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Is It a Good Idea to Buy a Refurbished Mobile Phone?

Buying a refurbished cell phone depends on many factors including price and functions.
A repaired mobile phone is one that has had its problems fixed, but it is not necessarily under warranty and may or may not have been cleaned up.
Refurbished cell phones should work as good as new phones.
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  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2014
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Buying a refurbished mobile phone can be a good option under certain conditions. Consumers need to take into account the phone's cost, whether it has a warranty, and its functions and capabilities, as well as their own level of comfort with using refurbished goods. Another important point to consider is whether the device was refurbished by a reputable and established firm or an unknown entity, as this can affect the phone's quality.

What Is a Refurbished Phone?

A refurbished phone is one that has been returned to a manufacturer or repair shop, fixed if necessary, and reset to its original specifications. The device should, in all respects, work exactly as well as a new phone. Whether or not the phone lives up to that standard can vary, however, depending on factors like why the phone was refurbished in the first place and who did the work. If a phone was returned due to a faulty hardware component that was then fixed instead of being replaced, for example, it is possible that it would be more likely to break a second time. A phone that is repaired by the original manufacturer might also be more reliable than one fixed by someone not as familiar with the technology.

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A refurbished phone can differ from a used phone in what is done to it before it's resold. In most cases, a used phone simply has all of the previous owner's information removed from it. A refurbished mobile phone, on the other hand, has usually been repaired and/or reset, and is typically rigorously tested to make sure that it works as expected.

Why Mobile Phones Are Refurbished

Cell phone customers routinely upgrade their mobile phones every few years, and some people trade up more frequently. These used phones may be discarded if they are no longer compatible with the cellular system, donated to charity, or recycled. Many are sent back to the manufacturer to be refurbished, especially if they are not very old.

Many cell phone service providers allow customers to return a phone within a short period of time if they decide they don't like it for some reason. These devices are usually in perfect working order, but because they've been used, they cannot be resold as new. Instead, they are wiped of all data and sold as refurbished.

Some refurbished phones were originally returned to the service provider or manufacturer because of a malfunction. Instead of fixing the phone immediately, the customer will often be given a new (or previously refurbished) device as a replacement. The mobile phone is usually still fixed, however, so it can be sold again. This type of refurbished mobile phone might be more likely to have problems; although they are thoroughly tested once they are repaired, malfunctions can recur. A consumer may want to ask his or her service provider if they have many phones that were returned because of malfunctions since this can provide information about a potential future problem.

Advantages

Often, a refurbished mobile phone is one that is returned because the original purchaser was not comfortable with it for some reason, not because it malfunctioned. This can be a good deal for the new buyer, allowing him or her to get the latest technology for a fraction of the regular price. In other cases, someone may choose to buy a refurbished mobile phone because the model is no longer being newly manufactured and he or she likes the design or doesn't want to have to learn how to use a new phone again. Another plus is that, buy buying a previously used phone, consumers can feel like they are doing something positive for the environment, keeping one more electronic device out of the landfill.

Disadvantages

People who are concerned about the reliability of a refurbished phone or who cannot risk a malfunction may be better off with a new model. In many cases, there's no way to know why a phone was refurbished, and some people are not comfortable with this lack of knowledge. If a particular model of phone has a frequent defect — such as a charging port that goes bad quickly — this part may wear out again, even though it was replaced. Broken screens, speakers, and microphones are other common reasons for a phone to be returned, and there's no way to know if the same problem won't happen again. Consumers may want to research the model they are considering before buying it to see if there are any common complaints.

Where to Purchase Refurbished Mobile Phones

Cell phone service providers often have refurbished models on hand because of customer returns, and these companies frequently sell these models at a discount to unload their inventory. Buying a phone directly from the service provider also helps guarantee that it will work with the customer's account and phone network. Electronics stores and online retailers also offer these phones, as do specialty stores that only deal in refurbished devices.

