Kansas City’s Swappa provides peer-to-peer marketplace for gently used tech

For years, tech-savvy consumers have bemoaned the planned obsolescence that companies like Apple have encoded into their products like slow-motion time bombs.  If consumers have to pay so much for a device that they use everyday, the thinking goes, shouldn’t they be able to fix a cracked screen or replace a dead battery, for instance,…

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For years, tech-savvy consumers have bemoaned the planned obsolescence that companies like Apple have encoded into their products like slow-motion time bombs. 

If consumers have to pay so much for a device that they use everyday, the thinking goes, shouldn’t they be able to fix a cracked screen or replace a dead battery, for instance, without having to purchase another brand-new, expensive, glowing rectangle? 

Customers are increasingly saying yes, they want the right to repair the technology they already own rather than get locked into the cycle of consumption caused by planned obsolescence. And, naturally, more and more companies are popping up across the Silicon Prairie to meet this demand. 

For instance, an Omaha-based startup, Certified Cell, offers a peer-to-peer, pre-owned marketplace—along with a network of certified cell phone repair shops—for iPhone users who wish to sell or repair their gently used devices rather than buy new ones. It also eliminates the risk of buying an uncertified used phone from a stranger in a parking lot and getting stuck with a bad phone, or worse, becoming the victim of a crime, co-founder Joshua Hample told SPN last month.

The founder and CEO of a Kansas City-based company was motivated to launch his business due to similar concern. Ben Edwards was a mobile developer looking to purchase a few cheaper-than-retail test devices for some Android development projects he was working on in 2010. After getting ripped off in a Craigslist used phone deal gone bad, Edwards figured he was not alone. He launched Swappa, a user-to-user marketplace for buying and selling used technology, to make the process safer for buyers and sellers alike.

“We started with Androids and then expanded our focus,” said Sara Beane, a media relations specialist for Swappa. “Now we have Android and iPhones, laptops, tablets, gaming consoles, smartwatches, cameras, home tech, so our offerings have increased over time. And we actually just celebrated our ten-year anniversary in December. It’s a big milestone.”

The company is especially excited to offer a platform for consumers to adopt otherwise-pricey technologies they might not have considered purchasing before, such as smartwatches. Beane said people can save a lot of money buying a gently used smartwatch instead of splurging on an expensive new piece of tech yet to join their roster of essential devices.

What used to seem to many like a flashy, perhaps superfluous piece of technology, smartwatches (and the health-friendly exercise and wellness apps they contain) are growing in utility, Beane said, thanks to a pandemic-wary nation exchanging gym memberships for home exercise routines. And since Swappa approves each listing, she said, buyers can be sure they are purchasing a fully functional machine—and avoid the kind of headache that inspired Edwards to launch his company a decade ago.

“We don’t allow any junk devices on our site,” Beane said, before describing Swappa’s multistage approval process, which involves serial number verification and photo evidence of a device’s condition and ownership, as well as a 24/7 support team if something goes wrong. “We take safety very seriously. That is how the company was founded, and we do everything we can to keep scammers from our site.”

While Swappa fits in well with the right-to-repair movement, Beane said the company has an even simpler goal at heart: to save people money in an era where the price of a new iPhone 12 hovers near the $1,000 mark.   

“Not everybody, obviously, has that kind of budget,” Beane said. “But the beauty of a site like ours is that people can come on and find something great and affordable. There really is something for everybody.”

In January, for instance, the company’s top sellers were the iPhone 7 and 8. 

“We really feel what we’re doing for our users is really important work. We’re helping them save money. We’re helping them buy with confidence. And we’re going to continue to do that,” Beane said. 

 

 

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