What Are Refurbished Phones & Should I Buy It?

Mobile Phone

Oftentimes, when we think of flagship phones, we think of buying the latest and greatest. The iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S20, and Huawei P40 are all enough to make phone enthusiasts salivate. However, not everyone’s up for a flagship phone. Some people lean more toward the practical side and prefer mid-range phones or old flagships.

Many Apple users, for example, prefer the Apple ecosystem but can’t afford the latest iPhone. Some will opt to buy older versions via Apple’s website. However, even those can cost quite a bit of money brand-new. In that case, what should you do? Well, what if there’s a way to buy a flagship without it breaking the bank? If you think it’s too good to be true, it’s not. While it does come with a few quirks, it’s still a viable option. What is it? Two words: refurbished phones.


What Are Refurbished Phones?

What Are Refurbished Phones?
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What is a refurbished phone? It’s not a question that often pops up in many people’s minds. Certainly, there can be a bit of confusion about refurbished phones. There’s even a stigma surrounding the topic. It’s also unhelpful that different retailers and manufacturers may define it differently. 

To put it simply, refurbished phones are used phones, returned or sold, and then repaired. Sometimes this can mean a customer returned the phone during the 14-day return period. This may be due to a faulty product or the customer simply decides they no longer want the phone. It won’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong with the product. Other times, though, sold or traded phones are in for a discount on a new model.

After having returned the phone, the manufacturer or retailer then refurbishes the device. They’ll make repairs and use new parts to replace damaged ones. This is easier if the one refurbishing the phone is the manufacturer itself. They’ll make repairs with parts straight from the source to make the phones almost as good as new.

The last phase is the testing phase. This is to see if it’s in good working condition. Battery life, screen responsiveness, buttons, software, and everything else will be checked. When a phone passes the quality test, it will then be sold as a refurbished phone.


Brand New vs. Refurbished Phones

New VS Refurbished Phones
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What is the difference between new and refurbished cell phones? The main difference is that a new phone has never had a previous owner. A refurbished phone may have had a previous owner, but that doesn’t mean the quality has been degraded. Most people satisfy their purchases of refurbished phones. Many can’t quite tell much of the difference between a new and refurbished phone. 

Perhaps one of the main differences between new and refurbished phones is what comes with it. A refurbished phone won’t come with the original box most of the time. It’ll likely come with plain packaging. Additionally, refurbished products won’t have some of the mobile accessories that normally come with new phones. For example, it’s common that your refurbished phone won’t come with the charger in the box. An even less common commodity when purchasing a refurbished phone is the earphones that come with new phones.

Moreover, new phones have different services available to them as compared to refurbished phones. New phones will have a regular warranty that you might expect from a brand new purchase. Refurbished phones’ warranty, on the other hand, will vary depending on the seller. 

With all of these disadvantages, why buy a refurbished phone over a new one? Well, the biggest advantage here is the price. Most refurbished phones will save you a great deal of money. Moreover, just because refurbished phones are “repaired” doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them per se. Many refurbished phones can be almost indistinguishable from new ones. You just have to find the right seller and do your research.


Things to Keep in Mind

Many people considering purchasing a refurbished phone are concerned about the quality. How reliable are refurbished phones? That’s always the question. When it comes to purchasing a refurbished phone, here are a few things to keep in mind. 



How long do refurbished phones last? Well, lifespans may vary depending on your seller. For instance, a refurbished iPhone sold by Apple itself would have restored parts that are normally employed in new models. Apple guarantees that all the parts are top-of-the-line quality straight from them. They should come with a new battery, outer casing, cables, and accessories.

Refurbished Samsung phones also guarantee this level of quality. According to Samsung, they refurbish phones and restore them to the product’s original condition. The refurbished phone undergoes a top-down inspection with every function and features checked.

The story is different when it comes to buying a refurbished phone from different retailers, though. Some refurbished phones from third-parties don’t include new batteries. In such cases, you should specifically check for phones with a “certified pre-owned” badge. If not, you should ask for detailed information regarding the refurbishing process before purchasing. Ask about battery replacements, the parts they used, and the accessories included in the product.



