Ready to upgrade to the new iPhone 5S, and wondering what to do with your current iPhone? You might be surprised to learn what it’s worth, even if you’ve been hanging onto your early iPhone 4 like me. Here’s the scoop on five smart ways to trade in, recycle, or donate your iPhone–and for each one, what you can expect to get for an AT&T iPhone 4S, 32GB in good working condition

How to recycle your iPhone | Cool Mom Tech

1. Apple’s Recycling Program
Obviously this is the easiest, if you’ll already be at the Apple Store picking out your shiny new iPhone 5S color. Apple will assess the value of your phone and offer you a gift card in that amount. They’ll also ensure that your phone is reused or recycled responsibly. Apple also accepts other gadgets for trade-in, like the iPad and iPod Touch. That AT&T iPhone 4S, 32GB in good working condition with all components will net you $220.

2. Your Wireless Carrier
AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer trade-in programs, applying the value of your phone toward a new contract or bill credit. The same iPhone 4S 32 GB an get you anywhere from $155 (Sprint) to $230 (AT&T). Fascinating. Do be sure to check the carrier website for the estimated value before taking it to the store for trade-in–we hear they tend to low-ball trade-in offers, so it can literally pay to do your homework.

(Another way to do that is to check sites like SellCell or ReCellular which will give you estimated values for comparison’s sake.)

3. Store Trade-In
Stores like Target ($174), Best Buy ($225), and GameStop ($246) will offer gift cards or store credit in exchange for your old iPhone. This option gives you more flexibility than the first two–for example, you can apply that gift card toward a new refrigerator at Best Buy, or a new camera at Target.

ecoATM recycles and buys back your tech | Cool Mom Tech

4. Cash Trade-In
If you’d rather walk away with cash instead of gift cards or bill credits, check out the various trade-in programs from sites like Gazelle ($200), Nextworth ($220), and Glyde ($230).  You can also search for an ecoATM (above) near you, where the cash payout is competitive and immediate, and you know the device will be recycled or refurbished and put to good use.

5. Turn your iPhone into an iPod Touch
We really love this option as a smart (and cheap) way to hand down a gadget to a child who might not be ready for a smartphone. Apple has even posted instructions on their website on how to use an iPhone without a wireless service plan. And you might read our comprehensive post on how to make an iPod Touch safe for kids from restrictions, to privacy settings, to safe browsers.

Finally, you don’t have to trade your phone in for cash or credit at all. The first four options also allow you to donate your phone to various worthy causes where it can be put to good use, or you can do it yourself, through organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers.

Much better than tossing it in a drawer. -Julie

Check out our other posts on recycling iPhones and recycling other tech gadgets. All prices quoted above based on our research at the time of posting and are not binding.