How to Properly Discard an Old Smartphone Before Upgrading

recycle phone
Image credit: CNN.com

Unsurprisingly, the unveiling of the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus has already hit record preorder numbers, foreshadowing probable record-breaking sales. With carriers like T-Mobile offering flexible, highly appealing service plans including free music streaming, rollover data packages and in-flight texting at no cost, an accommodating service plan makes it even harder to not want to upgrade to a new phone. So what to do with the old smartphone that will get left behind?  Whether you’re selling it, disposing it or donating it, there are few steps that need to be taken to properly discard an old smartphone.

Back Up Your Phone

Before you let your old phone go, save the data, contacts, photos and any other important items you store on it. Sync it onto a computer or back it up in the device’s cloud. This will help you avoid the headache of transferring everyday items you need like contacts onto the new device.

Clear Your Data, All of It

Once you’ve backed up your old smartphone, it’s time to wipe that data, entirely. You may not think the data on your phone would be that useful to someone else, but personal information like contacts, passwords and emails can be used for criminal activity if it falls in the wrong hands after you discard your device (e.g., access to your financial accounts).

Most people do not properly erase their data. Smartphones typically have at least two stores of memory – a SIM card and the phone’s internal memory. SIM cards as well as SD cards are usually the first apparatus smartphone owners remove, but then they forget to wipe the internal memory. Taking out the SIM card does stop the phone from communicating with the network but it does not erase the email and contact lists. For an iPhone, go to ‘Settings’ then ‘General’ then ‘Reset’ and tap ‘Erase All Content and Settings’—a fairly simple process. Androids are a bit more complex—remove the SD card if there is one and do a factory reset of the operating system. Then for an extra level of security, encrypt the device to make it harder for anyone to restore deleted information. There are also data-wiping programs available like SHREDroid or Forevergone, a good investment for those who work from their phone and have confidential company information that can not risk being exposed 

The Final Step of Giving Up Your Device

When you decide to upgrade to the new phone and also decide your old phone serves you no more use, there are a few options you can do to discard your phone. If it’s in working condition still, which it may likely be given the more frequent upgrading plans that have emerged in the past decade, you can trade in your phone at retailers such as Apple, Best Buy, Walmart and Gamestop. Another alternative is giving it back to your carrier, but often times stores will give you a higher credit back to you than carriers. Also, most stores will still accept damaged or even non-functioning devices while carriers generally do not.

You may also choose to recycle your device. The smartphone, however, is not just a normal item you can drop in the bin outside you house. Many cities require electronic devices such as smartphones be recycled at certain locations or have designated collection days. Be sure to look up where you can properly recycle the phone.

If you’d like your trash to be someone else’s treasure, there’s always the opportunity to donate. Non-profit organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers, Secure the Call, Phones 4 Charity and the Red Cross all gladly accept your used phones. This is also a great reminder however of how you should properly clean out your phone’s information and history since it will be going to an unknown party.

Fall is the season to turn a new leaf and a new phone in the case of the upgrade. Ensure your safety and do your part in properly discarding the old smartphone before upgrading, it’ll save you unnecessary trouble so you’ll have more energy to focus on your brand new shiny gadget.

This is a guest post by Jennifer Thayer.

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