Should I buy a refurbished phone?

Buying a refurbished phone is a great way to save money and be as sustainable as possible. There are so many phones out there now – and with new phones offering more features and perks, they’ve gotten significantly more pricey, with some skyrocketing well beyond the $1,000 price mark.

But with refurbished phones, you get the opportunity to give some love to a previously owned phone. Plainly speaking, there’s no real advantage to having a newer phone unless you want all of those cutting-edge tech benefits. So if you’re on the side of saving money, a refurbished phone might be great for you. But should you buy a refurbished phone? Are refurbished phones any good, and are refurbished phones as good as new ones? We’ll answer all your refurbished phone questions in the article below.

What does refurbished phone mean?

A refurbished phone is a phone that’s past its initial release date, and has been repaired for resale. For some phones, a screen replacement would constitute ‘refurbished phone’ status, however, a refurbished phone could be anything from a replaced battery to a fully repaired phone on a few different fronts (battery, screen, charging port, case, etc). Refurbished phones might still have some minor scratches or damage, but overall, refurbished phones are perfectly useable.

Are refurbished phones any good?

Refurbished phones are perfectly fine, provided they’ve been restored into good working order. Most of the time, you can expect that the phone has had a component or multiple components replaced – such as the battery, screen or charging port. You likely wouldn’t know which parts have been replaced exactly, but you can expect the phone to work and function normally. If it doesn’t, you’re still covered by a 12-month warranty under Australian law, along with any other conditions the reseller offers – just make sure it’s a trusted reseller.

just keep in mind that older phones are less likely to get new software updates. Apple and Android like to keep their operating systems nice and new looking, and older model phones can’t really keep up. Also, older phones will be naturally slower – that’s okay if you’re just using your phone as a phone, but if you’re expecting it to be a great gaming system or great at a range of other apps, you might be set up for some disappointment.

On the bright side, you are helping the Earth by buying a refurbished phone!

How can I tell if my phone is refurbished?

If you got the phone new, there’s your answer – it’s a factory-new phone. If you got the phone from a reseller willingly selling it as a refurbished phone, then you can bet at least something in it has been replaced. If the phone was given to you, or if you’re curious if it has been refurbished or not, there’s a way to be certain on iPhones, but not on Android devices.

On iPhones, the process is simple. navigate to your Settings > General > About section of the phone. Then, take note of the phone ‘Model Number’. Here’s where we can get a definite answer.

If the first letter of the model number is M, it’s a new device, meaning it hasn’t been refurbished. If the first letter is F, it means the phone has been refurbished. If the first letter is N, then the phone was a replacement for a faulty iPhone. If the first letter is P, then the phone has a special engraving on it.

Unfortunately, Android devices don’t have an easy way to know if your phone is refurbished or not. There used to be an easy way to tell by dialing a string of numbers, but unfortunately, this no longer works.

For the most part, you can be sure that your phone is new if it didn’t have any visible damage and included everything in the box. If there are some noticeable scratches on the chassis, then there’s a chance it’s a refurbished device. Also, you can rest easy knowing that your phone likely wouldn’t have been sold to you without the retailer specifying if it was new or not – provided it’s an accredited retailer.

Should you buy a refurbished phone?

The biggest reason for buying a refurbished phone is the price – it’s a lot cheaper to pick up a refurbished phone than to buy a new one. Savings between devices will vary greatly, but we can guarantee you will always spend less on a refurbished phone than whatever the newest model is.

Buying a refurbished phone is also better for the environment, and they’re better than picking up a “used” phone, given the refurbished status. You’ll also be entitled to a 12-month warranty under Australian Consumer Law, on top of any benefits offered by the reseller.

However, there’s a case to be made for longevity. Not only would refurbished phones likely have less battery life than newer phones, but also older model phones don’t receive any software or security updates once they reach a certain age, and certain apps might not be available on older devices as they strive to stay up to date.

For example, iOS 15 is available for iPhones including and released after the 6S, which was released in 2015. That means if your iPhone was released before 2015, you’ll likely get the odd security update for a time, but new iOS updates won’t be available to you, giving recently-released iPhones update longevity for about six years. Samsung phones suffer from a similar fate. Android 12 (One UI 4.0) is only available to Samsung devices dating back to the Galaxy S10 (2019), giving Samsung phones a three-year update lifespan (although Samsung has said it will provide security updates for four years).

The point is that although saving some money now might seem like a good idea, you might end up spending more money in the long run and buying phones more often, as you hop between older model phone to older model phone to use updated software and apps if you stick to purchasing refurbished phones.

Another thing to consider is cheap smartphones. Cheaper phones are getting better and better by the day, so rather than picking up a newer device, it might be worth considering a new budget or mid-range device.

SIM-only plans for refurbished phones

If you have a refurbished phone, you can use it with any SIM-only postpaid or prepaid mobile plan. This gives you a chance to shop around and save money, and avoid being stuck on a lengthy contract while you pay off a new smartphone.

Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use Canstar Blue’s phone plan comparison tool to see a wide range of plans on offer from mobile providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wide range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

What is the difference between used and refurbished phones?

Used phones are phones that were previously owned and sold on, that haven’t been properly refurbished with parts replaced, making them cheaper than refurbished phones. Refurbished phones on the other hand include new parts, such as replaced batteries and screens. This makes refurbished phones more expensive.

A used and a refurbished phone might be of the same model, but you can expect the used phone to be cheaper, due to it not having any repairs done. If you’re looking to cut down on costs, used phones might be the way to go, although it might be slower, have a slower battery life, or could have noticeable screen cracks. You’re also more likely to find a refurbished phone from a retailer than a used phone, due to the guaranteeable nature of the quality of the refurbished phone.

