Mobixa: Sell your phone for mo' money, no problems

By Nathaniel Mott , written on November 19, 2012

From The News Desk

It takes a special kind of crazy to pony-up for a new iPhone, iPad, or Android smartphone each year, especially when most carriers are only willing to subsidize a new device every two years. Yet there are those who line up or wait until a device becomes available at three in the morning, eager to abandon their year-old device for something shinier and "better." Call them what you like – fanboys, early adopters, enthusiasts – but at their core these are people who want to own the newest thing and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

An entire cottage industry has sprung up around this consumer class, turning a profit by purchasing phones from the crazies (early adopters), fixing them up a bit, and selling them to the non-crazies (people who need to replace a broken phone, want to pick up a device on the cheap, etc.). Mobixa, an offshoot of phone-refurbisher IMC, wants to get in on this action.

The thing most people will probably care about is the extra cash Mobixa is willing to pay for each device. I entered my device's info (16 gigabyte iPhone 4S on Verizon, "good" condition) and was offered $250; a similar site, Gazelle, offered $160. If I stretch the truth a little and say that my phone is "like new" or "flawless," Mobixa offers an extra $25 – Gazelle offers $7 more.

Mobixa CEO David Safai says that Mobixa benefits from the halo effect of IMC, which has proven that it can deliver the goods – in this case, refurbished devices – and has been in the wireless space in some capacity since 1996. The company has the entire process covered, from buying the phone to fixing it up and shipping it to a reseller, and is willing to pay out more than other sites to keep that machine running.

As someone who has had to play tech support for family members with varying degrees of technological ignorance, the main obstacle that I see standing in the way of Mobixa's success is consumer laziness. Sure, the early adopters will be happy to turn in their devices (gotta buy that iPhone 5!), but most people tend to use their phones until their contract is up or until the phone breaks. Then, in both of those cases, they either go to their carrier's store or website and deal directly from there, or go somewhere like Walmart or Best Buy.

Mobixa isn't just competing with the likes of Gazelle, then; it's competing with human laziness and the fact that many consumers can purchase their new phone and some turnips in the same store. The company has introduced things like a dedicated call center in an attempt to woo these consumers, and it will email users a running tally of what their device is worth, mitigating the "doing something" factor of trading a phone in.

This might not be enough. Safai, citing a poll that Mobixa commissioned from Harris Poll, a third-party survey company, says that some 66 percent of people are "leaving money on the table" by gifting their phones to friends or family or letting their old devices sit in a drawer collecting dust. That's a market that many companies would be happy to crack, but apathy is one hell of a gatekeeper.