Is It Safe To Buy iPhone Products Online?

Buying a used or refurbished iPhone - you have to pay attention to that

Stephan Wiesend

A used iPhone or iPhone can also be an alternative to the iPhone SE - if you pay attention to certain things before buying. Read here what and what "refurbished" means.

EnlargeUsed iPhones are in great demand.

If you want to buy a new iPhone from Apple, you not only have the choice between an expensive iPhone 12 and the really expensive iPhone 12 Pro, but also the inexpensive iPhone SE - which is available from 419 euros. But there are other attractive iPhone offers: Apple still has the previous year's iPhone 11 and the old XR on offer, and the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone XS are also available in stores - the iPhone 11 Pro was even available for 699 Euro. If your head isn't spinning yet: As every year, used devices come into circulation with new iPhones, after all, many buyers of the new iPhones want to finance the purchase at least in part by selling the one or two year old device - for example with an old iPhone XR or iPhone 11.

Above all, the devices from two years ago, ie the "models from the previous year", can often be found on the used market after the contracts concluded for them have expired. But even the iPhone 11 and XR models that have barely been used a year can be bought on the used market at the price of a new iPhone SE. After all, many iPhone users still get a new device every year without a contract.

In the following, we explain what you as a buyer have to consider in order not to be disappointed by the bargain - and in which cases the new purchase could be worthwhile.

Today we would no longer recommend iPhones that are older than the iPhone 8. These devices can still be used sensibly by frugal people today, but we would no longer buy them today as a bargain. It is likely that they will no longer be supported by Apple and important security updates will no longer be available. The battery has been around for a few years and other components have not gotten any better over the years.

Refurbished: As good as new

So-called “refurbished” devices are a broad field. Refurbished devices have a good reputation among Mac users because Macs and iPads offered by Apple through the Apple Store are in excellent condition. If you buy an iPad or Macbook from Apple's refurbished store, it often looks like a new device and usually has a brand new battery.

Offer with a hook

From the beginning of July, Aldi will be offering the iPhone 8 at a price of 379 euros - even the price, which is 100 euros below that of the current iPhone SE - suggests that this is a refurbished model. This does not necessarily have to be inferior, especially since Aldi offers a two-year guarantee. But buyers should be aware that they are purchasing a used and remanufactured product. More information about the Aldi offer here.

But this does not apply to all refurbished offers on the web. Ebay also makes a fine distinction between “refurbished by the manufacturer” and “refurbished by the seller”. Above all, the latter is a matter of trust on Ebay. There are dealers who put a lot of effort into testing and processing, they usually offer a two-year warranty and differentiate between numerous status levels. For the Ebay user, however, it is often difficult to assess whether a particular dealer has really reprocessed and checked a used device. From the iPhone 7 onwards, there may also be the already mentioned problems with water resistance.

A special feature is hidden behind the abbreviation CPO or Certified Pre Owned by Apple. These are devices that have been refurbished by the manufacturer Apple themselves and are labeled "Apple Certified Refurbished". An Apple-certified iPhone gets a new case, a new screen and a new battery - it is also repackaged and comes with a 12-month Apple warranty. The devices obtained from Apple are still very expensive and unfortunately cannot be obtained from the German Apple Store. These devices are available from cheaper notebooks, for example.

Alditalk.de, for example, relies on its own workshop, with its own website with refurbished iPhones. Checking and repairs are also explained on the page. For example, the device is completely dismantled and only original parts are used for repairs. Aldi also occasionally has a reprocessed iPhone 8 with 64 GB of storage for 379 euros, and the iPhone X is also on offer for 550 euros.

Amazon relies on a number of partners with Amazon Renewed. Here you don't buy an overhauled iPhone from Amazon itself, but from a certified retailer such as AKM, Smoney, Pemanti or Trendyoo. An iPhone 8 with 64 GB is available for around 207 euros, but it can have scratches and minor dents - and the battery has "a capacity of more than 80%", which is a bit vague.

Swappie: used iPhones from Finland

An unusual offer has recently also become available in Germany: The provider Swappie, founded in 2016, has specialized in used iPhones that are bought out and refurbished. An iPhone 8 is available here in the second-best condition "very good" for 229 euros, an XR for 389 euros, at least at Trustpilot the company can prove that its users are quite satisfied. The devices are checked and repaired in their own repair shop in Helsinki, but Swappie also uses inexpensive non-Apple spare parts for repairs and does not guarantee that the devices are still waterproof to IP67 or IP68 - a disadvantage of many repaired devices.

