If money is tight, sometimes you can’t afford to use our list of the best smartphones to get a new mobile – even the rankings of the best cheap phones can sometimes ignore the cost of living.
But luckily, there is a way to get the technology without breaking the bank, and that is to buy refurbished products. You might think that “refurbished gadgets” are just the second hand ones with a fancier name, but there is one key difference: these are the ones that have been restored by experts to make them look good as new.
Well, that’s how refurbished phones generally work, but there are unreliable dealers on the market, as well as a lot of potential pitfalls when buying second-hand technology.
For some advice on how to stay safe when buying refurbished gadgets, we spoke to Katy Medlock, the UK General Manager for the Backmarket sales website (opens in a new tab)so you can stay safe while getting low-cost technology.
How to look for a refurbished smartphone
From browsing sites like Backmarket and other refurbished sites, you can see that the prices are lower than the new equivalents – of course, this is an integral part of buying a second-hand device.
The discount depends on how new the device is – something like the iPhone 13 has a smaller reduction than the iPhone 11. But, according to the brand, you should consider older devices first:
“The perception of needing the latest model is something that forces many people to buy a new device when they may not actually need it.”
Backmarket on the other hand recommends that you consider every option that suits your particular needs: if you need an iOS device you need an iPhone, for example, and if you want a phone with a large battery, something like a Moto G device could be great, instead of just buying whatever newest model is. “There are also a lot of savings to be made by thinking about technology this way,” it seems.
We asked if there was a good time to get a refurbished phone and we got a pretty clear answer:
“Usually around the time of any announcement from a major handset maker, many devices become available as millions of people abandon their device in favor of the latest technology.”
It will obviously depend on the model. If you want an iPhone, you’ll want to wait for Apple’s annual September event, while if you want a Samsung Galaxy phone, you’ll want to flip your calendar in late January or early February, when Samsung generally launches its latest Galaxy S device.
“Many people who want the latest models end up reselling their old device, which is great for refurbished buyers who will be able to find many more choices in terms of models and price.”
Are Refurbished Dealers Reliable?
If you buy a new iPhone from Apple, you know it will work as the company intended, but it doesn’t if you’re buying a used and refurbished version. Different vendors may have different standards when it comes to snuff and may focus on cutting corners to offer low prices.
Backmarket told us that, as a third-party site that focuses on bridging the gap between buyers and sellers, it uses algorithms to change the playing field:
“We do not view our entire catalog: our algorithm carefully selects the best value based on the quality / price ratio and displays only one product in real time for each product ID (model, storage, color, quality, etc.).
“This leads to healthy competition among repairers, which is not based on price and therefore prevents them from undercutting each other. So they are forced to prioritize the quality of the products they sell on the Backmarket.”
The site also points out that: “For added peace of mind, all of our products come with a warranty, which means they are protected the same way as a new device should a problem occur”, so if you are really worried about buying refurbished products, you have a backup plan.
After receiving your phone
Once you have received your affordable refurbished gadget, there are a few things you can check to make sure you have a fully functional device. In fact, Backmarket has pointed out four key areas and things you can check out.
Key elements to check on your refurbished phone:
1. Battery status
2. Audio and microphone
The first of these is battery status – is basically how much of its initial capacity is left in the battery. Things like fast charging, keeping the device plugged in while it’s at 100% power, and letting the phone drain completely can all affect this.
You can generally check the battery status in your phone’s Settings menu and you should make sure it’s not terribly low if you’ve just bought a new phone, or it won’t last long.
Next is the telephone Audio capacity, both its speakers and microphones, and Backmarket suggests a very easy way to test it. Just record a voice memo using your phone’s built-in app (most will have one but the names may be different – search the pre-installed apps), then play it aloud on your device.
If you can hear your own voice chirping, then you can rest assured that everything is working as expected.
The third thing to check, according to Backmarket, is the rear camerasand once again the site has a simple test: to check for snappers, take a picture of a simple piece of paper or white surface.
This way, you can see “potential spots or dust on the lens”, which could hamper the image quality. Remember to do this with all rear cameras if your phone has more.
Finally, Backmarket suggests you check out the screen – hopefully you’ll notice any errors here pretty quickly, but it’s worth checking by playing a video or looking at a plain blank page to see if there are any issues.
According to surveys, buying refurbished phones has never been as popular as it is now, partly due to lower prices but also due to the lower carbon footprint of buying or selling used devices. And hopefully with this advice you can enjoy yourself.