For the first time Apple stores will soon let iPhone owners trade in their old phones for credit toward a new one, according to multiple reports.
According to Apple-centric blog MacRumors, several sources say Apple store employees are currently being trained on the new program, which could go into effect around Apple's September 10 event, when new iPhones are expected to be introduced. That would let iPhone owners exchange their older handsets for an iPhone 5S, or whatever the new phone is called.
In June, Bloomberg quoted unnamed sources saying that Apple was working with recycling company Brightstar and that trade-ins could be refurbished by Apple and resold in emerging markets throughout the world.
During Apple's most recent earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said he was "not opposed" to in-store trade-ins.
"I see channels doing it, and I like the environmental aspect of it, and so that part of it really is encouraging to me," he said. The "channels" he referred to are third-party vendors of Apple products, such as Best Buy, AT&T and Verizon.
The blog 9to5Mac says some Apple stores, including several in Dallas, Texas, already are running a limited pilot program.
According to the reports, people who bring in an older phone, like an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S would get a gift card that could be applied to an iPhone 5. Presumably, the 5 would be added to the list of phones that can be traded in for a discount on the next iPhone.
It's not clear whether earlier models, such as an iPhone 3 or 3G, would be eligible for trade-ins, although given their limited resale value that seems unlikely.
Apple already has a similar mail-in rebate program. But the convenience of doing so in person, and walking out with a new phone instead of waiting for days or weeks, would be a big upgrade in terms of convenience.
If recent history is any guide, Apple's next iPhone will go on sale in mid- to late September and will likely to be called either the iPhone 6 or iPhone 5S. The company has not made an official announcement, but multiple observers expect Apple to announce the phone September 10 and begin selling it in stores about 10 days later.
The company has released a new iPhone model every year, and the release dates have all been in the summer or fall. The iPhone 5 came out in September 2012, the iPhone 4S in October 2011, and the three versions before that in the summer months.
The company is also rumored to be working on a cheaper version of the iPhone that would be sold in emerging markets. Other reports have speculated on features ranging from a larger, 4.7-inch display screen to a fingerprint scanner to an option to buy a gold iPhone.