Every year, millions of smartphones are traded in or sold so their owners can obtain a newer model.
If the old device still works perfectly, savvy consumers could acquire a refurbished smartphone at a knock-down price.
When someone trades in or sells a working handset, it often returns to the market as a second-hand item.
Prior to being resold, any trace of its previous ownership will be formatted away, in parallel with a series of performance checks to ensure it works satisfactorily.
You might get lucky and acquire a phone which was returned because of a fault, before undergoing a full repair and being resold in as-new condition.
And very occasionally, a customer returns a pay-monthly phone inside the first 30 days of a contract, even though there’s nothing wrong with it.
However, most refurbished units have been owned for at least a year. As a result, battery life may have diminished, and a few surface scrapes shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Refurbished smartphones are rarely shipped inside their original packaging, so instruction manuals could be missing.
However, the short-lived joy of unboxing doesn’t eclipse the following pragmatic arguments of a professionally reconditioned and refurbished handset:
- Affordability. This is an opportunity to secure a designer brand or advanced smartphone functionality like biometric unlocking, for hundreds of pounds less than normal.
- Technology. Although a refurbished device may be a year or two old, it’ll still offer specifications far in advance of a 2019 budget model.
- Environmentalism. Phones aren’t especially recyclable, so purchasing a second-hand unit reduces landfill while eliminating the raw materials needed to build a new phone.
- Depreciation. Like new cars, new phones shed a significant percentage of their value almost straightaway. Buying an older phone means someone else takes the hit.
- Peace of mind. Imagine dropping a new £1,000 iPhone onto a tiled floor. Now imagine dropping a refurbished £300 iPhone onto the floor. Which would cause less distress?
- Modernity. Some phones are on sale for years before they’re replaced, so you might still end up owning the latest model – or a phone considered cutting-edge until very recently.
Things to beware of
Dubious sellers. An online small ad for a suspiciously cheap iPhone or Galaxy may have been posted by someone looking to offload last week’s burglary haul.
A lack of peripherals. It’s not just boxes that might be missing – old units often come without headphones, charging leads or even the pin needed to insert SIM cards.
Warranty length. Mobile network operators and specialist retailers tend to offer 12-month guarantees, but many resellers only give you one month’s peace of mind.
Natural wear. Scuffs and scrapes aren’t very pleasing to the eye. You could also find screens are less than instantly responsive, while connectors are stiff or loose.
Lifespan. Some phones are worn out after two years of daily use, so purchasing an older device is unlikely to represent a long-term investment.
Providing you buy from a legitimate outlet with a track record of positive customer reviews, refurbished phones offer plenty of merit for buyers on a budget.
Any refurbished smartphone must be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality, though this won’t cover surface abrasions or diminished battery life caused by constant recharging.
It’s best to buy an old handset costing more than £100 using a credit card, to ensure your purchase is covered under the Consumer Credit Act 1974.