Not keen to spend big bucks on a brand new phone? It turns out you can still get close to brand new, provided you don’t mind something reconditioned.
Buying a new phone is rarely a cheap exercise. Outside of taking a glance at the wonderful world of mid-range mobiles or even dipping into something markedly less expensive, new mobiles tend to cost the proverbial arm or leg, and can help explain why so many people jump into the world of long-term contracts.
While the value of 24- and 36-month phone contracts can be a little hit and miss, thanks in part to whether a phone will even survive ownership in that time, the high cost of mobiles can make sense of why we’re so willing to pay for a great phone for such a long period of time.
By comparison, new phones paid outright don’t come with the burden of paying long term for something that may be broken by the time you’re close to finishing the payment, even if they do carry the burden of a large outset to begin with.
But there’s also another option popping up more and more, and if you don’t mind being the second owner, it may be rewarding.
Australians aren’t exactly new to the world of used gear sold on by others, even if the days of newspaper classifieds clearly aren’t what they used to be. These days, we’ve just shifted our medium, moving from print to the online worlds delivered by the likes of eBay, Gumtree, and Facebook, to name a few.
However, there are other places popping up that specialise in mobile devices sold after being owned at least once, and these refurb marketplaces are set up specifically to allow buyers to jump into a used device without needed to worry so much about whether it has been treated well in the first place.
We’ve seen Boost offer pre-owned phones and gadgets in the past, connected to its telco, but it’s not the only one, with Reebelo following recently.
Another of the many refurb marketplaces, the company told us that it follows rigorous testing to ensure mobiles sold on its system are checked, and only sold when those standards are met, which may be more than what a used phone seller goes through.
The list of checks isn’t quite up front, but the quality of a mobile can be found through a listing of device condition, which includes:
- Brand New
While the last of these is pretty clear — brand new is an original device with no previous owner, sealed, and comes with the original warranty — the others are all indications of what you’re buying, kinda sorta.
For instance, “premium” suggests no scratches to the screen, but that the battery offers a minimum battery health of 90 percent and may have minimal signs of wear. On the other hand, “pristine” more references the screen, with no scratches there, but a battery of above 80 percent with minimal signs of wear. We’re not entirely sure we agree with the definition of “pristine” here — and the dictionary sure doesn’t — but each to their own.
Below these, and the quality can differ, though it might save you some money, with “excellent” showing minimal scratches to a screen that are barely noticeable when the screen is off, while “good” has visible scratches. “Acceptable” reportedly has prominent screen scratches and micro scratches on the phone’s body, though Reebelo says the body won’t have dents or bends, and a minimum of 80 percent battery life is consistent across all of the conditions.
Whether you’re happy with one of these condition levels above others will depend on your needs, but they can save money. Take the recent iPhone 15, which sells new for $1499, but can be found from $1364 for a “premium” model, suggesting someone has already sold one back to Reebelo since its release. A saving of $135 may be just enough to tempt some people over to the world of refurbs, and it’s not alone.
Is it just phones?
And it’s not just phones, either. While mobile devices are the common gadget found this way, refurb marketplaces have opened up to tablets, computers, and wearables, too.
Essentially anything electronic that’s a little on the costly side and can be reconditioned for use by another can be found.
Are there risks with buying refurb?
The downside of buying a refurb or reconditioned device is that you aren’t the original owner, and so the original vendor warranty won’t likely pass on to you. That means good luck dropping off a used iPhone at the local Apple Store and expecting the automatic AppleCare warranty you normally get for a year.
Refurb houses like Reebelo do tend to include a 12 month warranty, but they’re often back to Reebelo or someone else, meaning you can’t just drop it in the way you would a regular outright purchase.
That may be an issue, too: while devices sold on refurb marketplaces get tested, those tests may not always give a total indication on whether something will fail. Memory, storage, speakers, and screens can all exhibit problems post check and past a sale, and so you may need to act on that included warranty at times.
It can be a particularly pointed problem with computers, where the age of components may not give a true indicator of how they’ve been treated, and may see end of life issues sooner than expected.
However, the checks being performed are better than no checks at all, which is largely what happens when purchased from a private seller, suggesting a refurb marketplace could be slightly safer for device purchases than buying in a private classified listing.
And worst case scenario, some of these components can be actively replaced, such as how screens and batteries can each be replaced in a phone, though deeper issues may need a total replacement of hardware.
Are there good reasons for buying a refurbished phone?
Regardless of how you buy, going refurbed or reconditioned comes with the obvious upside of saving money, however there’s another upside: it can help keep e-waste down.
While device makers are going to enormous lengths to close the cycle of materials used and cut back on unnecessary use, buying a new device will at times mean that virgin materials are found. Recycling another device for continued use means that device isn’t just being sent to the trash-heap, but being repurposed and seeing continued use, potentially saving on raw materials in the process.