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Local News / Technology

Tuesday, 8 February, 2011 2:15 AM

Before buying a Verizon iPhone, donate your AT&T iPhone to ReCellular and get free money


ReCellular President and CEO Stephen R. Manning holds up his AT&T iPhone. He will soon trade it in and purchase a Verizon iPhone.

by Jason Rzucidlo



ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Ever wonder what happens to your personal information when you donate an old cell phone to the less fortunate or to the military? Well, so did we. A new start-up company based in Ann Arbor, called ReCellular, has solved that. ReCellular erases personal information for free. In addition, they sell refurbished phones and accept used ones for cash. With the Verizon iPhone hitting store shelves on Feb. 10, this is a great way to make some extra money. Donate your AT&T iPhone then use that cash to buy a Verizon iPhone.

"It was actually founded in 1991 by two brothers--Chuck and Al Newman," said President and CEO Stephen R. Manning. "Chuck is still Chairman of the Board. He started this as a cell phone leasing company back in the day when cell phones were four and five thousand dollars. They would lease them out and them refurb them and then put them back out to lease. They got involved in the cell phone industry in its very early days."

Everyone knows that identity theft is on the rise. If you donate your used cell phone in one of those boxes for charity or the military, you could become a victim. You never know who could be looking at your text messages left on your phone. The best advice is to get all of your contacts and pictures transferred over to your new cell phone. Then, erase all of that information off the old phone. To take advantage of that free service from ReCellular, click here.

"The average age of our phone is about three and a half years old," Manning added. "It was probably designed about five years ago. Back at that time, data erasure of a cell phone was a bit of an after thought. The architecture was not very permissive to easy data architecture. We go to great lengths to develop erasure tools; some automated, some manual. I would strongly encourage them to either donating that phone to a worthy cause or selling it to people like ourselves and getting it recycled."

How does the company turn a profit if it offers the data erasure program for free?

"We know that for people to donate or sell their cell phones, they have to feel comfortable that the data's going to be erased," the president and CEO explained. "Some will feel most comfortable if they do it themselves. We make that tool available to both our customers and our competitors, actually. One cell phone going in the trash can is not a big deal. One hundred million cell phones going in the trash can is an environmental disaster."

In 2007, Apple signed an exclusive contract with AT&T to be the sole provider of the iPhone. However, that came to an end on Feb. 3 when Apple and Verizon Wireless took pre-orders for the new iPhone. Sales were so high that Verizon had to stop taking orders after only 17 hours. The Verizon iPhone will be available in all stores on Feb. 10.

"In the case of AT&T, that technology on the iPhone does not make it compatible at all with the Verizon network," Manning said. "If they want to switch over, they'll need to buy a new handset from Verizon. That being said, we offer a trade-in value of their AT&T phones. They can trade-in their phone to us on our secure website and then use that money to help fund their Verizon iPhone."

It's great when you can donate your old phone to a worthy cause. But it's even better when do both and make some free money. ReCellular offers another service that allows you to trade-in your cell phone. If you've got an AT&T iPhone and you plan on buying a Verizon iPhone, then this is perfect for you. However, it works with any type of phone. Click here to take advantage of that service.

"We arrange collection processes with various charities," he added. "The largest one is Cell Phones for Soldiers. We monetize that donation in the purchase of prepaid calling cards for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, to date, we've purchase 60 million units of free calling time for our soldiers overseas. In the United States, there are 150 million cell phones being retired each year. We as an industry collect about 30 million of them. Our hopes and desires is those phones are still in the garages and drawers and closets of the U.S. population."

Of all the places to be headquartered in the United States, why Ann Arbor?

"Well, because Chuck Newman is here," Manning explained. "Newman is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Mathematics. He started the company--this is one of a couple that he has started. It just grew from this location. That being said, being in the U.S. is logistically friendly. There's a lot of logistics in moving recycled material in and out of our operation. Recycling is an important thing for consumer electronics. It's not just cell phones we need to worry about. The best recycling is re-use."

Since this is a fairly new start-up company, are there any jobs available?

"In fact, there are, we've added 10 percent to our workforce since November 1," the president and CEO said. "Last year, we grew about 45 percent in revenue. We certainly expect to grow at that rate or higher in 2011. We have about 328 employees. Most of them based in Ann Arbor or Dexter and we have in operation in Hong Kong of about 25 people. We're looking at our hiring plans for this year. We expect to continue to be hiring throughout the first half of the year."

If you are on a budget and you cannot afford a new cell phone, there is a solution for you. ReCellular offers a program that allows anyone to buy a refurbished phone at a low cost. It will be activated under the carrier that the previous owner used it on. But you will get your own number. Click here to check out the refurbished phones for sale.

"They are all qualified into whatever carrier they came from," he added. "We remanufacture them to new-built standards. We test them to new-built standards and then we validate them on the proper carrier signal. In many cases, we work with carriers to make sure that process is complete. Most of the phones today can be activated over the air. They would call a 1-800 number. Some people are not comfortable with that and go into the carrier's store and have it activated at the store level."

For more information on ReCellular and its programs, visit



ReCellular shares office space with the headquarters of Borders in Ann Arbor, Mich.



Manning says he operates a facility in Dexter, Mich. and a refurbishing plant in Hong Kong.





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