It's important to make sure that a refurbished phone is purchased from a reputable company that offers a warranty on its work. Since these phones should work like new if repaired correctly, the company selling them should stand by its work. If a phone doesn't come with some kind of guarantee, it's probably not worth the price.

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Discuss this Article

anon964805
Post 27

I bought a used iphone 5 on Glyde to use on Ting, not realizing that "refurbished" and "used" mean different things. The battery drains from 100 percent to dead in under three hours. I'm going to try again with a refurbished phone from Ting. Hopefully "refurbished" means it will have normal battery life!

anon946070
Post 26

I would consider getting a refurbished phone. I am a Ting customer and have overall been happy with it.

One downside is that you pay full price for device since it is not a contract plan. You can buy used or on Amazon for cheaper than Ting sells them.

It's still worth the device cost with the savings you get vs ATT/Verizon.

anon321315
Post 25

I also purchased one Samsung Galaxy S3 19300 from an online store. It has turned out to be a good deal. Maybe I was lucky as the refurbished phone which reached me was brand new except for a minor cosmetic blemish. I did get a good bargain. The store provided me with manufacturer i.e Samsung's warranty. It's not a bad idea to go for refurbished stuff. You never know how lucky you will be!

anon312173
Post 24

Any carrier or Apple sells their refurbished phones at expensive prices, so if you get any great deal anywhere else, chances are you are buying a clean, nice looking, used phone. Period. Use your common sense people, but who doesn't like a brand new looking used phone at a good price?

anon281301
Post 22

I purchased a secondhand sony ericsson ray. I got it home and the sim port was broken. I took it back, quite happy to get it fixed after a while, but he had to order the part. I was told to come back two days later and it would be fixed. One week later, I'm still waiting and they won't give me my money back. I have a three-month warranty. Can someone help me, please?

anon280442
Post 21

I was sent a refurbished LG rumor two years ago from I-Wireless as a free up grade for being a good customer. It still works great. My son uses it everyday with no issues.

I had other refurbished electronics like a multi pass printer I bought at 1/3 what it would have cost me new and I got about six years out of it.

anon166565
Post 19

Be wary of looking on ebay for phones. I recently knew a friend who bought a great new Iphone off of Ebay for a cheap deal, and in the end that is what it was, a cheap, crappy deal. She brought it into her sprint store and the person working with her had to take her phone because it had been reported stolen a few months before. Sometimes things are too good to be true.

anon156914
Post 18

With certain prepaid companies, like my own Net10, that have phones at very low cost prices - well at least they are to me since I don't feel paying $14 for a basic phone is too much - although you can find even lower price phones with other companies and their re-conditioned phones often come with minute bonus deals included.

In that case, and I'm talking $25 for a phone and minutes with certain deals, Net10 is a company I wouldn't mind buying a refurbished phone from.

anon144839
Post 17

What an awesome post! Thanks a lot. This is a good thing to be shared. - EveryTel

anon113837
Post 16

I bought a refurbished handphone and I am quite happy with the quality of the handphone. Refurbished can cost me more than $200. The phone arrived just like a new handphone.

anon111751
Post 15

One of the biggest problems with buying a used but "refurbished" phone - even ones labeled as "factory refurbished" - is that you never know who did the "refurbishing." Many if not most "refurbished" phones are in fact not refurbished by the original manufacturer, but by other "oddball" companies that in turn "farm out" phone refurbishment to factories operated by just about anyone anywhere. Thus a "factory refurbished" Motorola phone, for example, in all likelihood was "refurbished" by some other company in a who-knows-where factory -- if it was truly refurbished at all.

This arrangement would be OK if all refurbishment companies had very good product inspection and quality control services, but unfortunately many do not. Consequently many "refurbished" phones sold are often not repaired as thoroughly (if at all) as they really should have been prior to resale; sometimes they've not been repaired at all and just had their exterior case and screens just superficially cleaned up.

There is usually no way to determine for certain exactly who, if anyone, actually did the "refurbishing."

