Review: Why I Used Swappa to Sell My iPhone

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As someone who tries to keep up with technology, I believe there is a "right time" to unload an old device and get the maximum value back to offset the cost of the upgrade. The time came for my iPhone 5 when Verizon was offering a $225 trade-in, or so I thought.

I went to a Verizon store, iPhone 5 32GB in tow, ready to replace it with an iPhone 6 64GB. After waiting a few minutes to speak to a representative, I was approached by a short, burly guy in glasses who informed me that the promotion had ended and all I could get for my phone was $120. After a short conversation about how to get a better deal, he mentioned a site for selling mobile devices called

Having never heard of Swappa, I hopped online to read about other people's experiences. There were quite a few positive reviews from individuals who had sold or purchased items on the site and only a few minor issues. Comfortable with my findings, I ventured over to the site to check it out.

Getting Started

The Swappa landing page is easy to use. There are tiles with a photo, product name and model number, selling price range, as well as buy and sell buttons. You can sell or buy phones from the four major carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon), unlocked phones, tablets and fitness bands/watches. Visitors to the site can also toggle between listings in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Europe.

Clicking the sell button on the tile for Verizon iPhone 5 phones took me to a page showing two tabs. The first tabbed page showed a graph with the average selling price for the device over the last 6-7 months. The second tab lists all the device specs. To the right was a list of the Criteria for Sale broken down into required and not allowed.


●      Device is fully functional, including all buttons and ports.

●      Device is read for activation and not reported lost or stolen.

●      Device is free of cracks and water damage and other non-cosmetic damage.

●      Device has functional battery (not damaged) included with sale.

●      The device and seller must otherwise qualify for sale in accordance with our Terms of Service.

Not Allowed

●      Device with bad ESN (or otherwise not able to be activated). 

●      Device with cracks on screen or glass.

●      Device with water damage (or missing moisture indicator stickers).

●      Device with an outstanding EIP balance (money owed to carrier).

Creating a Listing

In order to start the listing I had to agree that the device met the criteria and consent to Swappa's terms of service. Another box marked "Other Terms" outlined terms relating to expected handling times, acceptance of payments, listings that appear on other services (e.g., eBay, Craigslist) and listings in multiple countries.

Clicking the "Sell My iPhone 5" link took me to the "create my listing" page. The page had all the usual categories you might find on eBay or other auction sites; headline, description, condition, and payment and shipping info.

Some of Swappa's specific categories on the page were damage or repair history, color, storage space, rooted, included accessories and PayPal- confirmed email address. PayPal is the only accepted form of payment at this time.

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Perhaps the most important category is the Device ESN / IMEI / MEID. All devices must be verified by Swappa staff before the listing can be posted. 

One big difference between Swappa and eBay is that Swappa technically does not charge a seller's fee. There is a $10 charge added to the listing price and paid by the buyer. 

When I created my listing, I set my price at $275 and the listing showed $285 ($275 plus $10). If I had sold the phone on eBay it would have taken 10 percent of the final value -- $25 -- leaving me with a profit of $250 before PayPal fees. If I were charging shipping and handling, eBay would have made 10 percent of that too. Using Swappa saved me $15 versus eBay.

Adding Photos

I clicked the button to create and publish the listing, and on the next page I could add photos. Even though my listing was published, the phone was not yet available for purchase.

On Swappa, photos are required to verify the condition of the item being sold (no junk phones allowed). Whereas on eBay, people use vendor photos to show what the item may look like instead of photos of the actual product; on Swappa the photos must be of the actual item for sale.

After I uploaded the photos, Swappa had one more requirement. I needed to upload a photo taken of the phone with my verification code (assigned after clicking create listing) written on a piece of paper next to it so the listing could be verified by the Swappa staff. 

The Payoff

An hour and a half after I uploaded photos of my iPhone 5, my listing was approved by staff member Paul H. He left a message in the comments section (at the bottom of all listings) so everyone who looked at the listing would know it had been reviewed and approved.

The listing was only active for two days before I got a message (in the comments section) asking if I would accept a price of $250. I negotiated the price to $260 to account for the $10 fee and completed the sale. An immediate payment was made to my PayPal account for $250. Unlike eBay, Swappa takes the $10 fee at the end of the auction instead of invoicing the seller.

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Perhaps the biggest surprise was that 75 people viewed my listing -- a far higher number than I had anticipated. Two days later, the phone was packaged and shipped.

Swappa vs. Gazelle and Others

Selling a device on Swappa takes more effort than selling to Gazelle, Usell or even Gamestop, but in my case it was worth it to make double the money. When I looked at selling with Gazelle and Usell, their offer prices were $120 and $116.27 (the same as Verizon's offer). Gamestop came in far lower with a cash offer of $60 and a trade offer of $70.

I was not surprised by the low offers since all three companies act as a middleman with the goal of reselling the device. Swappa acts more as a matchmaker, bringing buyers and sellers together and ensuring transactions go smoothly. As previously mentioned, eBay takes a final value fee of 10 percent and the listing tool is more complex (confusing to some) than Swappa.

Bottom Line

As a new seller on Swappa, I found the experience to be a positive one. From the simplicity of the site design to the active and available staff, the process was easy to understand and work through. The fact that Swappa provides sales trend information saved me time and ensured I got the maximum value for my iPhone. 

In the end, I earned double what Verizon offered. If I had another mobile device to sell, I would use Swappa again.

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