Tips on Buying a Used Phone Safely
The latest and greatest in smartphone technology tends to come with a hefty price tag, so many consumers may prefer to buy a used phone and still get a modern device at a fraction of the cost. However, one of the drawbacks of buying used is the potential risk involved, such as the possibility of buying a defective or stolen phone. Here are some tips that can help you (and your money) remain safe.
The Right Price and the Right Phone
When looking for a used phone, it is good to keep in mind that prior year model phones still have lots of value and can be more than what you may need. Not to mention, if you’re looking to buy used, you will probably be saving a lot of money over buying the new shiny model. Looking to prior models can actually get you many of the features you want while shaving a lot off of the final purchase price. When you decide on the phone you want, take some time to research prior models, alternate models or manufacturers, or even comparable versions of the same phone. You may be surprised to find that a 1 or 2 or even 3 yr old model has everything you need and want, at a significantly reduced price, often up to 80% or more off the price of a new model.
Once you have decided on the right make and model of phone that is right for you, you will need to find the right phone. You will find a lot of choices on websites like Kijiji, eBay, local “Swap-and-buy” sites or even right here at Wi West Wireless Repair. However, before you rush out and buy a used device, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
First, you should check to see if the phone you are looking to buy is locked or unlocked (you can see our article explaining unlocked phones here). Often, private sellers from kijiji, etc. may not understand what a locked phone is or even that many phones are carrier locked. Always check for yourself if a phone is locked, to which carrier it is locked, or if it is unlocked. An unlocked phone typically will cost more than a locked one does, as an unlocked phone offers freedom to roam and use SIM cards from any other network providers. Also, sometimes the seller may mistakenly advertise the phone as locked to carrier A but it is really locked to carrier B. Again, checking this before you buy can save you time, money, and the headache of buying a phone that does not work for you.
Second, do a bit of research on price. Don’t trust that the first price you see is necessarily a fair or accurate one. Different phones, just like used cars, do not all sell for the same price. The make, model, condition, and often, carrier of a phone will determine the used value of a mobile phone. Any phone purchased at Wi West Wireless Repair will also have undergone a 20 point inspection to make sure the device is ready to go when you pick it up. Before you pay for the mobile phone, make sure you test it and are happy with it as most used mobile phones, whether from a private seller or from a local retailer, are often final sales.
Lastly, when you meet in person with the seller to Close the Deal, this is your chance to negotiate while also verifying that the phone is everything the seller claims. If the seller hesitates or is reluctant in any way to allowing you to inspect the phone, check the IEMI, or investigate anything else, take this as a red flag and walk away.
Things to look over on the used phone
Assuming the seller is legitimate, this is the time to run the phone through a few checks:
- Physically inspect the phone. Look for any damage to the exterior housing, any scrapes, any dents, and especially any damage to the screen that you may not have already been aware of. If the phone has a removable battery panel, remove the back, the battery, and any cards included. Most phones will have a water damage indicator located under the backing, sometimes where the SIM card is located and sometimes on the battery itself. It looks like a small white square. If the square is red or pink, that indicates liquid damage, which means the phone is likely to not work properly now or may cause functionality issues down the road.
- Test the charging port. If the phone doesn’t come with a charging cable, make sure you bring one with you. Check that the cable fits snugly and that the phone responds to the connection. Bring a portable battery charger or find a wall or car charger with which to test the device.
- Check the headphone jack and all the buttons on the device to make sure they are fully functional (such as the volume button(s)).
- Check to make sure the device is not BLACKLISTED. Bring or borrow a compatible SIM card to test in the phone to make sure it can engage a call. Assuming that you are buying a phone locked to your carrier, or an unlocked phone, using your SIM card will tell you if the major functions of the phone work. If the phone does not work with your sim card that means one of three things:
- It is locked to a different carrier.
- The phone is blacklisted. Checking the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number against the national blacklist database is always a smart thing to do before handing over your money (you can check the IMEI number here for that). To do so, you will need to request the IMEI number (an IMEI number is an identifying number that is unique to each device, like a serial number) of the phone from the seller, and then check it before purchasing the device.
- The phone has internal damage.
- Make a phone call to check the microphone and the speakers. Also, turn on the speakerphone function to ensure that the loud speaker works. Next, send a text message and pull up a website; and you should check if these features are working properly. While making the phone call, check to make sure the proximity sensor is functional. The proximity sensor is what turns your screen off when you bring your phone up to your ear and turns it on again when you take it away. By turning off the screen, the sensor stops your the skin on your face from pressing buttons during calls and accidentally hanging up on people. You can test the proximity sensor by holding the phone in front of you and covering the top of the phone with your hand while on a call – if the screen turns off, you know it works.
- One last tip: If you are buying an iPhone, make absolutely sure that the phone is not currently connected to Apple’s iCloud service with “Find My Phone.” If the iPhone is protected by “Find my iPhone,” you will permanently be unable to add your Apple iTunes account, activate, or reset the phone. If the seller tells you they are unable to remove the current Apple ID or iCloud account from the iPhone, you should refuse to buy the iPhone. Worst case scenario? You may be dealing with a stolen device. At the very least, it’s unusable for anyone but the original owner, who can, though the “Find my iPhone” service, render the phone “bricked,” or unusable at any time via the internet. Apple provides a tool to check this online, available here. To sum up: we strongly recommend double checking in the device’s “Settings” app that “Find my iPhone” is disabled and any iCloud accounts are deleted prior to purchasing the device.
At this point, you should be ready to make an informed purchase.
If you have followed these steps, done your research, and taken your time, you have likely made a good deal. Just be aware that many of these sales are “as is”, meaning that if you find any issues, defects, or broken functions after the purchase, you are stuck with them, no refunds. Between this, and the possibility of further issues such as stolen or blacklisted phones, finding a trustworthy retailer that sells used phones offers you the best protection. At Wi West Wireless Repair, we will complete a thorough, multi-point inspection and verify that the phone can be fully activated and ready for your use, on your carrier, before you buy. But no matter what you do, be smart and be safe.