by Brandon Butler
Apple’s shady trade-in partner is seeing lots of white spots 4/14/2021

Nick Statt for The Verge, investigating Apple’s trade-in partner Phobio and it’s well-documented pattern of finding issues with MacBooks that don’t exist:

A large number of the complaints about Phobio have a common theme: a MacBook or iPhone that seems to be in perfect working order, only for the device to later have an unexplained deficiency. Phobio, which is at that point in possession of the device, then offers the customer the option to accept the reduced quote or ask for the product to be shipped back. (Phobio does offer to ship the product both ways for free.)

This presents a thorny set of choices for a device owner, primarily by seeding self-doubt as to the real value of the product they’re hoping to trade in and what their best option might be. What if the product did have the damage beforehand and they simply didn’t notice or perhaps something happened during transit? Maybe Phobio is using a proprietary diagnostic tool that reveals something no consumer could ever find on their own? What if, by some stroke of bad luck, the device was somehow damaged during transit, and you’d have a hard time using it or selling it somewhere else if you ask for it back?

According to The Verge, “3 or more white spots” is a recurring reason for customers to get lower offers after sending the device in. Statt’s reporting makes Phobio look really guilty: they won’t go on record, they won’t answer questions, and there are daily complaints to the Better Business Bureau about the company. Yikes.

For what it’s worth, I’ve traded in multiple iPhones to Apple over the years, usually via mail-in but also in-store, and I’ve never had a lower offer. I also never use a case. I’ve never tried to trade-in a MacBook, but I would advise against it until Apple makes a statement. And always reject lower offers on trade-ins.