It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a new mobile model. And with some high-end handsets coming in at over £1,000 or more, getting a refurbished phone can help you get that dream iPhone or Samsung Galaxy without breaking the bank. If you’re desperate to get your hands on the iPhone 11, for example, you might find yourself drawn to refurbished phones. The advantages of refurbished phone deals are pretty clear. For one, you can knock a chunk off the handset price, and for another, they may even be unlocked, so you’re free to go to any network. However, you should be wary of buying a refurbished iPhone from anyone but a trustworthy mobile retailer.
This is a vital question when it comes to buying a second-hand phone. Unfortunately, this term is often used without reflecting the true definition of the word. Depending on your retailer, the level of refurbishment may vary, from inspection and cleaning to including a charger or installing a new battery. You should query this with your chosen network provider or retailer before going ahead with any purchase.
Read on as we explore the current refurbishment processes from several leading providers:
Vodafone doesn’t sell refurbished phones in the traditional sense. Instead, it stocks “Nearly New” models. This means these devices haven’t been previously owned for an extended period, but they were previously purchased, unpacked and used, and then returned within the 14-day cooling-off period:
Only pristine handsets will be resold
Phones have never been previously owned longer than 14 days
O2 has a five-point check before phones can be sold ‘like new’, the only type of refurbished phone you can get from O2:
Check the battery successfully charges
Check buttons, security and cameras for functionality
Check the sound and microphone for clear audio
Access touch screen for successful pinching, typing, zooming and rotation
Check the Wi-Fi connectivity
Other guarantees come with the ‘like new’ claim, including:
No more than five superficial scratches
No chips more than 2mm in length
Loaded with the latest operating system (OS)
Rigorous testing for functionality
12-month warranty included
EE devices are available as Good as New, offering you a saving of up to £240, according to EE. Good as New phones will:
Be previously purchased devices returned within 14 days
Have never been sent for repair for any known fault
Have passed testing for functionality and cosmetic defects
Come with original packaging and a charger
Come with a 14-day return policy
Come with an EE lifetime guarantee – if something goes wrong, it will be replaced for free
Are eligible for a yearly phone MOT
You can also trade in your old device for money off your next EE phone deal.
giffgaff offer a range of refurbished phones across four different categories:
Visible and obvious wear and tear
Chips, scratches, scuffs and wear
Scratching and marking
Cosmetic wear and tear that is less obvious than “good”
Light non-obvious marking
Brand new in appearance
All giffgaff used phones are tested for functionality and all of the previous owner’s data is removed. All giffgaff handsets are also:
Come with a 12-month guarantee
If you send an iPhone back to Apple directly, there’s an official process. A refurbished iPhone that has been serviced by Apple will:
Be tested for full functionality
Have faulty components replaced
Be thoroughly cleaned
Be provided with the original OS or an updated version
Be supplied with new and complete documentation
Unlike refurbished phone deals from network providers, you won’t get extras like MOTs or a total call package from Apple. You’ll just get the handset.
Samsung also offers refurbished phones. It claims to have a much more comprehensive refurbishing process than other options. However, as all deals are handset only, you won’t get extras like a complete data package. Refurbished Samsung phones will:
Have had damaged parts replaced
Have had software updated
Need to pass over 400 tests for usability
Come with a new charger and set of headphones
Come with a 12-month warranty
A factory reset’s normal purpose is to wipe your phone of data. That doesn’t include online data or data on SD cards. It’s usually used when you have an issue like continuous freezing, slow performance or constantly crashing apps.
Put simply, it ‘refreshes’ your phone so you can start again. A factory reset is not meant to be used as a way of removing all traces of you from your device – and it won’t.
No, probably not. A factory reset only clears your phone of data at a local level. That means information stored on your actual device. Information kept on the cloud and your online accounts will remain. So even if your apps are gone, should the next user download the same app, they might be able to log into your account.
Tests also suggest that factory resets don’t prevent data being recovered. So while your data may not be easily accessible, if someone was truly committed to recovering it, they could do so.
A professionally refurbished phone has been completely data wiped. That means there will be no residual user data or files hidden anywhere on the system.
Go to a reputable network retailer. It’s worth remembering that, depending on your operating software, some phones don’t delete user data even after a factory reset, they will just hide them and mark them as deleted. With that in mind, you should never look to sell your phone without a trustworthy supplier wiping all your personal data from it.
If you plan to give your phone to someone you can trust, like a sibling or a friend, this might not be too much of a concern. But you should avoid selling your phone to a stranger through forums or online listings.
You could try a refurbishment yourself, though a lot of programs that are easily, commercially available will likely have a counter data recovery program for users with the opposite issue. To be completely certain your data cannot be retrieved, go to a network provider. You may even get money for your device or money off your next mobile phone deal.
You should only buy a refurbished phone from a trustworthy retailer, such as a network provider like Tesco, Sky or Virgin Media. If you’re looking on online auction sites, you’ll likely see listings incorrectly using the term ‘refurbished’ for phones that have only undergone a factory reset. You should avoid buying phones that aren’t from established mobile retailers.
Also, you should bear in mind that a factory reset doesn’t affect online accounts. So, if your phone is tied to a Google or Apple account and the previous user has not removed their credentials, you’ll be stuck at a log-in screen and unable to change users, making your bargain second-hand phone a very expensive paperweight.