If you are one of those hardware fans who’s always itching to get the latest device whenever there’s a new update, you’ll probably have one of those junk drawers spewing out tentacles of wires and gadgets that are covered in dust. Among them, a bunch of old smartphones — sound familiar?

That’s exactly the case with many Chinese citizens as the country’s smartphone market is reaching saturation. China now boasts a total of 1.14 billion mobile users, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The country’s smartphone shipment number stood at around 425 million in 2014, while there were only 56.98 million newly added mobile subscribers in the same year.

The gap between these figures indicates that nearly 400 million old smartphones were discarded per year. “Over 90% of the smartphones are purchased for replacing old ones”, said Sun Wenping, head of Shenzhen Smartphone Association, “due to reasons like the need to shift from 2G to 4G networks, or simply for a fancier version.”

Researches show that Chinese smartphone users change their smartphones once every 29-months in 2011, but the period has been shorted to 18 months now. Over 20% of Chinese users will update for a newer phone within one year, while only 8.4% would do so within two years.

Of course, there are tons of great things you can do with your old phone, either as a music player, e-reader or a security camera, but another equally useful option is to trade it in to help bank roll your next phone. Smartphone ‘upcycling’ is forming a huge industry in China, the world’s largest smartphone market. There’s already multiple startups tapping this emerging sector.

We’ve put together a short list of our top picks for those looking to empty the junk draw and recycle some of those old smart phones:


JD.com, one of the to-go e-commerce site for electronics, has launched a dedicated channel for electronic trade-in services, where customers can exchange their used smartphones for coupons and bonus. The platform works just like the e-commerce portion, offering the same payment and insurance services.


Aihuishou  (meaning “love recycling”) is a bidding-based C2B platform for recycling and the sale of second-hand electronic items such as mobile phones and laptops. Aihuishou adopted O2O model and built more than 40 service centers in four core commercial cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.

Their WeChat service helped to accumulate a huge number of users, who can ask questions and explain the phone’s condition on chat rooms. The user is then lead to nearby offline service center to conduct transaction. Also, the site has its own courier, who collect the used devices and users can ask online to take their old phone.

The company has raised $60 million USD funding of Series C funding led by Tiantu Capital this August. JD also participated this round.


Taolv365, founded in 2009, is an electronics upcycling platform that includes all kinds of services like online electronics tread-in, and the sale of second-hand gadgets as well as dissembled parts. Founded in Shenzhen, the site now operates in all major cities across the country.

Image Credit: ShutterStock

Avatar photo

Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.