Upgrading to iPhone 5? How and where to donate used cell phones

The new iPhone 5 has slimmer dimentions, a larger screen, an improved camera and more. In fact, we’ve even heard that it rescues cats from tall trees and helps the elderly cross the street (okay, we’re kidding on that one). Joking aside, the new phone is pretty impressive. Are you upgrading?

If so, what are you planning to do with your old phone? We’re here to suggest you donate it to a person who could really benefit from it such as a low income student headed off to college or a homebound senior. There are tons of ways your old cell phone can do some good in the world while you enjoy your new iPhone 5!

Here are 5 simple steps to how to donate your old phone:

  1. Back up all data that you have on your phone. Hook it up to your computer and sync all the various data types to your iTunes.
  2. Cancel or transfer service to ensure you aren’t still paying for service on the phone you’re donating.
  3. Reset your phone to erase all data. It’s simple to do this. First, go to Settings, then Genral. From there click Reset and then “Erase All Content and Settings”. Poof – your data is cleared and your information is gone!
  4. Find out who can benefit from your old cell phone. Submit it as a donation on ZealousGood.com to see who needs it or call your favorite organization to see if they could put it to good use.
  5. Feel pretty awesome about yourself and continue playing around with your new iPhone 5.

That’s it – easy as pie.


Brittany Martin Graunke is the founder of Zealous Good, an in-kind donations marketplace in Chicago. You can find Brittany on Google+ or on Twitter at @ZealousBrittany. You can find Zealous Good on Facebook and Zealous Good on Twitter at @ZealousGood.


  1. I applaud the motives behind donating an “old” iPhone when upgrading to the iPhone 5, but in practice, I think it’s a bad idea.

    Using your example of a low-income student, he or she has enough expenses to worry about before considering the high costs of data and voice plans. Even with smartphone adaption rates soaring in low income communities, iPhones are lagging amongst the economically-distressed. As great of a device as it is, the iPhone is just not the answer for the economically disadvantaged.

    Having just upgraded to the iPhone 5 myself, I propose this solution for people who want to do philanthropic good with their old devices: sell them and donate the proceeds. I found a buyer for my 2-year-old iPhone 4 in less than 15 minutes on Craigslist. I got $200 cash — or exactly $1 more than I spent to upgrade. I’m sure that the student or organization to which you want your donation to go would appreciate the cash.

    I know this solution goes against Zealous Good’s business model, but frankly, I just don’t think every item is better off donated. In rare cases like an iPhone upgrade, your cash will make more of a difference.

    Keep up the great work…you guys rock!

    October 11, 2012
  2. Brittany said:

    Matthew, many thanks for your comments and that’s very true – maintenance costs on an iPhone can be incredibly high.

    Our primary goal with the post was to help people put their excess items to good use. In a broader sense, it’s clear that selling the phone and donating the proceeds clearly makes the phone go to good use.

    As we often reference here, the average American household has $7,000 in unused items. Ideally people realize that it’s better for your phone not to be sitting unused in a closet. Whether it’s donate or the proceeds from selling it are donated, there are some great ways to help your phone to great for people in need.

    October 12, 2012

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