iPhone 5 Sales Behavior on the Second-Hand Market

It’s been a little over month since the iPhone 5’s pre-orders have shipped. Now online orders have a 3-4 week lead time, and stores across the nation remain sold out. The iPhone 5’s startling demand has created a massive and active second hand market that continues to grow.

We’ve taken a look at the day-to-day sales data from popular online shopping sites including eBay, throughout the month of October and would like to share our findings with you. We hope we can help you make a better informed decision with regards to your iPhone 5 purchase or sale.

iPhone 5 Sales Triple in October

We researched nearly 100,000 iPhone 5 transactions that occurred in the market with a consistent rise in the sale of ‘used’ (vs. new) over the month. In the chart above we can see the total sales of used phones per day in blue, with the average sale price in red. Although there was a near tripling in sales volume from the 1st (438) to the 31st (1294), the average price only dropped 3% from $834 to $807.

Based on this data, we can confirm that the iPhone 5 has indeed lived up to its hype. With store shelves empty and online order fulfillment taking a couple weeks, second-hands markets like eBay and Craigslist-with relative fast turnovers-are seeing large amounts of traffic.

Unlocked iPhone 5s are selling at $649, $749 and $849 for each respective capcity, but due to supply shortage, some models are on backorder. Now people selling the iPhone 5 can get big bucks from international and non-native iPhone carrier users who don’t want to wait for an order to be fulfilled. Another reason for the shortage of unlocked iPhone 5s may be caused by the fact that if you can get to Canada, it can be just as cheap to buy through a retailer, than it is on the second-hand market in the U.S.

AT&T is the most popular iPhone 5 carrier

Verizon may be the largest carrier in the U.S., but they weren’t the first to have exclusive rights to the iPhone, which means that AT&T still controls a near majority of iPhone subscriptions.

In addition to representing the largest share of iPhone subscribers, AT&T iPhones are more confidently traded in second hand markets due to their use of SIM cards, which make the phones easy to swap between user accounts. Sprint and Verizon’s CDMA variants require extra work to activate/deactivate, and buyers must be cautious of phone’s with bad ESNs, which will permanently prevent the phone’s from being activated on a network.

When we break down the market share to see which variants of the iPhone 5 are the most popular, it becomes very clear which carrier and version of the iPhone are the most liquid assets:

AT&T’s iPhone 5s in both white and black are flying off the shelves and into consumers’ hands… and then flying into another consumers’ hands. Just about everyone who has their wits about them knows that Apple’s iPhone releases draw lines around the block and result in sold out shelves for weeks. It’s no surprise that savvy sellers have acquired as many iPhone 5s as possible in order to sell them back to the hungry market full of AT&T subscribers looking to get their hands on the Apple’s latest edition to their stable.

Verizon and AT&T iPhone 5s gain value, while Sprint’s variants all depreciate

We know that 16GB AT&T iPhone 5s are the popular kids of iOS High School, but are they also the rich kids? Kinda:

All but the 64GB Black version of AT&T’s iPhone actually appreciated in value during October, but the more interesting story here is how much Sprint’s iPhone 5s have lost value in that same time period. The top 5 depreciating phones are all from Sprint, and they have all decreased in valued by over 10%. So in the lowest sales volume and average sale price, Sprint iPhones are also losing value the fastest.

Sprint’s late arrival to the iPhone party and their relatively weaker brand image are likely weakening demand for their iPhone. Sprint could potentially improve their market share and value retention with their attractive pricing plans and ‘true’ unlimited data, but for now it looks like they will have the lowest ROI.

COLOR’S AFFECT ON IPHONE 5 PRICING-Which is more valuable?

Both black and white iPhone 5’s cost the same when you buy them from Apple, but this doesn’t necessarily hold true in the second-hand market.

As you can see, black iPhone 5’s are sold more than white ones, which makes the white variety a bit rarer. Although this effect is not nearly as pronounced as with the iPhone 4 [white: $250 vs. black: $237.50] when it took a full 9 months for the white version to come out, it has still affected 6 of 9 iPhone 5 variants being sold:

The difference in price is most pronounced in the 64GB AT&T and Verizon models, as well as the 32 GB Sprint model. Strangely enough, the Black Verizon 32GB iPhone displays the largest difference ($25.56) in favor of the black version.

Does Size Matter?

Well if the fact that 5 of the top 6 phones sold are 16GB, then yes, size does matter, and smaller is the way to go. Not only are the 16GB models the most popular, they are by a long shot. If you look at the figure above, you will observe that 65% of devices sold are 16GB-that’s nearly double the other two sizes combined.

You may recall that each upgrade in storage capacity costs an additional $100 when purchased from a retailer, however this value does not carry over in the second hand market. The average prices for the 16GB and 64GB differ only by $171.52 ($913.39-$741.87) rather than the initial $200.


The iPhone 5 is a hot commodity. If you can afford to sell yours, you will make a handsome profit-that is unless you have a Sprint iPhone. You can still make a good buck, but it won’t be nearly as much as with AT&T’s. Color is more or less not going to dramatically affect the price and larger capacity phones won’t have the same value coming from a reseller as they do from a retailer.

As time goes on, prices will drop not only because of a decreased demand, but also because of the simple fact that more ‘used’ phones will appear on the market. Nicked, scratched, dented, and broken phones will appear, and the more use a phone has the cheaper it gets and more likely you will be able to cut a deal.

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