Phone warranty
© Photo by Irina Sokolovskaya on Adobe Stock Photo

When shopping for a refurbished phone, you must check if they have a warranty. Typically, a warranty should be included if the phone reliably has no issues. Plus, even if the refurbished phone comes with issues, your warranty is your safety net. Be wary if the refurbished phone doesn’t come with a warranty. That means there’s a larger chance that the phone will have problems. Always check for a warranty. 

Most large retailers and sellers have provisions for warranty. A lot include 12-month or six-month warranties that allow for replacement or refund. These warranties also make the unit eligible for repairs if it is deemed necessary. Of course, as with a regular warranty, accidental or intentional damages won’t be honored by the warranty. 


Software Updates

When it comes to software updates, there’s no guarantee you’ll get them, especially with older devices. This is more common in old Android devices with manufacturer support discontinued. Aside from software updates, security updates may not be included as well. It’s known that Samsung’s flagships will offer two years of software updates and three years more for security updates. Support will vary depending on the manufacturer.

Refurbished iPhones may have longer support for software updates, though. It’s well-known that Apple supports phones for up to five years as long as the hardware will allow it. Whatever you’re purchasing, it’s important to research the phone before buying it if software updates are a major factor.


Battery Life

battery life
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Depending on your seller, the refurbished phone’s battery life and capacity may have degraded. Apart from the source manufacturers like Apple and Samsung, other retailers may not replace the batteries. However, many sellers do promise to not sell phones below 80% of their original capacity. Although, this percentage may vary from retailer to retailer.



This is the main reason most people have for buying a refurbished phone: the cheaper price. Sometimes buying refurbished phones can be better than buying low-end, cheap phones. That’s because refurbished phones will have the specs and features of the original phone.

When it comes to price, a refurbished phone is always cheaper than a brand new phone. Your savings will vary from retailer to retailer. However, the amount that you can save in a refurbished phone will surprise you. Some deals will save you as much as $300 though it highly depends on the market.



Not Pristine Quality
© Photo by Quick Mobile Fix YT Channel

Refurbished phones won’t always come in pristine quality as brand new phones. That’s to be expected, especially if you buy from a third-party retailer instead of directly from the manufacturer. While your refurbished phone will be free from major dents and cracks, they may have minor scuffs or scratches. This shouldn’t affect the functionality, though. It just won’t look as pretty and pristine as a brand new phone.



Refurbished Phones GRading
© Photo by Forall Phones YT Channel

It’s not a universal standard, but refurbishers will have some sort of grading for their phones. That’s especially so for third-party retailers. These grades will typically come with the following descriptions:

  • Grade A – should appear new and only have minor wear and handling traces.
  • Grade B – should be good but have some light damage in the form of scuffs, scratches, or chips.
  • Grade C – have the most signs of wear and tear. It’s not uncommon that Grade C phones will visibly appear used or second-hand.


Where to Buy Refurbished Phones?

Where To Buy Refurbished Phones
© Photo by best buy

There are many refurbishing stores that you can buy phones from. It’s even better if the brand’s original manufacturer sells the refurbished model. Frankly, this is the best-case-scenario. Apple and Samsung both do this, although the models they sell may vary. You’ll have to check with them which phones they sell refurbished.

If you’re looking for a model that neither Apple nor Samsung offers, you should check with a third-party retailer. There are many of these you can find around. You can easily find Best Buy refurbished phones or even ones from Amazon and eBay. Other retailers include Swappa, Gazelle, and Decluttr. Even certain mobile carriers offer refurbished phones like Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint. 


Final Word

Buying refurbished phones isn’t for everybody but neither is buying brand-new phones. Refurbished phones can offer you great savings at a great quality to boot. There’s just a little more research you have to do when buying refurbished. Still, if the pros weigh greater than the cons in your case, refurbished phones are quite a viable option.