What’s the Difference Between Refurbished and Used Smartphones?

The prices of brand-new smartphones are skyrocketing; rapid advances in technology such as foldable screens and microprocessor technology, coupled with a global shortage of said microprocessors, have guaranteed an increase in the cost of new phones for the foreseeable future. Maybe you want to stay on top of the latest trends where possible, but don’t want to break the bank to do so. You might turn to the used phone market, and come across the term ‘refurbished’. But what does it mean, and how does it differ from second-hand smartphones?


Before you sell your iPhone 8 for a newer model on the second hand market, ask yourself a series of questions about the phone you’re intending to buy: have you seen it yet? Are there any visible marks and scratches? Does it match in spec and physical appearance with a brand-new iteration of the same model? Second hand phones are often sold “as seen”, increasing the possibility of issues presenting themselves after purchase. Private sellers can also make themselves difficult to get your money back in the event that you discover a rault.

Security of Sale

Refurbished phone sellers are often established businesses, with an exhaustive online shop, if not a physical premises for you to visit. The purchase of a smartphone from a refurbished seller is treated as a legal transaction, replete with invoice and receipt – and the company is contactable in case of any errors. Meanwhile, second-hand phone sales are often private, and involve people you’ve never met before. Add a booming black market in stolen phones into the mix, and you could be buying your way into a scam, to which the only compensatory recourse is a potentially expensive civil case.


Warranty is a guarantee regarding the smartphone in question, that it will work as advertised and as intended for at least a given length of time – often between six months and two years. Because refurbished smartphones have been somewhat renewed but nonetheless remain second-hand, buyers may be wary that the phone will not last in the same way a brand new equivalent of the same phone might. To combat this, refurbished phone sellers, who often do the refurbishing themselves, will entice sales by adding warranty – which guarantees that, in the event of a breakage or failure as described by the warranty (often non-operator errors specifically), the phone can be returned for repair, an alternative or a refund.

The refurbished phone market tends to offer warranties as standard, which private second-hand sellers do not have a business structure to make such an offer viable; they are often just people looking to offload older technology. As a result, you may be running a greater risk of ending up with an expensive brick if buying second-hand, while refurbished gives you the peace of mind that you will be getting exactly what you paid for, until the warranty period runs out.

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