As anyone who has ever traded in online can attest, using a buyback program takes a leap of faith. You accept your offer online, ship your old iPhone or tablet off, then cross your fingers and hope that you make as much money as you were promised.
Fortunately, you can avoid a lot of messiness and frustration by simply doing your due diligence with a Google search of the latest reviews or checking out a company’s profile on Trustpilot – as long as you know the name of the company you’re planning on using, that is.
Founded in 2010, Phobio is a white-label trade-in service used by some of the biggest brands in the country, namely Apple, Costco, and OnePlus. In other words, while you may think that you’re trading in your old iPhone with Apple Trade In, you’re actually putting your used device (and pocketbook) in the hands of the folks over at Phobio.
Since there aren’t too many Phobio reviews out there on the interwebs, we decided to take up the mantle (you’re welcome). So, without any further ado, let’s see how Phobio stacks up.
*Sidebar: We reviewed the Apple Trade In program too, and we have some thoughts.
As you can imagine, this question pops up a lot when researching any trade-in company. And considering you’re sending your valuable device out into the ether to a bunch of strangers, you’d be forgiven for having trust issues.
Yes, Phobio is a legitimate business and, as we mentioned, the trade-in partner for Apple, Costco, and OnePlus. These partnerships, along with many others, have helped to make Phobio one of the fasted growing private companies in the United States, landing it on the Inc. 5000 in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
They are also an R2-certified recycler through Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI). In fact, the company processes almost one million device trade-ins annually and kept 577.9 tons of e-waste out of landfills in 2017 alone. That’s a lot of electronics being responsibly recycled or sent to the resale marketplace.
As previously mentioned, Phobio is a B2B trade-in solution for product manufacturers, e-commerce sites, and retail outlets, as well as corporations interested in bulk buyback IT asset recovery. So, while big-name brands like Apple, Costco, and OnePlus slap their branding (and reputations) on their trade-in programs, this is in name only. Behind the scenes, it’s actually Phobio pulling the strings.
Phobio works directly with companies to build custom trade-in programs. Everything – from a website’s trade-in value calculator to the free shipping materials customers receive to send their devices to the support a customer gets during the trade-in process – is handled by Phobio.
Phobio accepts a wide variety of devices for trade-in. However, due to the bespoke nature of Phobio’s services, not all models are accepted by each trade-in program. For example, while Phobio accepts smartphones, tablets, computers, and smartwatches through Apple Trade In, currently only Macs, iPads, and Apple Watches are accepted through Costco Trade-In. Although, more products are expected to be added to the list of approved devices in the near future.
Trading in with Phobio works much like any other buyback program. First, you’ll get your item’s trade-in value either on a brand’s website or in one of their stores and accept your offer. Then, if you’re trading in in-store, you’ll simply hand your device over to a store associate and they’ll send it in for you. If you’re trading in online, you can ship the item off to Phobio (after waiting a couple of days for your shipping materials to arrive, of course). After that, the waiting game begins.
Once Phobio receives your device, someone will inspect its condition both cosmetically and functionally. Should the assessed condition match what was described when getting the initial trade-in value in-store or online, your original offer will be confirmed and payment sent your way. If the condition doesn’t match, however, the offer will be revised accordingly (more on this in a bit). At that point, you can either choose to accept the offer or decline and have your device sent back to you for free.
Overall, when trading in online, Phobio estimates that the whole process takes around three weeks. When completing a trade-in at a retail location, everything is much faster as customers don’t have to wait around for their item to be received and inspected.
We know that Phobio is legit, but is it a legitimately good company to trade in with?
Like we mentioned before, Phobio is a B2B company. So, while buyback companies like GadgetGone are designed with consumers in mind, Phobio’s first responsibility is to their clients’ bottom lines. They aim to streamline the customer trade-in experience AND increase revenue and build brand loyalty for their clients. It’s a delicate balance.
If landing big-name clients like Apple, Costco, and OnePlus is any indication, Phobio is exceptionally good at growing clients’ profits. In fact, a quick peek at Phobio’s website shows some impressive statistics:
|•||Trade-in volume increased tenfold for “one of the world’s largest device manufacturers” (our money is on Apple)|
|•||Consumer spending power is supercharged thanks to a “5x increased attach rate” (i.e. you spend more money with a brand on a new product because of your trade-in credit)|
|•||“Each retail transaction with a trade-in” results in an average of $45 in additional gross profit|
As you can see, Phobio helps its clients create the perfect retail ecosystem. A consumer electronics circle of life, if you will:
Person buys iPhone from Apple.
Person uses iPhone from Apple.
Person trades in their iPhone with Apple.
Person buys new iPhone from Apple with their trade-in credit.
Apple makes money, and the cycle continues.
