At Bamboo Mobile we are about to publish new market projections in Reuse and Recycling. Some of the information will include the total number of idle devices in the market; devices recycled; devices recycled by carrier and by channel and more. Here is a sneak peek. At the end of 2012, we found that there were about 324 million idle used devices in need of recovery in the market. Of those, we estimate about 14% were actually recycled or traded.
The mobile carriers are really getting more vocal about recycling phones as well. In November 2012, AT&T garnered attention by stating it achieved the Guinness Book of World Record for recycling or collecting the most mobile phones in a month, claiming it collected 50,942 devices during a one-week period. In response, Sprint challenged that claim, saying it had collected on average over 200, 000 phones per week in 2011. (A number some say may contact buyer’s remorse.) The AT&T claim was a creative way to gain more exposure. Also, most of the mobile carriers have implemented in-store programs that make recycling or trading in much easier.
There were also some new promotions and offers that may have increased the number of phones sold back or recycled in 2012. Here are a few:
- In April, Verizon implemented a $30 activation fee. The fee via a temporary promotion could be waived or minimized if customers traded in an old device through Verizon’s trade-in program.
- Also in April, Sprint offered a limited time promotion for a $50 credit on the invoice (for each new line of service) on top of the amount given from the buyback program.
- In April, T-Mobile had special buyback offer during its Magenta Days trade-up promotion.
- In May, Sprint conducted an iPhone promotion where anyone who traded in a used iPhone received a $100 credit toward a 4S.
- In September, HTC offered urBeats headphones ($99 value) with iPhone trade-ins and purchase of the HTC One X.
- At the end of the year, e-Cycle held a contest to win a $500 Apple gift card when customers responsibly recycled mobile devices with e-Cycle.
- NextWorth launched its "Refer a Friend" program. The customer gets a $10 gift card for every friend referred who completes a $50 or higher trade in.
- In the UK, Samsung conducted a promotion that if you trade in a Samsung Galaxy S II or iPhone 4 you'll be eligible for a free Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, while the iPhone 4S gives you either the Tab 2 7.0 or Tab 2 10.1.http://www.samsung.com/uk/galaxyupgrade/
Another idea floating around to generate more traction involves the addition of a recycling fee or deposit when a customer buys a new device. The customer would get the deposit back when device is traded back in. This may not be fully embraced by the carriers and retailers but is a new way to approach the problem.
Look for more industry cooperation and creative promotions in 2013 as customers continue to embrace the concept of proper disposal of end of life phones and the return of gently-used mobile devices for reuse.
About the author
Kate Pearce is a Sr. Consultant and Research Strategist at Compass Intelligence. She has a long tenure in the wireless industry, working in corporate strategy, business planning and product development groups at a major telecom provider for nearly 15 years and as a consultant for two years. If you want to contact Kate to find out more about the Reuse and Recycling market and the new market report, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.