Trading Up: 5 Things to Do with Your Old Smart Phone

Get Smart! Get Smart! The new iPhone 5 reached 5 million in sales in its first weekend, and shattered existing records for the fastest-selling phone ever. As well as providing a much-needed boost to the overall economy, those sales will also meant a sudden surplus of second-hand phones, as people discarded their existing handsets and upgrade to Apple's shiny new device.

If you are one of those that have bought - or are thinking of buying - an iPhone 5, then one of the issues you face is what to do with your old phone. Surely there is something more useful you can do with it other than consign it to the kitchen drawer to gather digital dust alongside all its predecessors?

Thankfully, there are lots of alternative things you can do with a second-hand phone. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Pass it on
If you currently have one of the previous iPhones or another serviceable smartphone, then passing it along to a family member or friend can be a nice gesture. Giving your no-longer-needed iPhone 4S to your teenage son or daughter may not be the cheapest option in the world but it will certainly make you popular!

Similarly, any decent phone - and by decent we mean one that still gets a good signal and can hold a charge - could have real value for grandparents, a favorite aunt or uncle, or anyone in need of an emergency communication device. Just make sure that they understand the monthly costs associated with taking over the phone and don't get stuck with a data plan or other services that they don't need or can ill afford.

Related: 10 smart phone apps that help you shop and save

2. Trade it in
One of the easiest ways to get rid of your old smartphone is to trade it in. Both Verizon and AT&T have programs that will allow you to trade-in phones, tablets and other devices for gift certificates or vouchers that can be used to buy new products or pay bills. The value of your old device is instantly assessed online and, once they receive the device, you usually get the gift certificate within 2-3 weeks. They will even pay for shipping.

Apple also has its own trade-in and recycling program, again offering a gift card for the estimated value depending on age and condition. Apple's gift cards can be used online or in Apple stores. Other electronics retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy, also have trade-in programs.

3. Sell it
If the idea of a gift card doesn't do it for you, then you can always sell your old smartphone for cash. eBay or Craigslist are the obvious places to start, but specialty web sites like Gazelle can offer competitive prices without all the hassle of a listing or online auction.

4. Donate it
Donating your old phone can be a selfless and worthwhile experience. Verizon's Hopeline program accepts used cell phones in support of victims of domestic abuse, while AT&T runs Cell Phones for Soldiers. Cells for Cells raises money for families battling cancer by recycling used cell phones.

5. Recycle it
If you don't think your old phone has much value or you can't be bothered to go through the hassle of selling it or trading it in, then you can still keep it out of the kitchen drawer by recycling it. While cell phones represent the largest category of unwanted electronic devices, they are also the easiest to recycle. All the main service providers and electronics retailers have programs where you can drop off cell phones, chargers, cables and accessories for no fee. Most stores will accept any kind of cell phone from any service provider.

Before you trade-in, sell, donate or recycle your old phone, make sure you erase all your data, including e-mail, text messages, photos, media and apps. While Amazon and the cell phone providers will automatically wipe your phone after receiving it through a trade-in deal, you shouldn't rely on this. Backup your data using iCloud or another storage option and then visit Settings to erase all your data and restore factory settings.

By Monica Vila
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