Wal-Mart launches smartphone trade-in program ahead of new iPhone

walmart iphone5 trade in
Wal-Mart's smartphone trade-in program is the largest such program offered at brick-and-mortar stores.

Wal-Mart on Tuesday became the latest company to launch a trade-in program offering customers credit for old smartphones.

Starting September 21, customers can bring their smartphones to Wal-Mart (WMT) and Sam's Club stores to trade them for credit toward the purchase of a new phone. More than 100 devices are included in the program, and they'll command anywhere from $50 to $300. The announcement came hours before Apple (AAPL) is expected to unveil a new iPhone.

These days, smartphones are rendered obsolete about as quickly as you can buy 'em, and many consumers are eager to upgrade to the latest devices before their two-year contracts expire. Many retailers, carriers and gadget recycling companies have launched trade-in programs aimed at capitalizing on those consumers. Even Apple itself recently launched a trade-in program.

Wal-Mart's is the largest such program offered by a brick-and-mortar store, a company spokeswoman said.

Related story: What to expect from Apple's iPhone event

"More and more, customers are choosing where they purchase new smartphones based on where they'll get the best value for their trade-ins," said Steve Bratspies, executive vice president of general merchandise for Walmart U.S.

Wal-Mart offered sample values for a few 16 gigabyte models of AT&T-compatible phones in good condition: Unsurprisingly, last year's iPhone 5 comes in at the top of the range at $300. Samsung's Galaxy S3 will score a $175 credit, while the prior-generation Galaxy S2 gets only $52. The credit can be applied only to the purchase of a new smartphone.

But iPhone users looking to lock in a good trade for the upcoming new device can grab better deals elsewhere. As of Monday afternoon, a good-condition 16 GB iPhone on the AT&T (T) network drew a $305 offer from online service Gazelle. Target (TGT) and its trade-in partner NextWorth offered $315.

Apple's newly launched "Recycling Program" for iOS devices offered the most: $336 for an iPhone 5, including the power cord.

Meanwhile Samsung's newest flagship phone, the Galaxy S4, which launched in April, pulled in more money than the iPhone on the non-Apple trade-in programs. The 16 GB AT&T model garnered $328 on Glyde.com Monday afternoon, while Best Buy (BBY) offered $310. Amazon (AMZN) valued the S4 at $240.

Wal-Mart is competing with dozens of rivals to become the go-to smartphone retailer for American consumers. Earlier this month, Wal-Mart deeply slashed its price on the iPhone 5 to $98 with a two-year contract. The Galaxy S4 retails for $138 at Wal-Mart.

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