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What to Know if you’re Buying a Second-Hand or Refurbished Mobile Phone


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Forking out hundreds of pounds or signing up for a long-term deal that eats into your monthly budget – those are effectively your two choices when it comes to getting a new mobile phone.

There’s not a huge amount of wriggle room if you want to have the latest handset, but if you’re happy with something that does just as good a job but without a few of the most recent bells and whistles, your options start to open up.

Buying second-hand and refurbished doesn’t quite necessarily mean the same thing and we’ll go into some of the differences here.

Are second-hand phones reliable and safe?

If you’re buying a refurbished phone from a reputable retailer, they will typically offer a warranty with your purchase to give you peace of mind that your new device will stand the test of time.

By comparison, if you’re buying a second-hand handset privately, either from a friend or on a platform such as Marketplace, you won’t be afforded quite the same protection.

Another consideration is the age of the handset. Both Apple and Android devices will stop receiving operating system updates after a certain time – and the security updates that come with them.

Used phones and refurbished – what’s the difference?

A refurbished phone will be sold from a manufacturer directly or a specialist retailer.

You can have certain expectations from a refurbished phone. It might have a few scuffs on the exterior, but the mechanical parts will have been updated and it should work as expected for a handset of its age.

You will also be protected by a warranty if something does go wrong.

A second-hand phone bought privately could be in any condition, realistically, and you will have to be careful when purchasing.

Be sure to test the device properly before parting with your cash – does it connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth? Do the speakers work properly? If the seller won’t let you test these yourself, it’s advised to find another one.

Mobile phone grades explained

When purchasing a refurbished phone, you will likely see each handset graded in a certain way depending on the retailer’s specification.

The metrics used to measure the grading can vary, but they will essentially tell you what condition the exterior of the phone is in. It should not have much bearing on how the phone operates.

Typically, the ‘better’ the grade, the newer the handset will be and the less damage it will have taken externally. If you want to save a bit extra, opting for a ‘worse’ grade will see you served a device with a few bumps, but it should still work fine.

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