I’m due for a new phone, and, like any Apple-head without a contract, I spent a long time traversing the internet in search of an unlocked iPhone 6. I spent a while on Amazon and an inordinate amount of time on eBay. Amazon is a cleaner purchasing process, and eBay, for better or worse, offers a bit more of a tag-sale feel. Some prices are higher than Amazon, some are lower, and searching for a phone is not for the faint of heart. You can, of course, narrow down your search by capacity, color, and price, but you still spend a great deal of time checking the ESN (electronic serial number, your phone’s unique identifier) status of handsets, or double-checking to ensure that the sale includes the charger or headphones. It’s definitely a more flexible – and cheaper! – process than Amazon, but it’s also more labor-intensive.
I perused the interweb a bit longer, and eventually came across Swappa, which combines a lot of the best elements of both services:
a. Every phone on Swappa is guaranteed to have a clear ESN and is ready for activation, reducing the headaches for those of who require carrier activation as well as a SIM card. I can’t stress how handy this is.
b. Sellers are rated, with their ratings ported in from eBay.
c. Prices are transparent. This is huge. Swappa provides a chart that shows you the price changes of your selected item over the last several months, as well as the highest and lowest current prices. It’s like Amazon’s CamelCamelCamel, but baked into the site itself. And it’s great for our consumerist, gotta-have-it-now society, since it really shows how Moore’s Law, and devaluation, put downward pressure on even the most cutting-edge gadget.
d. Buying is smoother, and more personal. Instead of browsing hundreds of listings with thumbnail images of phones, Swappa shows a thumbnail image of the seller (a gimmick, I know), as well as a little grey, white, or gold bar, corresponding to the color of the phone. It’s a small touch, but it just makes the browsing experience a little smoother.
e. The post-purchase customer service is great. I had a question about my shipping address, and Swappa provided an easy and intuitive means of communication — effectively turning my purchase confirmation page into a message board between me and the seller, along with a voluntary means of cc’ing Swappa staff.