Cook at Palo Alto Apple Store (Getty Images)

Cook at Palo Alto Apple Store (Getty Images)

Following our reports detailing the new service, Apple today officially kicked off its new Apple Store iPhone trade-in program that will see customers trading in old iPhones in exchange for credit towards an upgrade to a newer model. The initiative is part of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s new iPhone sales strategy and meant to be “competitive” with other trade-in services, but is it really the best option for getting the most out of your old iPhone before new devices get announced?

The new in-store program will fall under the same Reuse and Recycling marketing Apple uses for its online trade-in system, but for in-store trade-ins it has switched from partner PowerOn to Brightstar to determine the value of iPhones and handle the trade-ins. Apple employees are even encouraging customers to take advantage of the new trade-in offer when bringing in a damaged device to their local Apple Store, but we’ve found other services are currently offering much more for your used iPhone in good condition. 

As we reported previously, Apple’s new Brightstar-powered trade-in service is currently offering an average of $253 for 16GB iPhone 5 on AT&T in good condition and $279 for the same device unlocked. Compare that with the $315 to $400 being offered by Amazon, Gazelle, GameStop, and Apple’s online program. Apple’s quotes for older devices like the iPhone 4 and 4S are also lower than through competitive serivces.

A couple weeks back we put together a chart showing some of the best options for trading in your iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S. While GameStop edged out most of its competitors for trade-in quotes on most iPhone models, Amazon, Best Buy, and Apple’s own online recycling program follow closely behind in providing the highest quotes on certain models– and all of them are offering much more money than Brightstar through Apple retail stores.

Are iPhone trade-in values dropping ahead of Sept. 10 iPhone announcements?

When we first posted the charts above, we planned on revisiting the trade-in quotes in a couple weeks as we get closer to Apple’s Sept. 10 event. While there is always much talk of iPhone trade-in values dropping significantly in the weeks leading up to the unveiling of next-generation devices, that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. All of the programs we included in the chart above appear to be offering approximately the same quotes with just over 10 days before Apple’s event. Some quotes have dropped $10 or so for older devices like the iPhone 4S, but quotes from Gazelle & others for certain iPhone 5 models have even increased by an average of $10 since we last checked in.

Other reasons to skip Apple’s new trade-in program: Apart from the higher trade in values, many of the other programs won’t require you to upgrade to a new iPhone at the Apple Store with the majority providing cash or credit at a selection of popular retailers. You’ll also be able to lock in your quote now and wait 30 days (up to 50 with Gazelle and others) to send in your device. That’s something Apple doesn’t offer and allows consumers to wait until after Apple announces new iPhones to make a decision. Gazelle, for example, is also offering as much as $125 for broken iPhones, while Apple will only be recycling broken devices free of charge to the customer.

Apple of course has a big opportunity to push its new trade-in program to consumers in its over 400 retail stores that reached around 84M visitors last quarter, but for now the program is limited to the US.