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
16 months ago
In my opinion, Phobio is scamming people for better profit for them. Apple needs to fire this company immediately.
Score: 80 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Root777 Avatar
16 months 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: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rtw07 Avatar
16 months 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: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thadoggfather Avatar
16 months ago
People rightly have a phobia of Phobio
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
forumwarrior Avatar
16 months 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
16 months 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: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

iPhone 13 Feature Blue

Deals: Shop the Latest New Year's Discounts on Apple's Entire iPhone 13 Lineup

Wednesday January 12, 2022 7:33 am PST by
Cellular carriers in the United States routinely have solid offers on the latest iPhones, and today we're tracking a few deals that have appeared in January at AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. These discounts are focused on Apple's new smartphone lineup, including the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these...
ipad pro carrier subsidies

Verizon and T-Mobile Discontinue iPad Rebate Program Following Widespread Customer Complaints [Updated]

Monday January 3, 2022 5:02 am PST by
Verizon and T-Mobile have discontinued their iPad rebate program in partnership with Apple following widespread customer complaints that the program was ineffective, flawed, and rarely worked as intended. In recent weeks, complaints from customers have emerged across social media regarding Verizon's and T-Mobile's rebate programs. If it worked according to plan, the program would give...
iPhone trade in

Apple Lowers Value of Android Smartphones for iPhone Trade-In

Wednesday January 19, 2022 1:27 am PST by
Apple today reduced the estimated maximum dollar amounts that customers can receive when trading in several different Android smartphones for an iPhone. Apple also adjusted trade-in values for certain iPad and Mac models. On its website, Apple displays the highest possible amount a customer can get when trading in a specific device for an Apple product, such as an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple ...
iPhone 13 and 13 Pro Carrier Pre Order Feature 2

Deals: A Look at the iPhone 13 Sales Offered by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Best Buy, and More

Friday September 17, 2021 5:57 am PDT by
iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max pre-orders went live on Apple.com earlier today, and now you can also pre-order the newest Apple smartphones across many carriers and retailers in the United States. Carriers typically offer numerous deals and bonuses to ordering through them instead of Apple, and that's no different for the iPhone 13 launch. Note: MacRumors is an ...
iPhone and LG V60 Swap Feature

Apple Attempts to Incentivize LG Smartphone Users to Switch to iPhone Following LG Handset Business Shutdown

Wednesday June 30, 2021 6:46 am PDT by
Apple is now keen on utilizing LG's recent shutdown of its smartphone business by adding several flagship LG smartphones to its list of eligible Android devices that can be traded for credit towards a new iPhone purchase. Apple today added some LG smartphones to its list of devices eligible for trade-in towards a new iPhone, including the LG G8 ThinQ for up to $70, the LG V40 ThinQ for up to ...
apple watch series 7

Apple Offering $25 Extra Credit During Apple Watch Trade-In in Celebration of Heart Month

Tuesday February 1, 2022 1:16 am PST by
In celebration of Heart Month, Apple is offering all customers who trade in an Apple Watch $25 extra in credit to encourage owners of older Apple Watch models to upgrade to one of the newer models. Heart Month is celebrated during February, and Apple this week shared some of the ways it's celebrating across its services. The $25 Apple Watch trade-in credit is valid until February 28 in...
mac studio lifestyle shot

Apple Executives Discuss How Mac Studio Fills the Gap Between iMac and Mac Pro

Thursday March 17, 2022 9:54 am PDT by
Apple's new Mac Studio desktop computer will begin arriving to customers this Friday. Ahead of the launch, TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino spoke with a trio of senior Apple employees about the company's process of designing the Mac Studio. Just like the Mac Pro tower released in late 2019, the Mac Studio was born as a result of Apple's Pro Workflows Team that was created shortly after the...
Gazelle

Gazelle Decides Not to End Device Trade-In Program After All

Tuesday April 6, 2021 3:04 pm PDT by
Gazelle, a company that buys old iPhones, iPads, and Macs, has reinstated its device trade-in program after initially ending it in February. Back in December, Gazelle announced plans to end its trade-in program in 2021, and said that it would shut down trade-in options on February 1, 2021. Gazelle stopped taking trade-ins at that time, but has since reversed course on the decision. As of...

