Are Apple’s Australian iPad Trade Ins Good Value and Easy?

Are Apple’s Australian iPad Trade Ins Good Value and Easy?

Recently a family member of mine worked out that they wanted to update their iPad Air, especially with the announcements of an iPad Air refresh, so we decided to go the route of a trade in.  

While the M2 iPad Air hasn’t quite generated the same hype as the M4 iPad Pro, it’s considerably less expensive… but not what you would call “cheap” at the prices Apple wants.

Hey, it’s Apple, “cheap” isn’t in the official-approved-by-Tim-Cook dictionary, and that’s that.

Getting an iPad when they’re fresh is typically the best time to arrange for that upgrade, because the technology is the newest and you’ll get the longest time with fresh tech as a result. So we sat down, crunched some numbers on affordability and decided on a model to buy, essentially as an early birthday present. Not a thing that was 100 per cent a “need”, absolutely a thing that was a “want”. I think it’s OK to treat yourself from time to time.

Apple, of course, offers a trade in system for older hardware… well, actually, it kind of doesn’t, but I’ll get to that in a moment.  

This family member (not me) had an iPad Air 3rd Gen to trade in, in essentially spotless condition. 

It was entirely functional and working, but it wasn’t likely to be used all that much once the new model arrived.

As I’ve mentioned in just about any phone review I’ve done ever, I’m exceptionally careful with hardware and put everything in a case, with a screen protector, the whole shebang, all of the time, and this is a habit that I’ve instilled in my family too. 

This particular iPad Air had lived its entire life in a case, with a screen protector on it, and about the worst thing that ever happened to it were a few games of Pokémon Café Remix from time to time. 

Your opinions on that game may of course differ from mine, but the point here was that outside expected usage (battery capacity and the like), this was an iPad in pristine condition; nothing wrong with the screen, the back was clean and clear, all good. 

The estimated trade in value wasn’t super high at $195, but we were willing to accept that there’s a convenience price paid for going with the official trade in system as distinct from selling it ourselves – and at the same time you get to avoid the tyre kickers and the like, so we went ahead with doing so. It was going to be quick, easy and stress free, or at least that’s the promise.

The easiest way to do so for our purposes, it turned out, was to send the device back in, have it assessed and then get the effective “refund” for the price they would offer. The way that works is that you buy the device you’re trading in for at full price (so Apple gets all its money up front) and then the device goes in, gets assessed and you get the price you agree to (once assessed) as a refund or Apple Store credit.

All so good so far, mostly standard stuff. 

Before doing, so, I captured a quick video of the device, because it’s not exactly in a reseller’s best interest to offer the best prices if they can get away with it, and the trade in price wasn’t that high anyway. I was wary, but also interested to see what the process was actually like from a journalist’s perspective. Still, this was purely family business, not something I was looking to turn into a story… until it became one.

When “Apple” isn’t “Apple” (but keeps talking to you like it is)

It’s worth noting at this juncture that “Apple Trade In” is in this context a bit of a misnomer. 

You’re not trading anything into Apple, but to a third-party reseller acting as Apple’s agent. Not that this entirely upfront, but instead buried in very small print within the Apple website; I was aware of this – Samsung does a similar kind of deal, though it is somewhat more transparent than Apple is here – but a lot of consumers would not be, and it does still bear the “Apple” branding on it – especially as you can do the same thing in an actual Apple store with an actual Apple employee.

Here’s the Apple trade in page, hosted on the Apple site with plenty of Apple logos and links directly to other Apple products you can buy. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that most consumers would think they’re dealing with Apple here. Screenshot: Apple.

What you’re actually doing – again, via the Apple Australia website, with lots of Apple logos on it – is dealing with a third-party reseller, in this case, a company called “Likewize”. It’s there in the fine print… sort of, Apple’s fine print on its own site talks about “reseller partners” in considerably more vague terms.

It becomes slightly more evident when you realise that queries about Apple trade ins go to “au.appletradein@likewize.com” if you choose to make them, but then equally a lot more murky when you discover that any actual correspondence coming from that transaction comes from an Apple Store do not reply email, hosted by Apple itself. 

Sending in an iPad is iBad

The new iPad Air arrived (and it’s a nice bit of kit, no question), and then it was time to send the older one in to get the trade in money for it. 

