What to do with an old smartphone

Megan Robinson
October 13, 2022

By Tyler Bevan from Green Smartphones

It’s estimated that in the UK, we have 55 million old smartphones lying around, no longer in use. Chances are, you have one or more old phones around the house somewhere.

Believe it or not, leaving your handset in a drawer is one of the worst things you can do with a smartphone you no longer use. By getting rid of your old phone, it might end up being recycled, allowing its valuable materials to be used to make a new phone. And what’s more, you might be able to make a few pounds by selling your old phone, even if it’s completely broken.

Below, we’ve explained what to do with an old smartphone, to get the most money out of it, while also cleaning it of any private data.

1. Check if the phone is working

If possible, grab the phone’s charger, give it a bit of juice, and see if it powers on.

Whether or not your phone is working is quite important when deciding what to do with it. If the phone does switch on, this could mean you’ll get more money for it, and it’ll also make the process of wiping your data from it a lot easier.

If the phone does power on, go into the settings app and make a note of your exact make, model, and storage capacity, if you’re not sure of this already. This information will be quite valuable when it comes to selling your phone, if you choose to do so.

2. Check how old the phone is

If your phone is less than five years old, chances are, it could be worth some money, even if it’s damaged.

If you’re not sure what model phone you have, and you can’t power it on to check in the settings app, look around the chassis for a sticker from the manufacturer. On older phones, you might need to pop off the back cover, exposing the battery and SIM card slot, to find information about the make and model.

Failing that, you can also take a picture of your old phone using the Google Lens app. This tool uses AI to match your picture to images of other phones, to hopefully give you some clues about the exact model of phone you have.

3. Check to see how much your phone is worth

Even if your phone is quite old, or isn’t powering on, it’s worth checking to see if it’s worth any money.

Rather than going through the hassle of listing the device on eBay, it’s best to go to a large smartphone refurbisher, like musicMagpie – be sure to get quotes from a few different companies. On their websites, you can type in your phone’s make and model, and they’ll tell you how much they’ll pay for it.

The refurbisher will then send out a prepaid envelope, making the process of getting some cash for your old phone quite straightforward. If you have a working iPhone from a few years ago you might get £150, while even very old phones might be able to net you £5-£10 or so.

It’s also worth noting, these sites will also buy badly damaged phones, including if they don’t power on. These companies specialise in refurbishing old phones for resale, and they also supply damaged phones to recycling companies, which can extract their individual components for use by smartphone repair shops.

4. Backup and wipe any personal data from your phone

Before getting rid of your old phone, you’ll want to save any important files and photos off the device, if you haven’t already done so.

When sending your phone off to a refurbisher, they say that they’ll wipe its storage clean for you. However, it’s best to do this yourself, before sending the phone away. If the phone gets lost in the mail for example, your private data could be in someone else’s hands. 

To wipe your data, first sign out of iCloud or your Google Account, and then look for the factory reset option in settings. You can also use specialised apps to wipe your data and then overwrite it, to be extra secure.

If your phone won’t turn on or the screen is broken, the process is a bit more difficult. You’ll either need to do an external reset using a “find my device” app, if you have that set up, or you might be able to enter recovery mode on an Android, and figure out the exact button sequence to do a hard reset, with the volume and power buttons.

Also, ensure to check for any micro-SD cards you have in the device, and remove them before getting rid of the handset.

5. Send off your phone

Other than selling your phone, there are a few other options you might like to consider to get rid of the handset, especially if your device isn’t worth much:

  • Donate your phone to charity – Oxfam for example accepts old phones. They’ll repair the device and give it to someone in need if they can. Or, they’ll sell the device on to a recycler, to raise money for the charity.
  • Take your phone to a recycling centre. Most local tips have an e-waste section that accepts old handsets.
  • Take your phone to a mobile phone store – Apple for example will recycle old iPhones at their stores.


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