With the release of the iPhone 5, many people will be looking for somewhere where they can get immediate cash for their old cellphone. The ecoATM is an automated, self-serve kiosk that quickly evaluates and buys back used consumer electronics and properly recycles unwanted phones.
It is the first of its kind to use artificial intelligence, advanced technology in vision imaging. It can identify exactly what kind of cell phone the consumer is trying to sell, and if it has a cracked screen or dead pixels.
“Our system is so smart that it can identify more than 4,000 different kinds of cellphones, with up to eight degrees of conditions, from very poor to excellent,” said Anita Giani, a spokeswoman for ecoATM.
The advantage of this ATM compared to similar buying-back companies like eBay or Gazelle is that it is immediate instead of the wait time for mail-ins and credits.
Since the ecoATM is connected to a worldwide market, there are people around the world making bids on the phones. At that moment, the sellers are given an evaluation of what the phone is worth and offered an amount in cash, which they can take or donate to a provided list of charities.
Consumers who are not offered cash can choose to recycle a phone that is of too little value or damaged to keep toxic chemicals out of landfills as a result of cell phones.
“When people put mobile phones into (the) trash, it’s the absolute worst thing they can do,” Giani said. “All the phones we collect, three-fourths of them, we’re able to find second homes for them, the one-fourth unable to be sold—those get responsibly recycled.”
Giani said the response from consumers has been huge, and by the end of the year she believes the company will have processed over a million phones.
“There are going to be millions of people buying the new iPhone 5. When they do, we want there to be an ecoATM nearby for them to cash in or recycle their old phones,” said Tom Tullie, chief executive of ecoATM, in a statement.
The nearest ecoATM to Cal State Fullerton is outside the food court at the Brea Mall on State College Boulevard and Imperial Highway. During the time of this report, the machine was out of cash on Friday and Saturday and could not buy electronics from consumers.
Many people walking up to the machine to sell seemed to walk away disappointed.
Friends Dante Duke, 18, and Rob Simons, 17, were among those who had to walk away. Even though Duke could not make a sale he said ecoATM is a very good way to recycle.
Other customers were curious about the machine just from walking by.
“How will they know if you send the right phone?” asked Ramon Gonzales from Walnut, who lost his iPhone 4.
As of August, ecoATM started a mass commercialization of kiosks, and there are currently 150 locations around the United States, with a plan to have 300 more by the end of November.
To sell a device, each seller must scan a driver’s license and fingerprint at the kiosk. State or local laws require ecoATM to ask for personal information from the consumer to avoid buying stolen electronics.
“We also get the serial number, device description and a variety of other information that is then uploaded into a variety of law enforcement databases used to search for any reported stolen items,” said Mark Bowles, co-founder and chief marketing officer of the company that makes the kiosks, to Scientific American magazine.
If there is a match, the seller can be identified and reported to law enforcement.
EcoATM also buys back MP3 devices. More information on how ecoATM works and locations for the kiosks can be found on its website EcoATM.com.