A Guide to Refurbished Phones

Buying a phone that’s been refurbished can be a great way to cut costs on expensive electronics, but many consumers are wary about buying something that’s been previously owned. We’ve created this guide to answer the most commonly asked questions you have about buying refurbished mobile phones, from credibility to picking the phone you want, and to debunk some of the myths around what it means when you buy a phone that’s not new. By the end of it, we hope you’ll be a convert to the world of cost-efficient devices!

What is refurbished? How does it differ?

The short answer: it’s a phone that’s been traded in or returned, that’s been tested, repaired if necessary, and then graded to be resold.

The long answer: refurb phones differ from other pre-owned models in that as well as being more cost effective than their new counterparts, they’re subject to strict quality control procedures. In fact, as Technology Guide editor Jerry Jackson notes, ‘the refurbished product actually goes through a higher level of quality control’. He’s not talking about other used phones: he means that versus newly minted phones, refurbished models are individually checked and tested. Unlike the process for manufacturing a new phone, refurbishing a mobile is all about quality over quantity.

As an aside… while we use the terms “second hand”, “used” and “refurbished” interchangeably here at Envirofone Shop, all our phones have in fact been subject to our testing process. More on that later, but first, let’s look at why you might be interested in one in the first place.

What are the pros and cons of buying a refurbished phone?

While by no means an exhaustive list, there are a few main advantages and, of course, disadvantages to buying and owning a refurbished phone that we’ve taken a look at. These range from things that specifically relate to buying one from us to buying from other outlets, so it’s likely to list most things you’ll care about, good and bad!

The Pros

  • It’s cheaper. Refurbished phones can be up to 15-30% less than the new price, and it’s a one-off payment with no effect on your credit rating. For those consumers that are cost-conscious, this is the biggest attraction to buying refurbs.
  • It’s also contract-free. When you buy an electronic device that’s not new, you can buy it without a monthly contract. That means you’re paying for the handset alone, and whether you chose to go with a PAYG or Sim-Only contract, it’ll likely be cheaper than the average monthly cost of a 2 year, new-phone deal.
    Note: some network providers do offer contracts on refurbished phones, but it’s often not cost-effective. If you’re thinking of doing this, always shop around first.
  • You can have an unlocked model, if you want. While it can be a little dearer than buying a refurb that’s locked to your current network provider, the great thing about buying from an outlet like ourselves is that there’s also the option to buy the handset unlocked. This is brilliant if you use multiple sims, and gives you flexibility to shop around for the best contract possible. It also makes the phone more valuable if you decide to trade it in later down the line.
  • There’s greater flexibility. When you’re not tied into 18 or 24-month contracts (the most common types in the UK) you can swap and switch your phone around as it suits you. The smartphone market is notoriously fast-paced, and the ability to keep up with the latest trends is a powerful incentive for the tech-lovers.
  • Refurbished phones are more environmentally friendly. As our name suggests, we care about the environment, and reusing a phone rather than recycling its parts is the best way of prolonging its lifespan. If you’re conscious about your carbon footprint, buying refurbished or second hand means you’re doing your bit to lower consumption.

The Cons

  • It’s not brand new. While this is stating the obvious, it’s undeniable that we all love that “unboxing” feeling: peeling a new device from its packaging, reading all the instructions and examining the accompanying paraphernalia. When you buy refurbished, you don’t get the pleasure of that new feeling. It’s worth noting that when we sell a refurb, we package it with brand new accessories – it might not come with the original box, but it’s not like you use it, anyway!
  • Cosmetic wear and tear. Like the above, any phone that’s not brand new is unlikely to be perfect. While we’re very, very strict about QC, there may be the odd bump or nick on the casing. If you’re someone who needs everything to be spick and span, this might bother you. But for the rest of us (who regularly drop phones) it becomes quickly undistinguishable.
  • The horror stories. We’ve all heard them. People receiving phones that are literally broken, with no payment protection or rights. Stories like this are enough to swear anyone off of used products, but it’s also important to remember there’s an element of responsibility on the buyer’s behalf as well. Do your research, and only buy from an established, reputable source.

