Apple’s iPhone trade-in program has a major flaw – theft in transit

Apple’s iPhone trade-in program has a major flaw: Apple relies on third-parties to collect and deliver customers’ old iPhones which introduces the very real possibility of theft in transit. Then what happens? Headaches for loyal customers, that’s what.

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Chance Miller for 9to5Mac:

Over the last several years, Apple has increasingly focused on its iPhone trade-in program. By offering lucrative trade-in details, often in partnership with carriers, Apple can entice iPhone users to upgrade every year. This trade-in program, however, has caused users a number of headaches, and the situation doesn’t appear to be improving.

I’ve traded in a few iPhones to Apple over the years without issue. This year, however, I received an email about a week and a half after I mailed in an iPhone 13 Pro Max saying that the box had arrived at Apple’s trade-in facility, but that there was nothing inside the box.

When I posted about this situation on Twitter, it quickly became clear that this is a common problem. Countless iPhone buyers seem to receive an email like this every year, and the iPhone 14 launch this year appears to be no different. A quick look on forums like Reddit reveals that this is a pretty common problem.

There’s a clear problem in the process of Apple’s iPhone trade-in program. The company relies heavily on third parties for crucial aspects of this program, including UPS and FedEx for shipping and other third parties for managing receiving and inventory of traded-in iPhones.

What’s most likely happening here is that somewhere between when the customer drops the iPhone off at a courier (like UPS in my case) and when it’s received at the trade-in facility, the iPhone is stolen from the box. Someone involved in that process opens the box, takes the iPhone, seals it back up, and it’s shipped to its final destination as if nothing happened… It’s a stressful situation that makes a customer less likely to buy an iPhone the next year.

MacDailyNews Take: If you live close enough to an Apple Retail Store, do your iPhone trade-in in person to eliminate the very real prospect of thievery during shipping. Short of Apple starting their own version of UPS/FedEx or the shipping companies somehow magically hiring only ethical people with sound morals, that’s your best bet.

If you live too far away from an Apple Store, however, all bets are off. Good luck out there, now, ya hear?

[UPDATE: 2:44pm EDT: Fixed typo, thanks Dustin!]

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  1. The carriers will also accept trade-ins at their brick-and-mortar locations. There are a lot more of them than Apple stores, so it should be a lot more convenient to drop off…

  2. I wonder why Apple can’t do something on the software side, some kind of “digital handcuffs” to lock the device while in transit that would make the phone useless to thieves. I mean, I guess it could still be parted out. But value would be significantly diminished on the black market.

  3. I’m sorry, I don’t understand why this is Apple’s problem. Sounds more like a problem with the shippers to me. If they are stealing Apple trade-ins, they are probably stealing other packages as well.

  4. Also the third party that Apple hires, lies to get you to try to take a lower price. I sent in a perfect iPhone 12 mini to trade in for an iPhone 14 which stated that with the form I filled out I should be expecting $250 trade in value. After Apple’s trade in partner received the item, they responded that the screen was cracked and the back was chipped and they would offer me $65. I rapidly declined their offer and they returned the item to me. Could not believe they sent it back in the same perfect condition that I sent it to them. Took it to a dealer about 1 hour away and received $260 for it. Apples trade it program is nothing but a license to steal.

  5. When you ship your used iPhone, the receipt shows the weight of the package, proving that it was NOT empty when the carrier received it. The carrier should be liable for the loss.

  6. My trade-in kit was lost in the mail (FedEx) and my turn in date was rapidly approaching. After a chat with an online support person, I was told to go to my local Apple store and they would accept it. That was not the case. The store employees said they could not accept it in person and I would have to mail it back using the trade-in kit. I called Apple and they sent me a new trade in kit, which I returned the same day. I wasn’t charged but I don’t know if Apple stores will accept Apple trade-in program phones or it was just my local store not knowing what to do.

  7. My problem occurred in the other direction. Apple shipped me an iPhone 14 Pro, and apparently it made it onto the UPS driver’s “manifest” on the day it was supposed to be delivered, but it never actually made it onto his truck. I was told an investigation would be opened, but of course was never told what the outcome was. To its credit, Apple made good on the missing shipment within 2 weeks, and fortunately they DID get my old phone when I sent it.

  8. My local strip mall has drop-boxes for UPS and FEDEX located right next to each other. I accidentally dropped off my FEDEX return box into the UPS drop-box. (It is easy to make that mistake since Apple sends you the return box via UPS and then puts a FEDEX label under it for return.) UPS assured me that their pickup driver would realize my return was in the wrong box when he scanned in his pickups and that he would just drop it into the neighboring FEDEX pickup box. Unfortunately, I had a less-than-honest UPS pickup driver who decided to pocket my return. I got nowhere with UPS trying to figure out who stole my return. Apple, on the other hand, was most gracious. I told them what happened and they treated the return as if it had occurred as planned. BOO- UPS!, Yay, Apple!

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