Apple's Trade-In Partner Phobio Has Reportedly Faced an 'Alarming Uptick' in Complaints

Apple has placed increased emphasis on device trade-ins in the last few years, with the company largely relying on third-party partners for its trade-in program, including Atlanta-based outfit Phobio in the United States.

apple trade in devices collage
While many customers are satisfied with their trade-in experience, The Verge today reported that there has been an "alarming uptick" of online complaints about Phobio in the last few months. The report claims that many of these complaints have a common theme: a MacBook or iPhone that appears to be in perfect working order, only for the device to have an unexplained issue after being mailed in to Phobio for inspection.

In particular, the report claims that numerous customers have been told by Phobio that their MacBook's display has "three or more white spots," resulting in a significantly lower trade-in offer than Phobio originally quoted.

The report shares one customer's story:

When Daniel McGloin decided to trade in his mid-2017 Apple MacBook in February of this year, he thought he was getting a pretty good deal. The software engineer and San Diego native initiated the trade-in with Apple through the Apple Store mobile app, where he was quoted $350 for his used laptop. He felt it was in pretty good condition, with no apparent damage to the case and a fully functioning display and keyboard. […]

The situation soon changed after his laptop arrived for inspection. Suddenly, McGloin was told his MacBook was worth just $140, less than half what Apple originally quoted. The mysterious culprit: "display has 3 or more white spots," the Apple Store app told him. It’s a defect McGloin doesn't remember ever seeing, and one that he should have noticed: typically, white spots on an LCD display are evidence of serious damage or burn-in and are clearly visible. In McGloin's estimation, however, the laptop was in "excellent" condition, he tells The Verge, and he didn't see any white spots when he packed it up.

The Verge said it inspected McGloin's MacBook in person after he rejected the trade-in offer and could detect no such white spots or any discernible damage.

While any company is likely to have its fair share of customers complaining online, the report says "that doesn't explain the mystery of the white spots," resulting in some "perfectly functional" MacBooks having their trade-in value cut by half or more. The Verge said Phobio would not comment directly on the white spots issue, but the company said it strongly believes in "giving full and fair value" to customers for trade-ins:

We carefully assess each device sent to us, and only change the initial quote if the device we receive or its condition differs from what was initially indicated by the customer. We document our findings at every step of the way with photos that are shared with the customers. The customer can then agree to the revised quote, or if they do not, we express ship it back to them at our expense.

We specifically train our support team to see the trade from the point of view of the customer, with empathy, and to advocate for the customer. If devices are damaged in transit or we make a mistake in the inspection, we seek to fix it immediately. We strongly believe in giving full and fair value to customers for their trade ins. This helps fuel the circular economy, and sustainability, and it is part of our corporate purpose.

As mentioned in the statement, Phobio does allow customers to decline a revised trade-in offer, and they even ship the device back to the customer at the company's expense.

All in all, it's hard to quantify an "alarming uptick" in online complaints against Phobio, since many customers with positive experiences do not speak up. Nevertheless, all of this information is worth keeping in mind if you are considering a trade in.

Top Rated Comments

Apple_Robert Avatar
4 weeks ago
In my opinion, Phobio is scamming people for better profit for them. Apple needs to fire this company immediately.
Score: 77 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Root777 Avatar
4 weeks ago
I submitted one of those complaints. I sent in a MB Pro 15", they sent me a message telling me it wasn't worth as much as the initial quote along with a picture of clearly a MB Air! The image was clearly not my Mac. I wrote a complaint but never heard back, a few weeks later they shipped my Mac back.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rtw07 Avatar
4 weeks ago
I sent in an iPhone 11 Pro Max for trade-in that was in perfect condition. Got an email saying the device had a cracked screen and shattered back, offering $0 for the trade. When I asked for the serial number of the device, it didn't match what I sent in. The photos attached to their evaluation showed a shattered iPhone that wasn't even the same color as the one I sent. Eventually got the issue resolved but it took several calls to Apple.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thadoggfather Avatar
4 weeks ago
People rightly have a phobia of Phobio
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
forumwarrior Avatar
4 weeks ago
I was at least two of those complaints. The "3 or more white spots" was exactly the reason Phobio gave to knock $600 off one mid-2018 MacBook Pro, and $350 off a 2015 MacBook Pro. I sold them on eBay for more than the original trade-in quote with no issues. Phobio is obviously running a scam.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple_Robert Avatar
4 weeks ago