Specifically, this involved taking a QR code into an Australia Post store where we’d get the approved packaging materials, and it would be sent through for evaluation. All good, all fine and I can 100 per cent accept that some consumers are going to send in little Timmy’s Jam-streaked iPad with the cracked screen and the charging port full of sawdust from time to time.

That photo above? Taken at the Australia Post office mere seconds before it was put in the approved packing materials. 

Bye-bye little iPad Air. No more Pokemon Café Remix for you! Image: Alex Kidman.

Which as it turns out was a standard envelope with a single layer of bubble wrap around it. 

No, I’m not kidding, here it is. 

I approve of recycled packaging… but not in this context. Image: Alex Kidman.

This was something of a jaw-dropping moment for me. I’ve reviewed more devices than I’d care to think about, and I’m always careful about returns of those products, especially if I’ve been sent a pre-production unit, or the packaging wasn’t likely to stand the rigours of transport. But as it was dropped into said envelope by an Australia Post employee and then whisked away, the die was very much cast. 

In the back of my mind, I figured that Apple’s own documentation suggests more robust packing boxes are used and, critically provided for you when you turn up

Maybe this was just transitional packaging to deal with getting it, and it would be more carefully be shipped out as part of some back-of-store deal.

You can see where this is going by now, right?

At worst, I figured, if it arrived and they said it was in parts or shattered, I had that photo of it just before it went into the slim envelope, though I didn’t want that to happen. Who needs the stress?

Hey, want nearly nothing for this?

We waited for a week for a response, and we got one. A response that stated that the trade in value was going to drop from $195… to $45. 

So, $45 for a working iPad Air – OK, not a brand spanking new one, but still – is a ridiculously cheap price. If you saw that as an eBay offer, you’d wonder if it was in fact on fire.

And if you think I’m being hyperbolic, here’s an eBay listing for that generation model for MORE than their trade in deal WITH A FAULTY POWER BUTTON.

Hang on… if the power button doesn’t work, HOW DID THEY TURN IT ON? Image: Alex Kidman.

A reseller offering $45 for a working iPad Air 3 is seriously taking significant micturition quantities, or at least that’s what it felt like to me.

The reasoning given (as per the screenshot below) was that the screen had “white dots on it”…. Which 100 per cent was not the case when going in.

To give that ridiculous trade in figure some context, by the way, while Apple Australia still (years later) doesn’t offer self-service repair in Australia, in the US, the sum for repair is roughly analogous to what Apple will charge you for about 3 replacement iPhone SIM trays – every single other part on an approved repair device is worth way more than $45 as official Apple parts. $45 is an insulting joke in this context, so we said no, we’ll have it back, thanks.

Remember that photo of how it looked just before it got sent in and how it was mailed in a slim Australia Post envelope? 

This was what it came back in (address obscured for obvious reasons). Image: Alex Kidman.

It came back, and at first I didn’t spot what they were on about… until I started to use the iPad Air, and discovered a whole host of white screen areas, most noticeable if the display itself is showing lighter coloured or white content. Like most web pages, for example.

Really bad ones. Ones that would have had my relative opting for a new device some serious time ago had they existed when it was sent in, but of course, they didn’t.

This is what an iPad Air looks like after Shrek’s had a go at it. Back in a case, because like I said, I take device protection seriously. Image: Alex Kidman.

What’s happened here is pretty clear; the method of sending the iPad Air in has led to it bumping around in an Australia Post truck for a while, thumping the screen and causing the damage. Every single bright white spot you can see on the screen above is a very heavy pressure point, especially noticeable towards the base of the iPad Air.

To say that happiness did not reign supreme would be understating it, and this is where I was kicking myself for only taking photos of it while not on, because it did very much feel as though we’d fallen into the bad side of a discussion where we had some proof but maybe not enough.

Research time!

That’s when the journalism instincts that have been baked into me through millions of cups of coffee kicked in, and I decided that it was time to do a little research, if only to turn this into a cautionary tale. So I put some time aside, and headed to my nearest Apple store.

I’m not going to say which one it was, because – shock, horror – the staff there did talk to me and (spoiler) they were quite helpful, but I’m well aware that Apple has a horrendous track record when it comes to staff being quoted or mentioned without explicit approval from Cupertino on high. Think I’m kidding or exaggerating? 

