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I just saved $425 on the iPhone 13 Pro — here's how

apple 13 pro max camera
(Image credit: Apple)

Leading up to the iPhone 13 unveil event earlier this week, survey data showed that 44% of iPhone owners were planning on upgrading. And according to Counterpoint Research, the iPhone 13 line will account for 33% of all 5G shipments this holiday season. Anticipating high demand, I knew I had to get an iPhone 13 pre-order in fast.

But I also wanted to save some money. Luckily, even with the high demand, mobile carriers are offering generous trade-in promotions, of which I fully took advantage.

Going over to the T-Mobile website, the iPhone 13 Pro product page shows a nice assortment of phones eligible for trade-in. Some phones, like the iPhone 12 Pro line, as well as the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, were netting $1,000 in trade-in credit. It looks as if both AT&T and Verizon are offering similar trade-in deals.

But scrolling through I found that older phones, like the iPhone X from 2017, were doling out $800 in credit. All I had to do was buy one used to trade in. Going over to eBay, I found used iPhone X units selling for under $300. It seemed that $250 was the average. But shipping would take too long, and with such high demand, the faster I pre-ordered, the faster I would get the iPhone 13 Pro. The race was on.

Deciding on the iPhone 13 Pro

In our iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 13 Pro comparison, the extra $200 gives users a slightly more powerful A15 Bionic chip, a 12MP telephoto camera, 3x optical zoom and a 120Hz ProMotion display. 

Now, I must admit, this iPhone 13 Pro pre-order isn't for me. It's for my mom who has grown tired of reception issues on her iPhone 12. Even after bouts of Apple Care calls and Genius Bar appointments, issues persist, and she's pushed the burden of resolving her iPhone 12 problem on to me. 

After using the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, with its 120Hz display, I felt that the iPhone 13 Pro was the better handset overall, even if my mom likely would never play Call of Duty Mobile. I just understood how satisfying 120Hz feels to the touch, so much so it's hard to recommend anything lesser. 

On the hunt for the perfect iPhone 13 trade-in

Scrolling through Facebook Marketplace, I found listings for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, OnePlus 8 and iPhone X for decent prices. But driving halfway across town only to find that the IMEI was locked or that the phone hadn't been fully paid off didn't seem worthwhile to me. Plus, I had to run back and write this piece. 

So, like I did with my Galaxy Z Fold 3 trick to save $850, I went over to a used phone reseller in the electronics district of Houston to see if he could get me a deal. 

Over at Wireless Liquidation, a phones wholesaler on Harwin Drive, a street jam-packed with electronics resellers north of Houston's Chinatown, I walked in asking for the cheapest phone they had from the eligible list of phones. Unfortunately, they were out of stock on the standard iPhone X, so I had to pay extra for the iPhone XR. At $375, it was definitely more than what I wanted to pay. And if I had opted to hunt down an iPhone X, I could have gotten it for around $275, giving me even greater savings. But I was in a hurry, and decided to go with it. 

Since this was a device going straight to T-Mobile for trade-in, I took the more beat-up, but still tradeable, iPhone XR Wireless Liquidation had in stock. It was scuffed up pretty bad, but the screen had no cracks and there was no water damage. The owner guaranteed that T-Mobile would accept it.

Upgrading to the iPhone 13 Pro for $575

I took the iPhone XR I had just bought for $375 to the nearby T-Mobile store. It was not nearly as busy as I thought it would be for the first day of iPhone 13 pre-orders. Actually, I was the only customer there, amongst five fully masked employees. 

Either way, I handed the sales rep the beat-up iPhone XR in red. Another employee came to inspect it with what looked like to be an otoscope doctors use to look into people's ears. Upon a thorough inspection, he greenlit the phone for trade in. 

Overall, the process was simple, but I do wish Apple allowed more lead time between when pre-orders go live and to the actual ship date. T-Mobile didn't update its product page of eligible trade-in devices until the first day or pre-orders. If I had extra lead time, I could have bought an iPhone X off eBay for a cheaper price, netting a better overall deal. 

So, don't do what I did and pay $375 for an iPhone XR. Shop around and find a used iPhone X that doesn't have water damage, a good screen and a clean IMEI for trading in. Once you do that, go to any of the wireless carriers and go through the trade-in process. Just make sure you place your order before the iPhone 13 launches on September 22, as these promotions might end by then. Just know, the longer you wait to trade-in, the longer it will take for your iPhone 13 to arrive. 

Imad Khan

Imad Khan is news editor at Tom’s Guide, helping direct the day’s breaking coverage. Prior to working at the site, Imad was a full-time freelancer, with bylines at the New York Times, the Washington Post and ESPN. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.