What to do before selling your Galaxy S4 Smartphone

Samsung is purportedly planning to unveil the Galaxy S5 at the 2014 Unpacked event in Barcelona on February 24th.

The show is scheduled to stream live from Youtube at 8PM CET (which is 2pm Eastern Time) and according to a reputable Twitter source, the phone boasts a 16MP camera.

Liam Tung from ZDnet, claims the phone will be equipped with a gorgeous QHD 2K display (that’s 2,560 x 1600 pixels of crystal clear resolution), 4gigs of RAM and possibly an aluminum body.

If the Galaxy S5 turns out as good as we hope you might find yourself in a little quandary as you try to decide whether to augment your Galaxy collection with the new S5 or sell your old phone to finance your new purchase.

Tough decisions.

Today I propound that you should definitely sell your old phone because there are a few things you can do to maximize your profit.  I’ll show you what to do in a few minutes; however, before we talk about that I need to show you how to prepare your phone for being sold.

Remove your cards

The first thing we need to do is remove your SIM card.  This is important because the SIM card is your mobile identity.  In other words, it contains a unique serial number, called an ICCID, that identifies you as a subscriber on the providers mobile network.  The buyers mobile carrier will provide its own SIM card.

Secondly, if your phone has a microSD card, we need to remove that too.  Fortunately it’s really easy, just make sure you never force anything lose.  The parts are so tiny that it’s easy to crack the microSD card or damage the socket the card slides into.

Trust me on this one: I accidentally cracked the microSD card on my old Blackberry as I was tugging it loose.  Yeah – let’s just say that I simultaneously felt both chagrined and pissed at the same time… learn from my mistakes!

Secure wipe the device

According to mobile security enthusiast @TeamAndIRC, it’s a prudent decision to wipe the internal storage on the device.

Yeah, yeah, I know this is common sense but it’s very easy to forget this step especially after you’ve already removed the external data cards.

The most judicious way to wipe the device is to first Encrypt it and then Reset it to factory defaults.

Encrypting the Galaxy S4

Depending on the amount of data on the phone this could take a while (hours) but it’s important that you obfuscate your data by making recovery virtually impossible.

I’m just thinking for your privacy, that’s all.  It’s going to feel like a hassle to do this now but it’s worth it in the long run.

Swipe down from the top of the phone and tap the gear “cog” in the upper right corner of the screen.

In Settings, tap the More tab then touch Security.

Galaxy S4 Security Tab

Pick Encrypt device.

Galaxy S4 Encrypt Device

The Galaxy S4 will prompt you to create a pin comprising at least 6 characters and 1 number.  Once you do that, tap Set screen lock type along the bottom edge of the screen and wait for encryption to complete.

Galaxy S4 Encrypt Device Warning

When encryption finishes, login to the phone with your new pin, revisit Settings but this time tap the Accounts tab.

Now flick down to the bottom of the screen and choose Backup and reset.

Backup and Reset Galaxy S4

After tapping Back up my data you can zap all your personal data by hitting the last option: Factory data reset.

Galaxy S4 Factory Data Reset

Alright, when you’re ready, tap Reset device and you’re good to go.

Galaxy S4 Factory Data Reset Device

Maximizing Profits

Now that you have a clean slate we need to talk about selling the phone.

Everyone wants to maximize the return on a smartphone sell but to be honest that really depends on at least two things.

  • What’s the demand for your phone? (It’s about timing)
  • What condition is it in?

Impeccable timing

Let’s talk about the first thing here: timing.

You need to sell your phone right before the news breaks for the new Galaxy S5 because selling your Galaxy S4 a few days before the announcement increases your chances of getting the best price.

I know this sounds like a tautology, for example here’s a good one:

You should marry that bachelor… why? because… he’s single

My point is that you want to sell a day or two before the world realizes there’s something newer and better out there.  Check twitter for the latest news or get a news reader such as feedly so you can stay tuned.

Choose the right city

In addition to tweaking your timing, you’re probably going to have a hard time selling your phone in a major city because of all the competition.  Conversely, selling in an insular, rural, city somewhere between nowhere and goodbye has less competition but you’ll also have paltry earnings since the demand is so low.

That’s why I suggest selling your Galaxy S4 in a city that fits somewhere in the middle.

Avoid the extremes and settle for descent sized cities like Portland Oregon.

Think about your merchant

Some people claim that sellmycellphones.com can help you get the best price for your phone.  I haven’t tried that one but have a few friends who have happily used Gazelle.  Also, don’t forget to check prices on eBay.

You can also try your luck on the Facebook MarketplaceuSell.com or cellcircle.com.

Even better, if you happen to live by an ecoATM, you can simply walk up to the kiosk, scan your phone and you’ll get an offer based on the market value and condition of the device.  If you accept the offer – these slick little machines will barf up a wad of cash right there on the spot.

Just realize that the ecoATM will take a picture of your face, scan your thumb and check your license to reduce the chances of fraud.

The Bottom Line

Before selling your phone, yank the cards, encrypt the disk and wipe the drive.   Next, pick the prime time to sell, the right city to target and the perfect merchant to partner with.

According to San Francisco based security technology firm Lookout, 62% of people hoard at least one old cell phone.  This is exacerbated by the fact that according to the GSM Association, smartphones have an average lifespan of just 18 months (see page 6 of 20 of the PDF).

I think the problem is that people aren’t selling their phones because they’re concerned about privacy.  They don’t feel comfortable selling something that has all their text messages, tweets, emails, movies, music and um… selfies on it.  So what do we do?

We hoard.

We hoard old phones; collecting them like artifacts of time .  But if you stop and spend just one afternoon cleaning up the phone you’ll be well on your way to cashing in on a good decision.

Have you had any success selling your old phones online?

Let me know in the comments!

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  • D Bear

    The part about removing the SIM is BAD advice for non GSM phones (Sprint/Boost/Virgin Mobile, Verizon).

    Example – LTE Phones from Sprint require SIM cards yet do not store personal phone contacts on the SIM card.

    If the seller removes the SIM card as you are suggesting then the new owner will not be able to active the phone and will likely cause lots of problems for the buyer..

    Sprint phones mainly use the SIM card because the LTE protocol requires it to be present. Because swapping SIM cards do not change the personal information on the phone… Sprint users never change out the SIM card. In general the factory SIM card stays with the phone for life.

    More to the point… Sprint SIM cards are harder to find and are not in stock at most Sprint stores. So when the seller removes the SIM card it will make life hard on the buyer. They may have to spend valuable hours waiting in line at multiple Sprint stores or have to spend extra $$$ to buy one. Example Sprint told me I could buy one for $30. (Another time I drove all over town and found finally got one for free at a Sprint store). Yet another example… I tried all over town to buy one from Best Buy and they wanted $40.

    I believe you have similar issues with Verizon phones… they are not as hard to find but sill cost (~$10 ?)…and also do not store contact information on the SIM card.