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Are you thinking of buying a used smartphone? Don’t want to be stuck with a long-term carrier contract or simply can’t afford to fork out the full price of a brand new smartphone? Whatever your reasons, the following are a few things that you should consider before buying a used phone.

Ebay, Amazon and other online marketplaces are flooded with used smartphone offers. These tips will help you avoid being scammed and get value for your money.

Physical Appearance

This may seem like a no-brainer but a visual examination should go beyond just looking out for a scratched screen or loose back cover. You should be particularly concerned about liquid damage which leads to slow buildup of rust.

Open the back cover and check the battery sticker for any signs of discoloration – specifically a yellow or orange hue. In case the owner has changed the battery, check any similar internal stickers for signs of rust. Also, check all the ports (USB and charging) for any signs of discoloration. These are metallic parts and any discoloration is an indicator of water damage.

When looking for cracks, ensure that the device is switched on. Examine the camera lens for any signs of scratches as well. Also, a phone with many dents and cracks is a good sign it has been dropped or banged up a lot, so the internal components may not be reliable.

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Technical Specifications

Buy a used phone with the technical specifications that meet your needs. Do you watch videos a lot or spend many hours browsing the Internet? If that’s the case, you would need a phone with a large screen to enhance your experience. Find out the technical specs of the camera. How many megapixels does it offer? Consider if you need a phone with a front facing camera as well for social media interaction and making video calls. You can get all the technical specifications of the used phone from the manufacturer’s website. Just do a search for the phone model and visit the manufacturer’s website.

Also, the phone may look brand new but some features may not be functional. Test the touchscreen to see if it works. Swipe and tap to confirm that everything is in good working order. Take note of any lags as this may be indicative of problems with the internal circuitry and a sign that the phone may go to sleep permanently in the near future.

Thinking of Buying a Used Smartphone? 6 Things To Consider smartphone specs ram

Is the Phone Stolen?

Confirm that you are not buying a stolen device. It would be tragic to buy a phone only to discover that it has been reported stolen and the authorities come knocking on your door. These days this is a very serious problem. Hundreds of smartphones are stolen and then shipped to foreign countries where they are sold to unsuspecting customers. Buying such a phone fuels the growth of global mobile phone theft crimes. Though phone manufacturers worldwide have yet to create a global database of stolen phones or some other cost effective technical method to block the use of stolen phones, you can play your part by exercising due diligence.

Ask the seller for the IMEI, ESN or MEID and check various online resources to find out if the phone is stolen. A simple search for ‘IMEI check‘ or ‘ESN check‘ yields several good websites where you can check if the phone is legit. For example, for just $2.99, the CheckMEND website generates a report of your smartphone’s history. If the phone is locked to a particular carrier, you can request the IMEI or ESN from the seller and call the carrier for confirmation. For more more information on this, I recommend you read Christian’s article on finding out if the smartphone you bought was stolen How Can I Tell If My New (Used) Smartphone Is Stolen? How Can I Tell If My New (Used) Smartphone Is Stolen? Read More .

Thinking of Buying a Used Smartphone? 6 Things To Consider muo stolenphone checkmend

Is The Phone Unlocked?

An unlocked phone offers greater flexibility when choosing a cellular carrier. However, whether locked or unlocked, the price of the phone will eventually determine whether the purchase is worth it. You may find that even though the phone is locked, the price is fair enough to warrant a purchase. It is also possible to unlock a phone so you can always purchase a used locked phone at a fair price and then unlock it. Used unlocked phones are usually more expensive.

Thinking of Buying a Used Smartphone? 6 Things To Consider unlock cell phone

Android vs. iPhone

The next thing you need to consider is the operating system. Which operating system do you prefer? If you are looking for security, ease of use and a sleek polished look, then you should go with the iPhone. However, if you are more into device personalization and versatility, then pick an Android phone. We have several articles that can help you out with the Android versus iPhone dilemma. For example, Danny wrote an interesting article on five things that iPhone users cannot do iCan't: 5 Things Android Users Take For Granted and iPhone Users Just Can't Do iCan't: 5 Things Android Users Take For Granted and iPhone Users Just Can't Do Have you ever thought that there might be a reason Android users brag about their customizability? Sure, as an iPhone user, you can add and configure apps, change your wallpaper, and otherwise make yourself feel... Read More while Tim published an article on why you should choose an iPhone over Android 5 Reasons To Choose iPhone Over Android [Opinion] 5 Reasons To Choose iPhone Over Android [Opinion] If you’re considering buying your first smartphone, you’ve got a fairly big decision to make. As well as choosing a carrier, plan and minimum contract period you then have to trawl through the barrage of... Read More .

android vs iphone

Buyer Protection

There is no shortage of horror stories on the Internet about people who bought used smartphones only for the seller to fail to ship the item and disappear with the money. Protect yourself from this misery by using buyer protection services.

eBay’s Money Back Guarantee offers a good level of protection from online scammers. If you are not using eBay, insist on paying via PayPal to take advantage of PayPal’s Purchase protection. Many other online marketplaces also have similar programs to protect buyers. But, if you are making your purchase via Craigslist, I recommend you read our article to learn how to avoid being scammed on Craigslist Taking The Battle To Craigslist Scammers: How To Avoid Scams On Craigslist Taking The Battle To Craigslist Scammers: How To Avoid Scams On Craigslist Launched way back in 1995, Craigslist took the Internet world by storm with its innovative cross of classified ads with the web. But as with all Internet-based transactions, some users prefer to game the system... Read More . You can also use an escrow service where funds are held by a third party service until the item is delivered to the buyer and receive confirmation that the goods shipped are as described.

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A Quick Word on Refurbished Phones

The main difference between a used phone and a used refurbished phone is that a used phone is sold as it is. A refurbished phone, on the other hand, is tested and repaired for any flaws. It should function just as well as new smartphone but is much cheaper. Some vendors offer warranties on refurbished phones though much shorter than the typical warranty periods for new handsets. You can find deals for refurbished phones on eBay and Amazon.

The Take Away

It generally isn’t a good idea to purchase a used smartphone over the Internet because you obviously cannot perform a proper examination. You can always ask the seller to send you high resolution photographs before you make a purchase decision but nothing beats actual physical examination.

Finally, get an idea of the cost of a used handset. Browse eBay and other sites to get a general idea of the average prices. When you perform a price comparison make sure you are not comparing apples and oranges. The phone models you compare must be as similar as possible in terms specs, age, general physical condition and all the parameters mentioned above.

Have you ever bought a used smartphone online or offline? How did you go about it? Please share your experience with us in the comments below.

Photo credits: robertnelson via FlickrMaksim Kabakou via Shutterstock, 37prime via Flickr, zugaldia via Flickr

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