Would you buy a refurbished smartphone?

A refurbished phone could help reduce e-waste and save you money, but would you consider buying one?


I did - my current phone is a refurb.

Normally I want the latest and greatest, but the newest features on phones are not that enticing. Another thing I care about is security, and this time around I decided that I needed to move into the walled garden of Apple and iOS. Android phones are not updated sufficiently regularly to keep them secure unless you buy one of Google’s and even there you pay a premium for a phone that has a limited update life-cycle.

So I have adopted iOS on a refurbished phone, and come to terms with its many differences.

The major risk with a refurb is potential malware - but again, this risk is ameliorated by it being iOS. Additionally, the wipe feature on most modern phones does a decent job of taking the phone back to the software state when it was first sold.


I’ve bought a refurb, but it wasnt a good experience, really. So now I buy new. However I have learned now of a few purveyors of refurbs which actually have been refurbished, as opposed to being given a wipedown and reset, so yes in future I may well do that.

[edit] Just as an FYI, the oldest iPhone which is still supported by Apple, is the 5S, which was released in 2013. I don’t think the others would be up on that.


We bought a refurbished iPhone XS Max 64Gb Gold rated as excellent condition for my wife for $899 from Boost Mobile last July.

It was like new and she absolutely loves it. Around half the original price for a 2 year old handset.


It might depend. My first iPhone was a 2011 vintage 4S replaced with an 8 in 2017, both purchased new.
If the discount was significant, and the model assured of a new battery with at least 2-3 years of future updates, it could be a good deal. It would need an assurance on updates for security as well as the OS. We only need to look at how Apps evolve to be cautious of older technology.

It might need to be near half the new price if an Apple product. Otherwise in the long term buying new and keeping the product for longer if one can afford the higher initial cost it is also a great strategy.


I would not unless it came with a sufficient on-shore warranty to give confidence that there were no underlying problems.

The source of refurbs includes demo units, damaged box units, and units returned and repaired because they had problems. The latter include obvious problems as well as those that might surface intermittently and under shop conditions perhaps never - until a new owner rediscovered them. Who refurbished the repaired ones and tested them using what ‘test set’ is the question.

Not sure if any companies still do it, but once upon a time the ‘mystery problem’ returns where they could not find a problem often got sent out again and only retired after a second return. Users are always the best testers.


You beat me to it and agree.

The other thing is that it has a sufficiently recent operating systems to run all the apps we use. Like many smart devices, apps tend to become unavailable/incompatible for older operating systems.

And the other things which would concern me is battery life. The older devices get, the shorter the operational battery life.


I wouldn’t but I think it’s an entirely reasonable option for someone who wants (or needs) to save some money, provided that the phone is only a couple of years old e.g. someone who has to have the latest and greatest is trading one in after 2 years. That implies that the vendor of the refurb unit has to be trustworthy.


Use two iPhones that are refurbs one an X the other is a 7, one Samsung Android S10. All work perfectly, and any previous refurbs we have had mostly iPhone 6 S+, still are working hand me downs for Grandkids. We always consider refurbs that are reasonably new as our option, then slightly older, then only new as I try to do any repairs using non genuine parts where possible and older ones tend to have much more non genuine parts.

Batteries tend to be the failure problem and we just aftermarket purchase replacements, which I install. But they are often cheap to have professionally installed. Glass for the most modern phones are hard to impossible to source aftermarket.


The Boost refurbished handsets are supplied by Alegre.


I see the same handset my wife has is now only $679. Some $1,220 less than when new.


I bought a refurbished (Android) phone some years ago. Not a good experience.
The Bluetooth had a very short range and GPS function didn’t work - I guess their aerials were disconnected.
In retrospect I see that I should have checked every function as soon as I received the phone.


I think bad experiences occur with new as well as old or refurbished. I guess we all usually hear the bad rather than the good experiences. It perhaps would be more beneficial for CHOICE to random survey a group and see what percentages arise from that so CHOICE could get a less “biased” view either way.

