Apple on Friday began letting US iPhone owners trade in their smartphones for credit toward buying new models.
The California company’s trade-in program started in the wake of unconfirmed reports of a Sept. 10 event at which Apple will unveil new iPhones, with rumors ranging from a gold handset to a low-priced version aimed at emerging markets.
“iPhones hold great value,” Apple spokeswoman Amy Bessette said in an e-mail. “So Apple Retail Stores are launching a new program to assist customers who wish to bring in their previous-generation iPhone for reuse or recycling.”
She would not specify how much Apple is paying for old iPhones, but they can fetch US$300 or so depending on the model at an array of Web sites or US consumer electronics shops that buy handsets.
The Wall Street Journal earlier this month reported that Apple had asked its Taiwan-based supplier, Hon Hai Precision (鴻海精密), to begin shipping two new versions of the iPhone this month, including a lower-cost model.
Speculation has centered around whether Apple will shift its strategy of focusing on premium devices priced at the high-end of the market to include a lower-cost handset appealing to people with tighter budgets.
A survey by Gartner said Apple’s share of the smartphone market worldwide fell to 14.2 percent in the second quarter, while Samsung’s rose to 31.7 percent.
Samsung has found global success with smartphones powered by Google’s free Android software, which now dominates the market.
As the smartphone market in the US and other Western countries matures, companies may have better luck encouraging upgrades rather than reaching out to first-time buyers, Gartner analyst Van Baker said.
Motives for Apple’s trade-in program likely include keeping iPhone users loyal to the smartphones, as well as the lucrative iTunes shop for digital music, films and books.
“Keeping people in the fold is what it is all about,” Baker said. “The question for me is whether it will be competitive with programs that already exist in the market.”
Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry saw the trade-in program as Apple delivering product management instead of product innovation.