The eye-watering sums being charged for the latest generation of mobile handsets create barriers to entry for many consumers.
It can cost £1,000 to purchase a new handset outright, and you’ll pay a comparable amount by committing to a contract and spreading the cost over 24 months.
Whereas old books and vintage furnishings often appreciate with age, modern smartphones depreciate heavily – recouping a fraction of their original value as trade-ins.
However, one and two-year old phones are rarely sent to landfill or cannibalised for parts. Instead, they’re sold on the thriving used smartphone market.
If you haven’t considered this before, buying a used phone offers numerous benefits – plus a few risks…
The benefits of a used smartphone
Cost First and foremost, this represents a highly affordable route towards ownership of a designer handset.
It’s nice knowing someone else has suffered the horrendous first-year depreciation on a phone that might still be on sale.
Specifications The last point is very pertinent – two generations of a handset may be on sale at the same time, with early adopters getting rid of older models.
Even if a phone is no longer on sale, technology considered cutting-edge last year is unlikely to be disappointing or unsuitable at the start of 2019.
Peace of mind Imagine buying a brand-new handset and then dropping it, or discovering your house keys have scratched the screen while it was in a pocket or bag.
Damaging or losing an older device will be far less stressful, insurance policies are cheaper, and you’re less likely to be a victim of opportunistic theft with an iPhone 6 than an iPhone X.
Suitability A 2017 or 2018 phone should be equally suitable compared to a 2019 model, since no evolutionary leaps or radical advances have occurred in recent years.
Buying used might even enable you to get a bigger screen, a more prestigious brand or better specifications than a new handset costing the same price.
Ecology Blue Planet II has made us all more aware of our ecological footprint, opening our eyes to the destructive impact plastic has on our environment.
Purchasing a second-hand smartphone eliminates the resources needed to build a new one. Plus, when old devices are dismantled, certain components usually end up going to landfill.
The drawbacks of a used smartphone
Lifespan A pre-owned phone might not last long. Smartphones are fragile even when they’re new, and some are ready for retirement after two years.
Daily use shortens the lifespan of key components, from scratches on the camera lens to constant charging (which reduces the battery’s long-term efficiency).
Provenance There’s always a risk when buying second-hand technology that you’re acquiring ill-gotten gains.
Be diligent when buying from auction or community sites, where criminals might be looking to flog stolen merchandise or obtain money for non-existent products.
Warranty If you’re lucky, you’ll get a 30 day warranty from the reseller. Once this expires, any subsequent repair costs are entirely your responsibility.
Even a nearly-new phone won’t have a warranty if it’s been rooted or unlocked, while there’s no telling what damage water, dust or neglect could have caused to internal components.
Hidden faults Because mobile phone resellers tend to stack them high and sell them cheap, used handsets are rarely subjected to intensive testing.
There may be faults the previous owner knew about but the reseller didn’t. Also, the limited warranty outlined above means you’re likely to be left carrying the can if repairs are needed.