Second-hand smartphones can give you a good deal for your money. So if the new ones don’t suit your budget, you can always go for a pre-owned or refurbished phone. Now, if you’re buying from a trusted source, it’ll likely not have any defects. However, it’s always good to be careful and inspect the phone properly before buying it. Here are the important things you need to check before buying a used or second-hand smartphone.

Related | How to Check Your Android Phone’s Battery Health

Things to Check While Buying a Used Second-Hand Smartphone

Table of Contents

To begin with, you need to finalize which phone to buy and at what price. You can evaluate the same based on the phone’s specifications and the current market price post all available discounts. The price should also factor in the device’s age and condition.

You can then negotiate with the seller while ensuring they are genuine and not scammers or fraudsters. Post which, you’ll have to meet the seller to check the phone before you buy it. Usually, you’ll find a bunch of local sellers on online marketplace platforms like OLX and Quickr.

While testing the phone, you need to consider several things to ensure you don’t get duped. This includes checking the basics, followed by physical inspection and other hardware tests. We’d suggest keeping the following items to help with testing:

  • A power bank.
  • USB cable, compatible with the phone you intend to buy.
  • Any accessories supported by the phone (microSD card, headphones).

1. Box Contents, Invoice, and Warranty

  • Check the box and box contents
  • Is it stolen? Verify the authenticity
  • Is the phone imported from any other region? Is it unlocked?

Box and Invoice

The first thing you need to check is the box, the original invoice, and the age of the device. Confirm whether all the box contents are available- you can negotiate for the missing or non-original accessories.

If the seller has misplaced the invoice of a phone purchased online, ask for a copy of an e-invoice from the e-commerce portals. Most sites, including Amazon and Flipkart, let you download the digital copy of the invoice.

Verify the Warranty, IMEI

Check if the phone has an active warranty- it’s always better to buy phones still under warranty to be on the safer side.

You can verify the phone’s warranty period using IMEI on the manufacturer’s website. Companies like Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, Realme, etc., let you check the warranty online. For OnePlus phones, you can check the OnePlus Care app. Links are given below:

The phone should have the same IMEI number as on the original box and invoice. To check the IMEI, open the dialer and type *#06#.

Buying an Imported Phone?

If buying an imported phone, check if it’s unlocked. Furthermore, confirm the network bands supported and that it’ll work with your carrier. Also, does it have an international warranty? Are the spare parts available in your country?

Buying a phone that the brand does not officially sell in your country could mean a tough time getting it repaired if something goes wrong.

If you’re skeptical about the phone’s originality, here’s how to check the IMEI number to find if it’s original or fake.

2. Visual Inspection

Things to Check While Buying a Used Second-Hand Smartphone

  • Inspect in daylight
  • Check for scratches and dents
  • Check display, body, and cameras

Once you’re clear about the basics, move on to the physical inspection of the device. I prefer testing the phone under bright daylight, so the damages or defects are easily visible.

Look for scratches, dents, or cracks on the body, display, and, more importantly, on the camera lens. Small scratches on the camera lens can significantly deteriorate picture quality, especially in low light conditions. Check the power and volume buttons.

Minor signs of usage are normal with second-hand phones. That said, any anomalies like a bent frame or parts out of place are best to be avoided.

3. Check the Display

Things to Check While Buying a Used Second-Hand Smartphone

  • Ensure the display is original
  • Should not have any cracks
  • Look for dead spots or dead pixels

The next important thing to check while buying a used second-hand smartphone is the display. The display is indeed one of the most expensive components of the device. Check it for any scratches or minor cracks.

Carefully inspect the overall panel quality to confirm that it’s genuine. One can tell if the panel was replaced with a non-OEM one by checking the brightness levels, screen quality, and if there are any glue or pry marks on the sides.

Ensure the entire screen responds properly to touch, and there are no dead spots or dead pixels. You can use the Display Tester app to check the same.

While checking the display, consider removing the screen protector from the phone.

4. Test the Ports, SIM Card, and Accessories

It’s now time to test the charging cable included with the phone. Pull out your power bank, plug in the phone via cable, and see if it’s charging fine.

Insert a SIM card- check if the phone can make a call. Similarly, test the microSD card port (if available) and other accessories supported by the phone like earphones.

5. Check Functions like Camera, Mic, Speakers

Test the important functions of the device. This includes:

  • Speaker and Earpiece
  • Vibration
  • Microphone
  • Both front and rear cameras
  • Wifi
  • Bluetooth, etc.

You can check for hardware issues in one go by using apps like Phone Doctor Plus, Phone Check and Test, TestM Hardware, or Test Your Android. These apps have a complete checkup list for essential things to check before buying any used smartphone.

6. Pay Attention to the Battery

Lithium-ion batteries on smartphones usually lose out their capacity over time which can be an issue if you’re buying a too old phone. So, notice the battery level and the drop in battery percentage while you’re checking out the phone.

If you notice a too sharp decline, something’s wrong. If buying a used iPhone, go to Settings > Battery > Battery Health and check the Maximum Capacity percentage. Anything above 80% is good to go.

Related | Why Big Battery Phones Do Not Guarantee More Screen On Time? 

Other Tips to Keep in Mind While Buying Used Phone

If you’re buying a used phone from someone on online platforms like Olx or Quickr, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Examine the image and price posted by the seller. Most scammers use images from the internet and lure people with too good to be true pricing.
  • No matter how enticing the deal is, never pay before checking the phone.
  • Seller is claiming to ship phone and asking for an advance? A widespread scam.
  • If possible, meet the seller at a public place.
  • Find something different from what’s promised by the seller or mentioned in the listing? Back off.
  • Ask the seller to mandatorily remove the screen lock and their iCloud or Google account from the phone. Perform a factory data reset and sign in with your own account to confirm that it’s not locked with the seller’s account.
  • Prefer making digital payment for convenience and as proof of you buying the phone from that individual.

Wrapping Up- Should You Buy Used Smartphones?

Used phones usually sell at a bargain. If searched properly, you can find excellent deals in the market. However, there’s always a risk of being cheated while buying second-hand gadgets. Thus, make sure you buy from a trusted source and negotiate well depending on the phone in question.

It’s usually best to get a phone in good condition, even if the one with defects is selling for cheap. Furthermore, having a remaining warranty period gives extra peace of mind. Besides the tips given above, don’t forget to check online reviews before buying any second-hand smartphone, which also applies to new purchases.

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