In recent years, Web businesses with names such as VenJuvo and Gazelle have sprung up, offering consumers hard cash for their unwanted but still-working iPhones, BlackBerrys, and digital cameras. Now there's a new way to recycle cell phones from San Diego–based ecoATM. Rather than mailing in used gear to an address found on the Web, sellers place the devices in a machine that looks like an ATM. The machine scans the gadget, determines damage, and assesses value. If the phone is worth a few bucks, the ATM will cough up the money -- about $50 or $55 for a used iPhone or BlackBerry -- and keep the phone.
What ecoATM won't do is accept stolen cell phones, thanks to built-in security features. These include a webcam and a fingerprint scanner to keep a record of each person who trades a phone for cash.
The company plans to roll out its kiosks in shopping centers around the country in early 2010. ecoATM figures there are one billion phones worth some $12.2 billion sitting in people's drawers. "Just like they bring their change to Coinstar at the grocery store," says Eric Rosser, the company's head of marketing, "we want them to bring their old phones with them when they go shopping."