Also, many resold "refurbished" phones are models that have been discontinued by the original manufacturer; sometimes the discontinuation occurred quite a long time ago. Thus, if you buy a refurbished phone you *may* have quite some difficulty purchasing additional or replacement batteries or other accessories for it, especially original equipment manufacturers' batteries or accessories.

Remember - even OEM batteries' ability to retain a full charge begins to deteriorate substantially by the one-year mark from date of manufacture (due to deterioration of the lithium ion material in them), and once a Li-ion battery has been charged 1,000 times (or often much less) they become pretty much useless and need to be replaced.

And I *never* recommend that anyone buy a non-OEM replacement battery, as they are almost always made with at least one defective Li-Ion cell that the OEM has already rejected for use in their own brand. If you shop around carefully and thoroughly online for OEM batteries and other accessories you can almost always find what you need for at or less than the price you'd pay for an "after-market" product anyway (and always be sure to consider the "shipping and handling" fee, if any, into the price you pay).

Some yo-yos are even actually trying to sell used batteries on sites like eBay. Never buy a used battery regardless of who made it!

So like others have said, be very cautious when buying a refurbished cell phone - the initial cost savings may simply not be worth the extra aggravation you may have to experience should the one you buy wind up turning out to be a lemon and/or no longer have (new) OEM batteries or accessories available for purchase.

anon106175
Post 14

I purchased a refurbished samsung mythic cell phone online. It arrived and looked like a brand new phone. So far I have been using it for over two weeks and no problems. I saved over $100 buying a refurb rather than a new phone.

thebluedot
Post 13

Actually - only sprint phones can be used with the Sprint network. Some phones can be flashed to Sprint - but the flashing process is kind of complicated.

anon89678
Post 12

I had a refurbished T-Mobile Samsung Behold and I talked with customer service at least one a month with many problems.

The main problem was when I opened the camera to take or look at pictures, the phone would completely lock up and I had to call T-Mobile on my husband's phone to get a master reset. The phone was so horrible that after I got a new one (HTC HD2, which rocks), my nine year old daughter refused to take the Behold.

Be very cautious of refurbished phones.

anon88421
Post 11

I'm getting a manufactured refurbished phone, but Im afraid that the face might be in bad shape. if the phone has scratches like deep ones, do they fix those at the factory?

anon75801
Post 10

I bought a refurbished sidekick id. I'm still waiting on it to come in. Overall I think it will work like new.

anon50376
Post 8

it depends. i got the refurbished nokia 5310. it is wonderful.

reportgirl
Post 7

yes, it depends which kinds of refurbished phone have you got. what about the quality of the phone? of course, most of us believe that we do not need to spend much more money to buy a brand new one which is so expensive. But there is risk about the quality, so it is better to communicate with the vendor about the warrenty. pandawill annouced a series of refurbished blackberry cell phones this month.

anon40617
Post 6

my husband and i ordered refurbished iphones 16 G and LG incite phones. Do you think its practical than buying a new one?

anon33455
Post 5

About the using different phones on sprint, can not be done unless the phone is cdma and is not gsm so that you can get it flashed to sprint. I bought a refurbished phone today and the guy claims it's like new but if somethings wrong do i have a warranty?

nerdtron
Post 4

i got my refurbished phone in the mail and its speaker doesn't work what should i do send it back or try to get it worked on if my warranty says that the second time i send it back the warranty will become void? what should i do?

anon22697
Post 3

You'll have to do one of the two

1. If the phone is setup with a particular carrier then it will have to be unlocked, this shouldn't be done by you unless you know what you are doing. You can usually learn from the internet. Usually phone stands in malls and places of the like can do it. After you unlock it take it to your sprint store and they will help you with the rest.

2. If the phone is already unlocked and just a phone (not a specific carrier on the phone) take it to your sprint store and they should be helpful.

Remember because it is not a phone offered from Sprint you may not get insurance and warranty things for it through Sprint... Hope this Helps. :)

rpl42
Post 2

I`m currently a Sprint customer. I was looking on ebay for a different phone. Can phones from other carriers be used on the Sprint network?

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