How does a phone become refurbished?

When someone upgrades their phone, they typically have two options with their old one. They can either keep it, holding onto it if they need a backup phone, or they can sell it on to a phone shop that buys used phones. These are typically in shopping centres or in phone shops, but you can find others online.

If your phone is damaged (for example, the screen is cracked or the battery is in poor quality), the shop will try to repair it with spare parts. They’ll bring down their purchasing price significantly depending on how damaged the device is, but at least trading in your old phone gives you cash in your pocket.

Sometimes though, the shop will sell phones that are of poor quality. Naturally, these phones will be sold for less.

There are no restrictions on what phone can or can’t be refurbished, but typically they need to be relevant phones. Apple and Samsung phones are some of the most common brands of phone you’ll find refurbished, but older iPhones and older-model Samsungs would be harder to come across. You could easily find an iPhone XS or a Samsung Galaxy S10 for sale in a refurbished condition.

Why are refurbished phones cheap?

Refurbished phones are cheap because they’re not new anymore, and have had work done to restore them to good working order.

There’s superstition around if refurbished phones are as reliable as new phones. Simply put, they’re not going to have the same glimmer and speed as a phone released more recently, but they’ll still do the job. There is the chance that your refurbished phone won’t run as well as a new phone, but buying anything second-hand comes with that risk.

However, you should be safe. Under Australian Consumer Law, you’re entitled to a replacement or refund if your phone breaks. Some refurbished phone sellers even have strong warranty periods, with Boost Mobile and TeleChoice offering a 12-month warranty.

But don’t be scammed! It’s better to buy a refurbished phone from a trusted retailer than it is from dodgy eBay or Amazon listings, as you’re more covered by Australian Consumer Law and by warranties set in place by the retailer. Think about the purchase before you make it.

Refurbished Samsung phones

Below you’ll find prices of refurbished Samsung phones from Boost Mobile, TeleChoice and Numobile, although keep in mind that more refurbished Samsung phones are available in Australia from other retailers. Also, the phones listed below are presented to provide a snapshot of what you can expect from refurbished phone prices. As such, each reseller provides a different grading system, and often provides different prices and payment plans. Some resellers might not have stock of some phones. Samsung doesn’t sell refurbished phones in Australia.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 128GB

  • Boost Mobile: Available outright for $509 in ‘Excellent’ condition.
  • Numobile: Available on a plan for $30 per month, minimum cost $720 over 24 months in ‘Good as nu’ condition.

Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB

  • Boost Mobile: Available outright for $449 in ‘Excellent’ condition.
  • Numobile: Available on a plan for $28 per month, minimum cost $687 over 24 months in ‘Good as nu’ condition.
  • TeleChoice: Available on a plan for $70 per month, minimum cost $840, or outright for $529 in ‘pre-owned’ condition.

Samsung Galaxy S9 64GB

  • Boost Mobile: Available outright for $279 in ‘Good’ condition.
  • Boost Mobile: Available outright for $309 in ‘Excellent’ condition.
  • TeleChoice: Available on a plan for $46 per month, minimum cost $552, or outright for $299 in ‘pre-owned’ condition.

Refurbished iPhones

If you’re interested in picking up a refurbished iPhone, Boost Mobile, Numobile and Telechoice all offer such devices. You can find refurbished iPhones below, along with prices, although keep in mind that this is subject to change. Refurbished phone quality standards are also different from retailer to retailer, as are prices and payment plans. Apple does not sell refurbished iPhones in Australia.

iPhone XS 64GB

  • Boost Mobile: Available outright for $699 in ‘Good’ condition.
  • Numobile: Available on a plan for $32 per month, minimum cost $768 in ‘Good as nu’ condition
  • Numobile: Available on a plan for $29 per month, minimum cost $696 in ‘Pretty good’ condition

iPhone 8+ 64GB

  • Boost Mobile: Available outright for $439 in ‘Good’ condition.
  • TeleChoice: Available on a plan for $60 per month, minimum cost $828, or outright for $499 in ‘pre-owned’ condition.
Prices last updated August 2021

Cheap refurbished phones in Australia

TeleChoice, Boost Mobile and Numobile offer phone plans that could couple well with a refurbished phone if you’re looking to save some money. All three of these companies also sell refurbished phones, so it saves the hassle of setting up your phone plan elsewhere.

TeleChoice offers post-paid SIM plans, meaning you pay for the service after the period of using it.

The following table shows all published TeleChoice on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Understand the value of phone plans from a larger range of providers using our mobile plan comparison tool. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Boost Mobile offers prepaid SIM plans, which you pay for prior to using the service for the period.

Numobile offers postpaid SIM plans, which you pay for after the period in which you use the phone plan.

Is a refurbished phone as good as a new one?

A new phone will always be more capable than a refurbished phone, simply for the fact of it using new technology and having more up-to-date software, however, refurbished phones will always be the cheaper option. It’s a sharp trade-off and it comes down to what you prefer, although keep in mind that refurbished phones won’t be as widely available as new phones. You can walk into your local Good Guys and pick up a new iPhone, for example, but a refurbished iPhone 8+ might be hard to come by or could be in low stock from trusted retailers.

Refurbished phones in a working condition where they function as expected should give you a near-identical experience to that of a new phone, despite the possibilities of scratches on the sides. All in all, it comes down to wanting either the newest tech or wanting to save money.

Image: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

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