14 days, and then you’ll have the option of sending it in your own packaging or having them send their own return packaging. I went with the latter because I’m pretty terrible at packing up devices and it seemed like less of a hassle. A day or two later, a box arrived with an insert that tightly holds your device in the box so it doesn’t shift around too much. Return postage is already paid for so all you need to do is tell UPS to come pick it up and wait for them to receive and confirm your device’s condition.
The process is pretty painless, though I do have one complaint: the fourteen day period almost expired by the time they confirmed they had gotten my device, and while you can request an extension, I wish the period was fourteen business days as opposed to calendar days to account for things like long weekends. Once all is good, they’ll send you an email with an Apple Store gift card code and you can use it towards your next purchases (like say, the iPhone SE I’m typing this on right now).
No question about it, the rates are lower than what you’d get selling your devices to another human beings, especially if you’re looking at recycling an unlocked iPhone (carrier locking is not considered during the recycling process at all). However, if you hate selling things or can’t manage to find a buyer, this is a pretty painless way of getting devices out of the house while still making a bit of money from them. This is also a good way to maybe extract more out of devices with wonky batteries after years of use; you might feel bad about selling such a device to someone when it can only last about half a day, but the recycling company doesn’t care and will gladly accept it. I’m in the process of handing in my iPhone 6 right now, hopefully to put the credit towards a fancy new Apple Watch band.
I can’t recommend the Apple recycling program enough, as it is probably the most friction-free way of getting rid of iOS devices lying around your house there is.