Thrifting has become a way of life for many but has seen an increase in popularity in the last decade as the cost of living has gone up and people are looking for ways to maintain their own modern lifestyle, without breaking the bank. More and more people are opting for second-hand and ‘pre-loved’ items because it’s cheaper, often looks new and gets the job done. The second-hand phone market has caught on to this trend and is progressively opting for ‘pre-loved’, second-hand and refurbished mobile phones.
Second-hand phones are great for people that are price conscious, or are not very tech-savvy – they simply want a functional phone that will do the job. Here’s how you can find a phone that meets your requirements and won’t leave your bank account feeling bare.
What is a Refurbished Phone?
Refurbished phones are phones which have been returned to the manufacturer because of a hardware defect or because the owner signed their contract, but didn’t follow through with payment and phone purchase. These phones are checked, repaired if necessary and re-packaged for sale.
These phones are thoroughly checked by technicians to verify the battery, radio antenna, cameras and screen are working as expected. Faulty hardware is replaced, and whatever software bug that caused the phone to be returned is triaged and fixed. The phone is formatted to wipe all traces of data that may have been left behind by a previous owner, which is necessary to maintain standards of security and customer privacy.
Refurbished devices often come with a 12-month warranty, which means you don’t run the risk of having to put up with a faulty phone just because it wasn’t a brand new purchase. You’re pretty much buying a new phone at a second-hand price.
Where do refurbished phones come from?
Refurbished phones have become a major market for phone providers and manufacture alike. From Apple’s buyback options to money-back guarantees from mobile providers, cheap, second-hand and refurbished phones can come from all over the place. Here are a few ways you can get your hands on a quality refurbished phone.
Every Australian phone company is required to give you a 14-day window to return your phone within if you’ve bought your phone through their online store or telesales channel. You can return your phone and service, after having paid for the portion of the service you have used. More prominent phone companies offer an extended return period and phones that are returned during that time come back into the market as refurbished phones.
Phone buyback Options
Apple and other phone manufacturers offer buyback options to allow their customers to upgrade to a newer version, while also maintaining their ‘loyalty’ base of customers to ensure they stay loyal to the brand.
Optus and Telstra allow customers to purchase phones under ‘leasing’ agreements that leave ownership of the phone to the telecom company and when the tenure is up, the mobiles are returned to the company.
The Australian government has encouraged the recycling and reuse of phone products in a bid to play its part in supporting a green planet. Most people will use their phone for 20 months before looking to upgrade to another one. They are also more likely to purchase a refurbished phone if they were already using one.
Family members and friends who are looking to upgrade to a newer model or aren’t happy with the user experience of their handset are often happy to hand their phones down to a family member or sell them to a friend at a subsidised price. You can always put the word out in your circle of friends that you’re after a phone and see what comes back. It’s a great way to score a great phone at a bargain price.
Grey Market (Gumtree/eBay)
Another popular place to get your refurbished, used in good condition or barely used second-hand mobile phones is online platforms like Gumtree, eBay, Facebook Marketplace and TradeMe. You can get an unused older model, a refurbished phone or a second-hand phone for much less than it would’ve initially cost, depending on your budget and needs.
Last audited 23 November 2020
Pros and Cons of Cheap Mobile Phones
You’ll be helping the environment:
eWaste is particularly difficult to destroy without harming the planet. Refurbishing mobile phones manage their disposal in a way that will allow for maximum reuse and minimum waste.
Cheaper than brand new:
A refurbished mobile phone can easily save you up to 30% on the price of a new phone. The cost of a mobile phone’s hardware is typically half the cost to use the phone over a 24-36 month period. Of course, a point to note is that savings will vary with brand and model.
Familiarity with User Experience or Operating System:
Most people are loyal to an iPhone or Android phone because of their preference for the user experience that comes from the operating system. The features are just a bonus, not a necessity for many. Refurbished phones give people that sense of familiarity and confidence of usage.
Comes with accessories:
A refurbished phone comes with all the accessories a new phone comes with. They may not be as shiny as a brand new phone, but you will get the customary earphones and charge set neatly packaged with your phone.