Popular Stories

maxresdefault

M2 13-Inch MacBook Pro With 256GB SSD Appears Slower Than Equivalent M1 in Real-World Speed Tests

Monday June 27, 2022 1:57 pm PDT by
Benchmark testing has indicated that the 256GB variant of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 chip offers slower SSD performance than its M1 equivalent, and now real-world stress testing by YouTuber Max Yuryev of Max Tech suggests that the 256GB SSD in the 13-inch MacBook Pro is also underperforming in day-to day-usage. The M2 MacBook Pro with 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM was slower than the M1 MacBook ...
original iphone 2007

15 Years Ago Today, the iPhone Went On Sale

Wednesday June 29, 2022 4:43 am PDT by
Fifteen years ago to this day, the iPhone, the revolutionary device presented to the world by the late Steve Jobs, officially went on sale. The first iPhone was announced by Steve Jobs on January 9, 2007, and went on sale on June 29, 2007. "An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator... these are not three separate devices," Jobs famously said. "Today, Apple is going to reinvent the...
macbook air m2

Exclusive: Apple Plans to Launch MacBook Air With M2 Chip on July 15

Wednesday June 29, 2022 5:23 pm PDT by
The redesigned MacBook Air with the all-new M2 Apple silicon chip will be available for customers starting Friday, July 15, MacRumors has learned from a retail source. The new MacBook Air was announced and previewed during WWDC earlier this month, with Apple stating availability will begin in July. The MacBook Air features a redesigned body that is thinner and lighter than the previous...
maxresdefault

Video Comparison: M2 MacBook Pro vs. M1 MacBook Pro

Tuesday June 28, 2022 2:45 pm PDT by
Apple last week launched an updated version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and it is the first Mac that is equipped with an updated M2 chip. As it's using a brand new chip, we thought we'd pick up the M2 MacBook Pro and compare it to the prior-generation M1 MacBook Pro to see just what's new. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. For the video comparison, we're using the...
iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro vs. 14 Pro: New Features to Expect if You've Waited to Upgrade

Monday June 27, 2022 11:22 am PDT by
With many customers choosing to upgrade their iPhone every two or three years nowadays, there are lots of iPhone 11 Pro users who might be interested in upgrading to the iPhone 14 Pro later this year. Those people are in for a treat, as three years of iPhone generations equals a long list of new features and changes to look forward to. Below, we've put together a list of new features and...
iPhone vs Galaxy Larger

Apple Executive Says Samsung Copied the iPhone and Simply 'Put a Bigger Screen Around It'

Tuesday June 28, 2022 8:59 am PDT by
The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern today shared a new documentary about the evolution of the iPhone ahead of the 15th anniversary of the device launching on June 29, 2007. The documentary includes an interview with Apple's marketing chief Greg Joswiak, iPhone co-creator Tony Fadell, and a family of iPhone users. One segment of the interview reflects on Android smartphones gaining larger...
M2 Pro and Max Feature

Apple's Upcoming M2 Pro Chip for High-End MacBook Pro and Mac Mini Will Reportedly Be 3nm

Monday June 27, 2022 7:31 am PDT by
TSMC will manufacture Apple's upcoming "M2 Pro" and "M3" chips based on its 3nm process, according to Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes. "Apple reportedly has booked TSMC capacity for its upcoming 3nm M3 and M2 Pro processors," said DigiTimes, in a report focused on competition between chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung to secure 3nm chip orders. As expected, the report said TSMC will...
Apple 5G Modem Feature Triad

Kuo: Apple's Work on 5G Modem Chip 'Failed,' Qualcomm to Remain Supplier for 2023 iPhones

Tuesday June 28, 2022 9:06 am PDT by
For the last several years, Apple has been working to develop its own 5G modem chip so that it won't need to rely on Qualcomm as a supplier, but according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple's efforts "may have failed." Kuo says that his "latest survey" suggests that development on the chip has stalled, which means Qualcomm would remain the exclusive supplier for 5G chips for the 2023...