I bought an Apple iPhone 3GS on launch day because Apple PR told me they could get me a review loaner, but it might take awhile. No good - you gotta cover the hot phones as soon as possible in the crazy tech blog world, right? I happened to be near both an AT&T and an Apple store the morning 3GS went on sale, so I walked to AT&T, saw no line outside, and decided to just go in and buy one. I spent $299 for the 32GB model, plus a $36 activation fee and a new two year contract. A lot of cash to fork over for a phone I didn't plan to keep, but it needed to be covered for the site and I figured I could probably sell the thing at recoup a decent chunk of my money once I was done with the review.
So I took the phone home, unboxed it, and uploaded the unboxing video. While waiting for the vid to process I popped over to eBay to see what the going rate was for a new, open-box 32GB 3GS. My eyes just about popped out of my head when I saw the completed auction listings. $600, $700, $800 ... one brand new, in a sealed box phone had gone for upwards of a grand.
I immediately took a few photos of my 3GS, put it back in the box for safe keeping, and listed it on the Bay. I then ordered another 32 gigger from AT&T's online store so I'd have a review unit to do some real testing on. My original 3GS sold for a whopping $760, and a few days later I had replacement from AT&T, which I've since been using for testing. Of course I've now got two new lines of service with two-year contracts, but the way I figure it even after I pay the activation and early termination fees, I'll come out a hundred or hundred-fifty dollars ahead of the game thanks to iPhone's insane resale value. Maybe I'll even keep the second 3GS and instead sell my iPhone 3G, since unlocked 8GB 3Gs are going for upwards of $300 on the Bay.
iPhone's resale value is all the crazier when you consider that anyone can walk into an AT&T store and buy a contract-free device for less than many of them sell for on eBay. The 32GB 3GS I sold for $760? $699 at any AT&T store. Sure, you have to pay tax on top of that, but I just don't get why someone would rather go through eBay than AT&T - it's much easier to return a broken iPhone to an AT&T store than an eBay seller, right?
And no, in case you were wondering, the buyer of my iPhone was not in some place where iPhones and AT&T Stores don't exist. He was in Manhattan - that's New York City. Crazy, huh?