Not the latest or the greatest:
Most refurbished phones are older models and therefore cost that much less than a newer one. There will be a slight difference in the look and feel and specifications, but the functionality will be the same. The newer a refurbished phone, the lesser the price difference and therefore, fewer savings.
If you’re buying anything that isn’t brand new or from a brand outlet store, then make sure you verify the quality of products from the place you intend to make your purchase from.
Which service providers sell refurbished phones?
Boost and OVO mobile both sell refurbished phones.
OVO Mobile offers ‘like new’ mobile phones that are 30% cheaper than a new one. You can get an iPhone 7 32GB for lower costs and comes with a 12-month warranty. OVO, however, has been recently acquired by amaysim, so they no longer sell any new mobile services.
You can get an iPhone XS 64GB and a free $30 SIM card, which also comes with a 12-month warranty, from Boost Mobile. They have refurbished mobile phones ranging from iPhone, Androids to Pixel phones that suit every budget and every need at bargain rates.
Why are refurbished phones cheaper?
A refurbished phone has previously been used by someone else and it may have been carefully looked after, a well-maintained phone, or may have been used to its fullest capacity and may have just a little bit longer to go. The extent a phone has been used makes it a cheaper option, with nearly the same output as a new phone. If you’re someone who is only after a set of features and functionality that are available on a particular phone, this could be an economically viable option for you.
This may be a phone that was returned within the 14-day window offered by phone manufacturers to customers who purchased their phone through their online store or telesales channel.
Buy back schemes
Apple and other phone manufacturers offer buyback schemes to allow their customers to upgrade to a newer version, while also maintaining their ‘loyalty’ base of customers to ensure they stay loyal to the brand. These schemes then allow them to refurbish the reacquired phones and sell them at a lower price, yet earning revenue through the second hand phone market.
These phones may have been returned because of faulty hardware or a software bug that would’ve led to customer dissatisfaction and return of the phone. The vendor may not always disclose what the fault with the phone was before it was fixed, but depending on the type of fault and fix the price of the phone is reduced to clear.
A refurbished phone does not come in the original packaging, however, more often than not comes with all the accessories a new phone comes with. They may not be the original accessories that typically accompany that handset but you will get the customary earphones and charge set neatly packaged with your phone.
Apple does, however, provide the same packaging and accessories for refurbished phones. So iPhone users will get the best “almost new” phone experience.
The battery on a refurbished phone is the original battery it came with, unless it was specifically returned because of battery issues. In this case, the battery may have been replaced by a brand new one or one that is in a relatively better state than the original one.
Grading on a refurbished phone is an indication of the extent of wear and tear on a phone. There are no formal international standards to grading and it varies from vendor to vendor.
In a nutshell, the grade ranges from A-D and the breakdown is as follows:
- Grade A: This is a near new phone. It may have been returned within the 30 day cooling off period, making it a brand new phone by all means. These phones look and feel brand new and may at most show negligible signs of wear.
- Grade B: This phone will have some signs of external damage, minor dents and scratches.
- Grade C: Refurbished phones graded ‘C’ will have very visible signs of heave or excessive usage. They are still in working order but will look like a used phone.
- Grade D: Refurbished grade ‘D’ is the lowest quality of a refurbished phone. You will see obvious blemishes on the case or lid. These phones are significantly cheaper than grade A and B phones making them ideal for those in need of a phone with a small budget.
However, not all retailers used the A-D grading method and many will just list the phone grade as “good” or “excellent” to describe the condition of the phone.
Refurbished phones come with a warranty period that is much lesser than a brand-new phone. It is common to see a 12-month warranty on a refurbished phone, if purchased from a legitimate retailer or phone service provider.
Are second hand phones worth it?
A second-hand or refurbished mobile phone can get you excellent value for money in terms of the overall cost of the phone and the service. It is tricky to get a good mobile phone without the security of the warranty and benefits that come with a brand new phone, but if you do your homework right and go with a trusted sales channel, you will be rewarded with savings and a great phone.