Something old, something new

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Mazuma Mobile customers are £100 million better off, and counting, as handset recycling moves into a new era. Michael Garwood investigates how smartphones raised the bar for the entire used-handset market

Five years ago recycling a mobile phone meant passing it on to a family member or friend, or sticking it on eBay.

But today, recycling has become a major business, and one that has excelled in the UK, more so than any other country in the world. The number of handsets recycled here is understood to have topped 12 million here last year.

And with around 30 million devices upgraded each year in the UK, the opportunity remains strong for new businesses to enter; more than 50 operate today.

But the market is changing. The days when customers sifted through an old drawer and sent in a Nokia 3310 are changing, as they move to high-end, high-value smartphones. And with this, higher prices are being offered to customers.

This is according to one of the leading recyclers in the UK and now Australia, Mazuma Mobile. It tells Mobile News the average amount paid for handsets has increased by £18 to £43 since 2009, as customers increasingly look to cash in on their old handset post-upgrade.

And with smartphone sales and popularity in the market expected to overtake all other mobile devices by 2012, it’s of little surprise the number of high-value handsets reaching its warehouse is increasing.

According to Mazuma managing director Charlo Carabott (pictured), Apple handsets now account for nine per cent of devices received from customers. Mazuma pays up to £161 for a 3G S,32GB working model. Nokia handsets remain the most popular, however, with 34 per cent.

Changes
Carabott, who has worked in the mobile refurbishment industry for 17 years, says the recycling business has changed “dramatically” in the past two years and consumers are increasingly adopting similar strategies to operators, to retain customers whenever they upgrade.

Carabott claims Mazuma is the “most trusted” recycler in the UK with its pricing and fast payment services, which can be, in some instances, within 24 hours of an order being placed. He says Mazuma now has more than 1.5 million customers on its database who regularly use the company when upgrading, typically every 12 to 18 months.

Based on research conducted by Mazuma, customers are also increasingly using its site as part of the upgrade process with their operator, checking and using the site to fund new kit.

Carabott said the number of iPhones received prior to the launch of the iPhone 4, increased significantly as customers looked for additional funds to purchase the latest model, which is typically charged by operators on a contract.

“We used to receive some very old handsets, so numbers were higher. But now the value is higher,” says Carabott.

“The whole recycling arena has changed in the past 12-18 months in terms of why customers use recyclers. Two years ago it was all about people emptying out drawers of old mobile phones.

“But now it’s evolved into part of the upgrade process, and we are seeing more and more customers trading in their current phone as part of their upgrade.

“Mentally they are looking at their next upgrade, seeing how much the device will cost and how much they can get for their current device. It’s definitely influencing their upgrades.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 488 (May 9, 2011).

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