How to Protect Yourself When Buying a Used Smartphone

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For people looking to upgrade their smartphones, buying a brand-new one is always the most desired option. But to counter economic challenges, a used smartphone is just as good if you know what, how, and where to look for one. A lot of these transactions are now done online, unless you’re buying from a friend or someone local.

Newer model smartphones have almost identical features as the models from two years earlier. Buying the older and used models will save you a few hundred dollars and you’re still getting the elements found in the new model.

When you are in the market for a used phone, you already know what model and type to buy, or you have a few options listed down. It goes without saying that your choice has the features you want in your smartphone. Before you begin your search, here are things you should be aware of when buying a used smartphone.

Know the source

Apple and Samsung both sell refurbished phones, along with one-year guarantees. Carriers have pre-owned phones for sale too. Buying from known stores gives you a level of assurance that you’re buying functional devices. But their stocks are very limited (at one point, AT&T had only three used phones in its list,) and their prices are higher compared to other sellers.

Popular marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay have used phones at remarkably low prices, but you buy at your own risk. These ecommerce websites have had many unsavory characters scamming people out of their cash by pretending to buy or sell something. Another option is to trade-in your old phone for a newer model that’s pre-owned. Most smartphone buyers are also looking to sell their old phones to reduce the cash outlay for the new purchase. Look for “sell phone” sites that assess the value of your old device and accept trade-ins. Do your research as they have varying quotes and you want to get the most out of your deal.

Research prices

Prices of used smartphones vary from seller to seller, and based on certain factors, such as the phone model, storage capacity, display damages, locked to a carrier, and even color. To get the average price of the smartphone you plan to buy, look for them in various sites and read the descriptions. For those that meet your criteria, write down their prices as reference and do your due diligence.

How to buy a new model phone at the cheapest price? Wait for the release of its latest model. The previous models will sell at steeply discounted prices since it’s assumed that the owner will “sell my phone to buy the new one.”

Inspect the phone’s condition

Ideally, inspection should be done physically, so if it’s at all possible, meet up with the seller in a public well-lit place. Online inspection will be done through photos and detailed descriptions. Listings without photos should automatically be excluded.

Dents will indicate that the phone has been dropped and can pose problems later. Minor scratches are cosmetic flaws that can be concealed with a casing, but you can use it as a negotiating point to lower the price. A cracked screen may be a sign of other problems; also, replacing the screen is expensive, usually in the range of $100.

The functionality of the phone is your utmost concern; otherwise, you’ll be paying for a dud. This is also something you can’t check online. Note the return policy before buying and if you proceed, check the phone as soon as it arrives in the mail.

Here are the steps you should do immediately:

Insert your SIM to find out if the phone works. Make a call and send a text message. Most importantly, this test will tell you if the phone is stolen. To do this, dial *#06# on the keypad and a unique IMEI number will appear. Check it against the IMEI website to see if it’s clean.

Make sure the phone you’re buying is not locked. For iPhone, the seller should deactivate the Find My iPhone (in Settings > iCloud) and for Android, it’s the Android Device Manager. You should also ask if the phone is locked to a carrier, so you can decide not to purchase or change to the carrier it is carried on.

Check for water damage. A phone revived after a water damage may not last long or function as well. Androids and iPhones have indicators for water damage. Search for your phone model + moisture indicator to determine if the used phone had contact with water.

If battery lifespan is an issue, it helps to know these: Apple says the battery of iPhones lose 20 percent of their capacity after 300 – 400 charges, which is about two years. You can also check in Settings > Battery > Battery Health to see the capacity in percentage. For Samsung phones, the estimated lifespan for its batteries is two to three years.

An online search will yield service codes that let you test the battery, wi-fi connectivity, screen, etc. Check asap so you can make a claim if there’s a warranty, or return the item and get a refund.

Being informed before you set out to buy that used smartphone will minimize the likelihood of regrets and you’ll get years of use from a good bargain while saving money.


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