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5 things you should know when buying a refurbished or used iPhone

Summary List PlacementThe latest smartphones can be breathtakingly expensive, and much of the blame can be laid at Apple's feet — when it began selling the iPhone X for $999 in 2017, the company normalized pricing that has spread across the smartphone industry. You can avoid taking such a big...

couple looking at smartphone outside

Summary List Placement

The latest smartphones can be breathtakingly expensive, and much of the blame can be laid at Apple’s feet — when it began selling the iPhone X for $999 in 2017, the company normalized pricing that has spread across the smartphone industry.

You can avoid taking such a big chunk out of your pocket by buying a pre-owned or refurbished model, if you’re careful about what you buy.

5 things to know before you buy a used iPhone

Keep these things in mind when buying a used or refurbished iPhone of any model.

A refurbished iPhone is a safer bet than used

There’s a large market for previously used iPhones. You can buy used iPhones from private sellers, but refurbished phones are also sold seemingly everywhere, at retailers like Swappa, Amazon (Amazon’s refurbished phones are called Renewed), and even Apple’s own site

A used phone is exactly that — used — and it usually comes as-is without a warranty. A refurbished phone, on the other hand, has been tested to make sure it’s working properly, defective parts have been replaced, and it comes with a warranty. In other words, refurbs are like new, though they might have some cosmetic blemishes like scratches on the case. You can generally count on the battery being either in excellent condition or newly replaced. 

tech hands working on smartphone replacing parts refurbished

Check to make sure the iPhone will work with your carrier

In recent years, Apple has made it easy to use the iPhone with any wireless carrier — every model of each new version in the US works with all major carriers. But if you’re buying an iPhone X or older, the model number can matter. 

For the iPhone X, for example, there are two models: The iPhone X A1865 is a combination GSM and CDMA model that works on any carrier, while the iPhone X A1901 is GSM-only, intended for carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, but not Verizon or Sprint. The bottom line is to check the details and make sure the used phone is compatible with the carrier you want to use. 

Make sure the iPhone isn’t stolen

There’s always a risk that a used iPhone has been stolen, which means it might be Activation Locked and won’t respond to your SIM card. The risk is greatest when you buy a phone from a private seller because most reputable retail and reseller sites will check this for you.

To make sure that your potential iPhone hasn’t been reported stolen, you can check the phone’s IMEI number. If you’re meeting with a seller and have physical access to the phone, find the IMEI number in the Settings app. In Settings, tap “General” and then “About.” Scroll down until you see the IMEI number listed — plug the number into either CTIA’s Stolen Phone Checker or the IMEI Check managed by reseller Swappa.

Make sure the battery is reliable

One of the most common reasons why a private seller is trying to get rid of an old iPhone is that the battery no longer works effectively, so you should check the battery health before buying it. With other portable devices the only way to know for sure if the battery still works is to try charging and using it, but with Apple products, there’s a way to assess the battery health in the Settings app.

As long as the used phone is running iOS 11.3 or later, open Settings and then choose “Battery.” Tap “Battery Health” and check the battery’s maximum capacity.

Make sure the phone isn’t water damaged

The most recent iPhone generations are water-resistant, but water damage is a real concern for older generations. You might want to ensure your used iPhone hasn’t been water damaged. 

If you’re buying an iPhone 6 or later, remove the SIM tray and look for signs of red inside the tray slot – that indicates the phone’s Liquid Contact Indicator has been activated. (The iPhone 5’s water damage indicator is in the charging port, but that phone is far too old to consider buying used.)

iphone sim card tray

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SEE ALSO: The best iPhone accessories

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