Interesting. I've traded in a couple devices directly at the Apple Store and had no issues. Not sure if I'm missing out on a higher valuation, but I'd much prefer the easy in & out with an Apple GC.
When you trade-in in the store, you get an honest assessment and immediate payment. Phobio isn't used with in store -trade-in.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

prosser macbook air colors stacked

Images Reveal Colorful New MacBook Air Design

Tuesday May 11, 2021 5:06 am PDT by
Apple's next MacBook Air will feature a completely new design and come in a range of colors like the 24-inch iMac, according to leaker Jon Prosser, who has now released supposedly accurate renders of the new machines based on leaked images. In a new video uploaded to YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser elaborated on his previous prediction that Apple's next-generation MacBook Air models ...
iPhone 13 Camera Backs

iPhone 13 Models Will Be Slightly Thicker and Will Have Larger Camera Bumps

Monday May 10, 2021 10:41 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 models will be slightly thicker than the iPhone 12 models and will also feature larger, thicker camera bumps with lenses that protrude less, according to iPhone 13 schematics seen by MacRumors. The new iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models are expected to feature a thickness of 7.57mm, up from 7.4mm in the iPhone 12 models. That's an increase of 0.17mm, which won't be hugely ...
m1 ipad pro chip

M1 iPad Pro Over 50% Faster Than Previous Generation in Early Benchmarks

Tuesday May 11, 2021 11:56 am PDT by
Last month, Apple introduced a new iPad Pro with the same M1 chip found in the latest Macs, and early benchmark results indicate that the M1 iPad Pro is over 50% faster than the previous-generation iPad Pro. Based on five legitimate Geekbench 5 results (here's the fifth) for the fifth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the M1 chip, the device has average single-core and multi-core scores of...
3d printed airtag case siri remote

3D-Printed Case Lets You Attach an AirTag to Your Apple TV Remote

Monday May 10, 2021 8:11 am PDT by
Apple recently released a redesigned Siri Remote with a physical clickpad, but if you have an original Siri Remote laying around that you still plan on using, you may be interested in getting an AirTag case for the remote. Etsy user PrintSpiredDesigns has capitalized on the opportunity with a new 3D printed, made-to-order AirTag case for the original Siri Remote. The remote slides into the...
airtag hacked

AirTag Successfully Hacked to Show Custom URL in Lost Mode

Monday May 10, 2021 1:52 am PDT by
The inevitable race to hack Apple's AirTag item tracker has reportedly been won by a German security researcher, who managed to break into the device's microcontroller and successfully modify its firmware. Yesss!!! After hours of trying (and bricking 2 AirTags) I managed to break into the microcontroller of the AirTag! 🥳🥳🥳/cc @colinoflynn @LennertWo pic.twitter.com/zGALc2S2Ph— stacksmashing ...
iPad Pro Feature

Early M1 iPad Pro Orders Now Preparing to Ship

Tuesday May 11, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
Apple will soon ship out 11 and 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro models, according to multiple Twitter users and MacRumors readers who have seen their orders shift to "Preparing to Ship" status. So far, we haven't seen any shipment notifications, but that's the next step and is likely to happen in the near future. Apple has not provided an exact delivery date to those who ordered a new M1 iPad Pro, but ...
maxresdefault

Video: Make Your iPhone Last Longer With These Battery Preserving Tips

Monday May 10, 2021 1:23 pm PDT by
Maximizing battery life is something that many iPhone users deal with on a regular basis as we all want our iPhones to last as long as possible. Sometimes there are bugs in iOS that make the battery drain faster, and sometimes we just need to eke out as much as possible on a long day out and about. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, MacRumo...
Apple 5G Modem Feature

Kuo: Apple-Designed 5G Modem May Debut in iPhones as Early as 2023

Sunday May 9, 2021 10:02 pm PDT by
Apple plans to adopt its own custom-designed 5G baseband chip starting with the 2023 iPhones, meaning it'll no longer need to rely on Qualcomm to supply the 5G cellular modem for the iPhone, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in an investors note obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple plans to include its own custom-designed 5G baseband chip starting with the launch of the 2023...
tracking disabled ios 14 5

Analytics Suggest 96% of Users Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

Friday May 7, 2021 1:51 am PDT by
An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple's App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5. According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device...
macos big sur ios 14 iphone 12 pro macbook air icloud drive desktop documents hero

Apple Merging 'iCloud Documents and Data' Service With iCloud Drive in May 2022

Tuesday May 11, 2021 2:36 am PDT by
Apple plans to merge its iCloud Documents and Data service with iCloud Drive starting in May of 2022, according to a support document published late last week (via MacGeneration). iCloud Drive and iCloud Documents and Data share the fundamental ability to backup data from apps. However, iCloud Documents and Data was often a cumbersome, confusing experience. In contrast, iCloud Drive is more...