The OG example here comes from Australia, where some years ago Apple summarily dumped its then-head-of-PR for the horrendous crime of… releasing a positive story about Apple. That was some time ago, but I don’t want to see people out of a job for actually helping me.

Computer says no… maybe…. Yes… nothing… perhaps…

Apple’s retail store staff, as you might be aware, are trained to within an inch of their lives to maintain a pleasant outside exterior even if working there can be quite stressful 

Also, for clarity’s sake, I did identify that I was a journalist at this point, because I was more chasing a story, figuring that actual satisfaction in this case was unlikely. I’d already burned through every part of “easy” that the process was meant to be by then. 

Ethically, it didn’t feel right to make this a “gotcha” case to speak of, and I was curious to discover, for example, what Apple might charge me for a screen repair to an iPad where it wasn’t my fault outside of warranty, but instead theirs. That needed data, which was why I’d headed in there in the first place, because all Apple’s web site will typically tell you is the in-Applecare repair price for older models. That wasn’t the case here.

I figured that I’d be bumped around to their reseller partner and back again like a ping-pong ball, but that didn’t happen; I was instead led to a store manager who commented that this wasn’t an entirely unusual circumstance, but that in-store they would have packed the iPad in a box – I’d bought in the return box with me to show at least how it had come back – and that she would see what she could do.

This involved inspecting the iPad Air, taking photos of it and seeing what their in-store system would make of it. At first, it wouldn’t accept the idea at all, but then it decided it would scan and work, and that’s when it came up with a truly magical figure.

A magical figure of zero dollars precisely. 

At this rate, before long, I was going to have to start paying Apple to take it back!

The staff were aware that I’d seen that price flash up, and they laughed, and said of course they wouldn’t do that, but that they would see what they could do. Hurried quiet conversations ensued, and they finally said (after some time) that they could do so in-store, but that it would involve a full refund process on the new M2 iPad, and then a trade in on the iPad Air 3 for a completely fresh and new M2 iPad Air.

That’s a convoluted way to work it, I thought, and problematic too, given the data already on the new M2 iPad Air, and the fact that it already had a glass screen protector on it and case. As I said, I’m serious about cases and device protection, and both were put in place before the new M2 iPad Air was even set up.

However, the store staff said, we might find it easier to contact online sales/trade in and state the case, because they should be able to process just the refund, and then all we’d need to do is drop the iPad Air 3 into the store. This shouldn’t be a problem, they assured me.

So that’s what we did, putting an email through to the queries line for trade ins (because Apple doesn’t have that many direct public-facing email addresses at all)… and that got us a big fat no, nope, can’t do anything about that at all response.

About that whole “great deal” thing that Trade Ins are meant to be Apple? Sure didn’t feel like it at this point.

To my great surprise – and this was a plus in the whole sorry affair – the same manager at the Apple store phoned me the next day to see what the response had been. They then offered if I could bring it in that day – critically within the 14-day general return window Apple has on products – they could, in fact just process the trade in offer for the iPad Air 3, with no need to swap out or clear M2 iPad Airs at all.

Apparently a “computer outage” had been the issue the day before when I’d been in store. Didn’t seem to stop the rest of the store from working and selling Apple products, but that’s what I was told.

So (sigh), back off I trudged, and about 20 minutes after I’d walked into the store, the refund was issued. A day later, it appeared as a bank refund, story done.

Except… it really shouldn’t be this hard at all. 

What’s the takeaway value here?

It’s not a bad idea to use the value in your existing tech gear – no matter what it is – to finance new purchases, especially if someone else can either make good use of them or if they can be used in the most environmentally friendly way possible as parts.

However, while the big sell on using “official” trade in channels is that it’s significantly easier than dealing with selling it yourself, that’s not always the case. If you’re going to go down this route – or, to be fair to Apple, using any of the other third-party resellers who offer similar mail-in systems – document the heck out of everything, from condition to touch sensitivity. Take lengthy timestamped videos to show the condition of a device, make triple sure that however they’re packed is essentially bulletproof, and even then, be prepared to fight.

This is not how an Apple trade in should be. 

If I wasn’t so particularly stubborn (not always a good trait), then we might have sighed and accepted the terrible $45 offer, or just written the whole debacle off as a bad waste of a device. Me being me, that wasn’t going to happen, but it should not take considerable time and stress just to get one of the planet’s biggest tech companies to do the right thing.

Image: Apple/iStock


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