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The other Apple economy: US$2 billion in devices on eBay

Gregg Keizer | July 25, 2014
CEO Cook thinks Apple device resale boosts the company's ecosystem

While Apple just announced its second quarter numbers, there's another economy, not a shadow economy either, linked to the Cupertino, Calif. company that Apple doesn't report: Resale of older Macs, iPhones and iPads.

And that other economy isn't small.

On eBay in the U.S. alone, nearly $2 billion worth of Apple devices -- Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPods -- were sold over the last 12 months, the company said.

Data provided to Computerworld by eBay showed that, as with Apple's own sales, the iPhone dominates and the Mac and iPad bicker over second place.

In Apple's universe, the iPhone accounted for a majority of sales for the seventh straight quarter: 53% of Apple's $37.4 billion in revenue came from new iPhones. The other two lines split most of the rest. The iPad accounted for 16% of all revenue, while the Mac's share was a relatively robust 15%, up from 12% the quarter before.

The iPod -- yes, people still buy iPods -- accounted for just 1% of sales, nearly a rounding error.

Like one of an infinite number of multiverses, eBay's old-but-still-salable world mirrored, more or less, Apple's line-by-line breakdown. On eBay, too, the iPhone dominated, with a sales share of 55% of the total 12-month revenue of $1.94 billion. On the auctioneering website, the Mac and iPad vied for most of the rest: The iPad accounted for 19%; the Mac for 20%.

At eBay, though, the iPod was a heartier competitor, posting 7% of the total sales of used Apple goods.

eBay's numbers aren't as accurate as Apple's -- they were compiled by sellers' keywords, leading eBay to characterize them as "ballpark" rather than exact -- but they're interesting nonetheless.

And while eBay's sales -- both in dollar amounts and units -- consisted of both new and used hardware, it was clear, both from spot checks of the site itself and from the eBay-provided data, that used dominated. Sales of the "Mac Laptop, All" category, for instance, which included older models such as the PowerBook, iBook and PowerPC-equipped Macs, as well as some newer machines, totaled $161 million, or 42% of all Mac sales by revenue.

So it was with the iPhone. Of the $1.1 billion in sales on eBay of Apple's smartphone, 83% were of the iPhone 5 and older. Just 17% were of the iPhone 5S and 5C, the newest that Apple has released.

Revenue from sales on eBay mostly mirrors the splits in Apple's own financials. (Data: eBay.)

That's not to say retailers don't sell new Apple gear on eBay: They do. But the site slants toward used -- or as some sellers like to say, "barely used," as if it was a car that was driven only on Sundays, then by a little old lady from Pasadena -- because that's the eBay audience.


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