Long story short, if you’re a company looking for a trade-in solution to increase your revenue, look no further than Phobio. And for anyone that caught that poorly executed reference to this iconic line from Jurassic Park, 10 points to Gryffindor. Yes, we just mixed our movie references. Do we care? Not one bit.
We know that Phobio is great for brands and businesses, but what about consumers? Well, that’s where things start to get a little bit muddled.
As any smart shopper worth their salt knows, the best way to figure out whether a product or service is “worth it” is by digging through the reviews. And let’s just say that the reviews are not in Phobio’s favor.
Simpy typing “Phobio” into Google yields some… interesting search results. While Phobio’s website holds the top spot, just below that you’ll find their 1.4-star rating on Trustpilot. After that, you’ll notice a three-year-old, all-caps PSA on Reddit pleading that people “DO NOT USE APPLE’S TRADE IN PARTNER PHOBIO” followed by someone talking about their “nightmare experience” with Phobio and Apple Trade In on a MacRumors forum.
Not a great start, if we’re being honest.
Pop on over to the Better Business Bureau and you’ll find that they have a respectable B-rating and an average of 3.32 stars out of five from 223 customer reviews. However, they also have 399 complaints that have been closed in the last three years, with 201 of those being closed in the last year alone.
223 customer reviews, but 399 customer complaints… Questionable? Possibly.
As we dug deeper, things only got worse.
|•||An astonishing 78 one-star reviews and $14,100 in claimed losses on a website charmingly called Pissed Consumer – with the last review submitted only nine minutes earlier|
|•||Posts on Apple’s community discussion boards wondering whether Phobio was a scam|
|•||Switching up our Google search to “Phobio reviews”, we found even more|
Through it all, we noticed that many of these complaints, regardless of whether they were officially reported to the BBB or simply thrown about on discussion boards, all shared similar themes. Along with a lack of communication from customer service, most customers claimed that Phobio had damaged their device and/or decreased their item’s trade-in value far below what had originally been offered.
A Couple of Caveats to the Complaints
Of course, there are also thousands of people who happily use Phobio’s trade-in services, even though they might not know they’re working with Phobio at the time. In fact, Apple Trade In is one of our biggest competitors. And some people did have some really good things to say about Phobio specifically online.
One person hailed Phobio as “quick, easy and painless”, while another called them “quick to respond and understanding.” A returning customer loved how “straight forward [sic]” they are. And while many unhappy customers talked about the bait-and-switch lowering of their item’s trade-in value, some were happy to report that they were able to get the original amount they had been promised by simply calling Phobio support.
Now, when it comes to revised offers, this is almost always going to be a possibility when you trade in online, regardless of which buyback program you use. Why, you might ask? Because we look at our devices through rose-colored glasses—that, or perhaps some people are trying to outsmart the system. Whatever the reason, if the actual condition of an item doesn’t match what was initially described by the customer, its assessed value must be adjusted. That’s why it’s so important to correctly report your item’s condition when you get your initial quote.
That being said, these online trade-in offer revisions should go both ways. In other words, if a trade-in program operates with integrity, it should also increase your device’s trade-in value accordingly. (Don’t believe us? We’ve got the receipts to prove it.)
All of this is to say, regardless of which trade-in program you use, always do your research and take whatever reviews you read with a grain of salt. According to Zendesk, 95% of unhappy customers want to tell the world about their negative experiences. However, 87% of people also want to tell others about the good experience they had. Add to that the strong emotional attachments that people have to brands like Apple and Costco and you’ve got some complicated feelings to work through when a trade-in experience goes wrong.
Is it possible that people are more likely to blame Phobio when bad things happen, yet give all the praise to Apple or Costco when good things happen? Of course. There needs to be a fall guy, and it’s easier for that to be the mysterious Phobio than someone’s beloved Apple. Plus, it doesn’t help matters when Apple’s customer care team hears about someone’s trade-in woes only to pass them (and the buck) onto Phobio.
Needless to say, if you do decide to trade in your old device with Phobio (or Apple Trade In, Costco Trade-In, or really any other buyback program), do what you can to set your trade up for success. Take pictures of your item’s condition before you ship it in case it is damaged while out of your possession. Evaluate your device’s condition honestly. And if you don’t like what you’re offered, don’t be afraid to talk to customer service about it or say “thanks, but no thanks” and have your item returned to you. Remember, you are your own best advocate.
Finally, if you don’t go with Phobio, we ask that you’ll give us at GadgetGone a try. Hopefully, our 4.9 stars out of 1,134 reviews and counting on Trustpilot and A+ rating, 4.81 stars out of 113 reviews, and only 27 closed complaints over the past three years at the Better Business Bureau speak for themselves.
Trade in and trade up with GadgetGone!
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