With new phones often carrying premium price tags, going for refurbished smartphones can be easier on your wallet. But what exactly are refurbished phones, and are they a smart purchase option? We break down the key facts shoppers should know.
What Refurbished Means for a Smartphone
A refurbished phone has had at least one previous owner, but was repaired and restored by the original manufacturer, carrier, or a retail refurbishing company. It goes through inspection and testing to verify all functions work properly before being resold.
Refurbished phones usually come from:
- Returned devices still within the return period
- Faulty phones sent back for repair under warranty
- Carrier trade-ins used for upgrades
Before reselling, all personal data is wiped to maintain privacy. Refurbished phones should come with some type of warranty in case issues pop up.
Condition Grade Indicates Expected Quality
Most refurbished smartphone sellers provide a condition grade to set expectations on cosmetic state and wear. Common ratings include:
- Grade A – Like new with minimal to no scratches or marks. Includes original accessories.
- Grade B – Light signs of use but fully functional. Accessories may be generic.
- Grade C – Obviously used externals but works perfectly.
Other descriptors like “nearly new” and “good condition” also communicate what to anticipate. Know the grades to choose your comfort level.
How To Check If An iPhone Is Refurbished Or New
With iPhones being so popular in the resale market, buyers should know how to verify used or refurbished status before purchasing. There are a few key ways to identify a refurbished iPhone.
When Buying Used from a Private Seller
Unless the seller can provide an original receipt from an authorized retailer, it’s safest to assume a used iPhone from a private individual is not refurbished. Terms like “open box” or “like new” typically just signify the used phone is in good condition. There’s likely no warranty coverage.
Seek Out Authorized Refurbished Channels
To ensure proper refurbishing practices, opt for authorized channels like Apple’s own Refurbished Store. Here, iPhones are clearly labeled refurbished or certified refurbished and offered at discounted prices.
Amazon Renewed smartphones represent another sanctioned outlet, having undergone rigorous inspection and reconditioning. For lightly used devices, Amazon Warehouse frequently stocks discounted new customer return items.
Check Model Numbers
For a phone already purchased, you can identify refurbished status by examining the model number under Settings > General > About.
If the model number begins with “F”, that indicates a refurbished iPhone. An “N” denotes a replacement item, while “M” means brand new. There may also be a “P” if it was originally personalized with engraving.
Check Serial Number
You can further validate using the device’s serial number, accessible in the same About menu. Go to https://checkcoverage.apple.com and enter the serial number to check activation status.
A message saying the phone is not activated confirms it is new. Any other message suggests it has been refurbished or used previously.
No Simple Way to Confirm with Androids
Since Androids stem from many manufacturers, there’s no universal way to check. Carefully inspect packaging and accessories for evidence of prior use. You used to be able to enter a code into the phone dialing screen, but that seems to have long since been disabled, leaving you with very few options.
On the Google Play Store, several apps offer insights into the status and current performance of your smartphone. However, based on our extensive testing, we found that none of these apps have the capability to determine whether your phone has undergone refurbishment or not.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Refurbished
Buying refurbished smartphones definitely saves money upfront. But are there any downsides? Let’s examine some key pros and cons:
- Lower upfront cost compared to new
- Warranty protections against early issues
- Environmentally friendly reuse of tech
- Chance to get discontinued/rare models
- Cosmetic wear and imperfections
- Stigma of used product for some
- No option to customize features/color
- Limited supply for rare/discontinued phones
For many, the monetary savings outweigh minor cosmetic flaws, especially for older models where used prices are much lower. Just be prudent checking condition ratings and return policies. And critical protections like waterproofing could be impacted from repairs.
Overall Verdict on Refurbished Smartphones
Assuming professional refurbishing practices, refurbished smartphones pose no greater reliability risks than new ones. In fact, parts like batteries may even have been replaced enhancing longevity.
The savings over new can be substantial, making refurbished phones ideal for budget buyers. Just know grades, inspect photos, and read return fine print. And treat water resistance claims cautiously.
Following some smart shopping tips will typically yield an impressive phone value. But those wanting the latest models and custom options will still favor purchasing new. Weigh your priorities and refrigerated phones could provide the perfect fit.