With smartphone prices rising steadily over the last few years, more manufacturers are offering refurbished devices at lower prices. If you’re thinking of getting a refurbished handset, here are the advantages and disadvantages.
What counts as a refurbished handset?
A refurbished smartphone is a previously owned phone that’s been resold on the market. The handset will have been cleared of any data from the previous owner, and it should come with a warranty to protect you if any faults or defects emerge.
Unlike second-hand smartphones sold by private sellers, refurbished smartphones are sold by a reputable manufacturer, retailer, or network.
There are two kinds of refurbished handsets in the market:
- Pre-owned handsets that have been returned to the manufacturer due to faults and have been repaired for resale.
- Brand new and non-faulty handsets that have been returned by consumers who changed their minds within the 30-day cooling-off period after signing up for a contract.
Refurbished smartphones are typically classified under different quality-determined grades so sellers know what to expect in terms of quality. To help consumers choose a refurbished handset in a satisfactory condition, many sellers indicate the grade of the handset in the product description:
- Grade A – Also described as “like new” or “nearly perfect” buying Grade A is akin to buying brand new as the handset is unlikely to have any scratches and might even come with its original packaging and accessories.
- Grade B – A Grade B handset is likely to have some scratches and other minor cosmetic issues, but it should be in full working order.
- Grade C – Refurbished Grade C handsets will show obvious signs of use and previous ownership but should be in excellent working order.
Whichever grade handset you choose, manufacturers and retailers will run a number of checks and tests before selling refurbished smartphones to ensure that they are fully operational. These tests usually include:
- Making sure that the battery charges
- Checking that the keys and cameras work
- Verifying screen responsiveness, audio quality, and wifi connectivity
The pros of choosing refurbished
Cost savings – Perhaps the main advantage of buying refurbished is lower prices. This allows you to stretch your budget and choose from a larger selection of phones, including ones by top brands and manufacturers.
Flexibility – Buying a refurbished handset outright helps you avoid being tied to a lengthy and costly contract. Being off-contract means that you will pay for the phone upfront, which is advantageous if you do not want to take on any more debt. With the vast majority of refurbished handsets, your unit will already be unlocked, giving you the freedom to choose and change network providers as you please.
Buying a refurbished handset on a contract is still going to be less expensive compared to a similar contract for a new smartphone.
Peace of mind – Unlike second-hand smartphones sold by private sellers, a refurbished handset comes with a warranty. Further, the retailer will have made the necessary checks and tests to make sure that your refurbished unit is working properly.
Less waste reduction – Buying refurbished doesn’t contribute to the demand for new phones to be made in factories. It also keeps old but still usable smartphones from going straight to the landfill. As more people buy refurbished handsets over time, the benefits can add up to a greener and more sustainable environment.
The downsides of buying refurbished
There are few drawbacks to buying a refurbished handset, and they mostly pertain to cosmetic issues, particularly for Grade B and C handsets. For instance, a refurbished handset may have superficial scratches that are difficult to remove. These cosmetic issues can be concealed with phone cases and other mobile accessories. But more importantly, they won’t affect the way the smartphone works in any way.
Transparency might be an issue for some consumers, who have no way of knowing about the full history of the phone and who the previous owner was. Though refurbished handsets from reputable retailers are guaranteed to work properly, there’s no exact way to know why these units have been returned or refurbished.
Lastly, warranty coverage for refurbished handsets is typically shorter than brand new units. But if the unit has been checked and tested before the sale, then consumers should have no issues with their refurbished handset.
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