My own experience is that I haven’t had a fail in over 7 refurbished phones all of which are still running other than batteries dying as expected and occassionally broken screens during our usage (person inflicted damage). But I might just be lucky in my choices. I have had two brand new phones in this period with one having a nasty swelling battery that nearly toasted the phone (others may remember this particular Samsung type one that had this issue (the Note 7).


I’ve bought my latest phone second hand from Gumtree, a Nokia that’s now 4 years old, it runs standard Android without any of the manufactures bloat ware, it’s had plenty of updates come through, about 2-3 times a year. So far I’m happy with it for what I paid, approx $200.


Thank you for correcting me. Yes, there is the Android One program in which Nokia (well, the current owner of that brand name) participates. Other brands such as LG and Motorola have dipped their toes in the water, but very few have committed to it in the way Nokia has.

Android One still only provides for OS updates for two years, and security patches for three years. Apple continues to provide iOS updates to phones that are quite a lot older - in the case of iOS 14, up to five years old. Moving to the latest OS is critical to ensure your device remains secure, and the monthly Android security patch is also vital to your device’s ongoing trustworthiness.

I am unsure how long Nokia continues to provide updates to its phones, but you should at a minimum receive a monthly security update while the company continues to support it.

I have used a succession of Samsung phones, on plans from the telco. In every one, security patches lagged by at least a month from when Google first released them. OS upgrades could be even worse. As security is something I value highly, my most recent phone involved a change in operating system from Android to iOS. This was a hassle, but there are tools provided by the OS providers to make it a lot easier. YMMV.


Back in the 1990’s when Motorola was top dog in mobile phones globally, they used to say that if a mobile was going to fail. it would most likely occur in the first week of use.

They also had a policy at their service centre in Melbourne that if a new faulty phone could not be repaired within 1 hour, or if it failed a second time, they would junk it.

And that was back when the first MicroTac flip phones were launched with a $5,000 price tag.

It was better to cut their losses and move on than to keep trying to fix a dog.

Refurbished handsets from ethical suppliers have been in service for many months so one would be very unlucky to get a dog.

Of course, that does not apply to “old mate” flogging one at your local pub.


We did, bought an iPhone 7 Plus from ebay as a refurbished phone. Came with a new battery, the only problem we had was that the iOS was a beta version and I had to do crash course (thanks to Google) on how to update the iOS as it wouldn’t do it on its own. The beta version would not run some of the apps so updating it was essential, once we did this it has been an excellent phone, and for $200 it has enabled my husband to move into this century :rofl: I felt it was a big risk, but it’s worked out for us.


How come tbey say they say the phones are wiped maybe its not as, safe as os mentioned. I previously had looked at a refurbished phone but o gathered i can still buy a new one cheaper. I agree with you about risks. Ebay etc has used phones i surely wouldn’t ever bjy on there as it isn’t a guarantee its safe.

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I have purchased two phones and an iPad that were refurbished. No problems at all.
Very happy to pay A Lot less for last years new model.


The problem with refurbs bought online is they are often rebuilt from broken phones’ motherboards with low quality parts (poor quality screen for example and counterfeit casing). I bought one iphone off eBay and while it looked new, the screen was noticeable bad with incorrect colour balance (very blue) and dimly backlit. The phone also ran very hot and the touchscreen had continual problems with phantom touches. So, once bitten twice shy, I’ll never buy a ‘refurb’ again because you don’t really know what you’re getting.


Over the years we bought four refurbished Samsung phones via ebay and we didn’t have any problems whatsoever. They always were a few models down the ‘latest models’ list but we would never even consider to spent $1500+ to have the ‘latest’ model. The categories to choose from were pristine/as new’, excellent and good and ours were ‘as new’ and they looked and performed like that as well.
We checked the phones and battery condition as sooon as we received them and also intalled internet security and malware protection software immediately. The scans for phone and battery performance came out positive and malware etc negative.
Happy customers :wink: