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That Old iPhone Is Worth Something

A customer at an Apple store at Southpark Mall in Charlotte, N.C., examines the new Apple iPhone during the first day of sales for the device, Friday, June 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek).
Jason E. Miczek
A customer at an Apple store at Southpark Mall in Charlotte, N.C., examines the new Apple iPhone during the first day of sales for the device, Friday, June 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek).

Apple Inc. was called on the carpet last summer after releasing the original iPhone and then cutting its price just eight weeks after by $200, leaving many Apple fans--and recent Apple converts--angry and disgruntled.

Steve Jobs would ultimately issue an open letter to those early iPhone adopters after receiving hundreds of emails, offering a $100 store credit as a way to do right by his customers.

Flash forward a year later when so many Apple customers were buying iPhones even though they knew, or should have known, that a new, 3G version of the iPhone was imminent. Apple says it sold 717,000 iPhones last quarter, even though it was clearing the channel, making way for the new and improved one. I guess some iPhone customers couldn't wait. But for those who bought a few months ago, and feel like innovation is moving too quickly, making their existing products obsolete faster than the high price to buy them in the first place warrants? Take heart, you have an alternative to make a little of your money back.

Enter the folks at Rapid Repair. The company has launched an aggressive iPhone buy back program, with some customers receiving $150 for the old, 16 gig phones, and the company says it has already received hundreds of phones from iPhone 3G users. A 4 gig iPhone can yield $85; an 8 gig model $125, as long as the phone is 100 percent functional.

Now, Rapid Repair isn't in business with Apple, isn't a partner, isn't an Apple authorized reseller. But what it is doing is capitalizing on the feverish frenzy surrounding Apple and the speed at which the company is innovating.

"We realized there was gonna be a lot of people who were gonna want to upgrade their phone, and that there would be a big secondary market," the company's CEO Aaron Vronko told me this morning. "I think there's actually not so many differences that you should look at the first-Gen iphone as a great device. Just because something's a 10 (the new iPhone 3G) doesn't mean a 9 (old iPhone) doesn't shine."

He says he fully expects thousands of older generation iPhone users to contact his website, with anywhere from 1.5 million to 2 million hitting eBay and other secondary market resellers. Why should iPhone users head to him? Mostly because it's a simple transaction without having to go through the hassles of listing the device on eBay or craigslist, he says. Most people visit those sites as buyers, Vronko says, and aren't experienced as sellers. His site will pay you a flat fee for the phone and its done. You get your money, he gets your phone, and you move on.

The price savings could be significant. He says a 3G iPhone on eBay without a contract, if you can find one, could go for as much as $750. He plans to sell used first-Gen iPhones for $200 or $250, depending on memory. And they will sell, he assures me.

"We're offering expediency and simplicity," he says.

Rapid Repair is based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, been around for five years or so, and Vronko says it's the largest, independent end-user iPod and iPhone repair service in the country, working on 500 devices a week. He's got high hopes for used iPhones too, whether people want to use them as a mobile phone or not.

"It's attractive as an off-network device too," he tells me. Unlike the iPod Touch, the iPhone's got a better processor, a speaker, a camera and works just fine like that. And if you install mobile Skype, you can find a Wi-Fi hotspot and still use the thing as a phone whether you're on a cell network or not.

Meantime, no matter how end users may end up using an older, used iPhone makes no difference. He's willing to pony up some cold hard cash for the chance to resell it. And that can make the speed of Apple innovation a little easier on your wallet.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com