So, why buy refurbished phones from us?

Okay, so you’re thinking of taking the plunge and buying a refurb. As we mentioned above, you should always do your research on who you buy from. Want to find out more about what happens when you buy from us? Here’s a few of the most important things we do when we refurbish phones.

Testing

Test, test, and test again. At Envirofone, we’ve got a really strict test process, and if a phone doesn’t function 100%, we’ll not sell it. It has to do everything you’d expect a new phone to do, so our testers work hard at putting each phone through its paces before resale.

If anything needs fixed up after we’ve tested it, we’ll replace it. And unlike the competition, we only use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts. This means that there’s no skimping on any parts that need replaced, or filling up your phone with cheaper, less reliable parts. How does that affect the performance? Well, not using 3rd party batteries in particular ensures that you’ll get a phone that lasts as long as possible. Plus, we do this with no infringement on patents or trademarks – it’s all above board!

Grading

After the functionality tests are done, we grade the phones. Our grading system is based on cosmetic appearance, rather than functionality. That means that all our grades (good, pristine and premium) describe phones that are factory standard. If you’re not bothered about a few signs of wear and tear, buying a “good” phone can save you some serious cash! Our 100 point check covers everything from nicks in the metal casing to minor scratches in the screen, so we really go over things with a fine tooth comb.

Warranty

We’re confident in our testing procedures, so we offer a warranty on all phones for 12 months, covering both hardware and software faults. Things can develop over time, so we want to give customers peace of mind. There’s no extra cost for the warranty either, unlike insuring your phone with a network provider.

Top tips for buying refurbished mobiles

Convinced? Here’s our top tips for making sure you pick the best model for your needs, whether you choose to purchase with us or elsewhere.

  1. Do your research into models. Many places will offer both the most recent models and the most popular from the last few years, so you’re not restricted to buying the latest handsets if you don’t need them. Check places like GSMArena for average battery life, phone comparisons, and impartial reviews on each individual handset.
  2. Think about which operating system you prefer, and how you’ll use your phone.
    1. Interested in the clean design, cross-device compatibility and App Store offerings? Try an iPhone on iOS.
    2. Prefer to play indie games, have a highly customisable interface, or feel like a bit of a tech whizz? Try any of the numerous Android devices available on the market.
    3. Love using Windows on your PC, and want to keep the theme going? There are plenty of Windows-based OS phones out right now.
  3. Avoid buying from places with little to no warranty period, or with “all sales final/as is” clauses. You can’t always trust testing procedures, and it’s a bad sign if the company isn’t confident enough to offer a warranty. Think of it in the same terms as buying new: would you buy something that wasn’t covered?
  4. Do some stress testing when you receive your chosen phone. Is it everything you wanted? If not, places with a good returns policy should let you swap for something more up your street. Use the phone heavily – think days when you’re probably not leaving your bed, glued to the screen – and you should get a good indication of its limitations.
  5. Look for reviews, on the phone and the retailer. Do they have Trustpilot, or good reviews on Amazon/eBay? What’s their social media situation like? If it looks positive, that’s a good indicator of trustworthiness. Never heard of the company, or the seller’s had an account for less than a week? Buyer beware!
  6. Shop around for the cheapest Sim Only contract to pair your phone with. If you prefer PAYG, make sure it’s a good deal. Remember, unlocked phones give you the most flexibility.
  7. Be savvy about when you buy a phone. Think about when most major phone releases are (usually around September) and then consider buying from the influx of the previous model. Or, wait a bit and pick up the newest models for less.

So, if you’ve done your research, decided on a phone and want to buy from a retailer you can trust, head on over to our shop section to look at the refurb phones we have in stock right now. We’ll even send your phone with free next day delivery if you order before 3pm, meaning you’ll get your hands on your new gadget right away.

Got stuff to recycle, for even bigger savings? Check the price for your old device on our main site.

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