Too bad: The battery is only replaced when its maximum capacity has fallen below 80 percent. A 12-month guarantee is a plus point, there is also a right of return of 14 days and the guarantee can be extended to three years for 79 euros. The devices are delivered in their own packaging, without a power supply unit and headphones - but these are available at an additional cost.

EnlargeSwappie is a new offering from Helsinki.

The Smarando service, which also offers used iPhones, is still relatively new: With professional testing and a 12-month guarantee, according to the provider from Wildberg. Here you can also be informed by "purchase alert" when a certain model is available.

New old iPhones at Apple

Apple continues to sell entry-level models such as the iPhone 11 or iPhone XR in the Apple Store, but is lowering prices. The XR came on the market for 849 euros, but currently only costs 579 euros in the Apple Store. This also means that specialist retailers often offer these models even more cheaply - the XR more often for 499 euros.

iPhone 11 at Computeruniverse for 637 euros

The XR and the iPhone 11 are particularly recommended as used devices for beginners. Some cheap offers compete with buying a used vehicle. The two models are often much cheaper in specialist shops than in the Apple Store, which saves on average around ten to 15 percent compared to the Apple price.

iPhone XR with 64 GB at Computeruniverse

Check iPhone 11 at idealo

The advantage of buying a new device is that it is a new device, which has a particularly positive effect on the performance of the battery. After two years of more or less intensive use, the wear and tear is usually clearly noticeable. But used vehicles also have their advantages, not only in terms of price. In addition to Apple's one-year guarantee, the seller also has a warranty obligation - if, for example, the battery suddenly fails.

Tips for sellers

Are you interested in a new iPhone? The opportunity for the iPhone XR is good because the contract with the cellular provider has expired? The two-year-old iPhone 7 (Plus) or the iPhone 8 (Plus) you bought last year is still so good that you can resell it without hesitation and the new device is partially financed with it.

You have to pay attention to the following when selling:

Remove SIM lock (if available) : So-called SIM locks from providers are rarely found, but you still have to expect them with some old contract mobile phones. You can find more details here.

Secure data: Your iPhone is either linked to the Mac via iTunes or it saves its backups in iCloud. Before you "flatten" your iPhone for resale, you should set up your new one or at least create a backup.

Turn off Find My iPhone: The search for a misplaced or stolen iPhone has also served as a security mechanism since iOS 7. If the option is not switched off, the iPhone cannot be set up again without knowing the password for the Apple ID. And you don't sell them with ...

Reset iPhone to factory settings: This can also be done either via iTunes or directly via the device.

Final cleaning: A clean iPhone costs more, so the final cleaning is a win-win situation for both sellers and buyers. A commercially available, slightly damp microfiber cloth does the cleaning with flying colors. The scope of delivery also includes the headphones and a USB cable. After around a year of intensive use, it can happen that they appear in a subtle gray-beige instead of white. A cotton pad with a few drops of glass cleaner can help here.

To sell: You can turn your previous smartphone into cash using a used exchange. Apple offers its so-called "Trade In" program for this purpose, which, however, offers rather poor conditions. Depending on the age and model, other services such as Flip4new, Rebuy or Zoxs pay significantly more attractive prices for a used device. WirKaufens and Rankauf also offer cash for used smartphones and many other electronic devices. When you buy a new iPhone, you can save on the bottom line if you no longer need the smartphone you used to date and it is gathering dust in a drawer.

Used - chance and risk

However, used devices have several advantages: With a little luck, you can find even cheaper prices on the used market and - if a large capacity is more important than a lot of performance - models with a wide variety of colors and storage options such as 16 to 256 GB of storage. The surcharge for storage is usually very moderate. iPhones have a high resale value compared to other smartphones, but not much remains of the hefty surcharges that Apple charges for more memory.

Above all, it is important to support a current system, and you should also look a little into the future: iOS 14 can be installed from the iPhone 6S, but we recommend at least an 8-series model. It is quite possible that the upcoming iOS 15 might still run on the iPhone 7 and SE, but a year later it might not.

Tip: The versions in the less popular gold and rose colors are often a little cheaper, which is a real advantage on Ebay. Of course, one disadvantage is always that you have to live with the signs of use of the previous owner. More serious than cosmetic problems, however, are age-related wear and defects. This primarily includes the battery, which, depending on the intensity of use, begins to wear off noticeably after around two to three years. You should therefore not expect that the nominal values ​​will be met. Since an iPhone XR was only released in October 2018, the battery on this model should be in usable condition. Tip: The memory configuration often provides an indication of the model year: The iPhone 8 with 128 GB of memory has only been available for a few months, whereas an iPhone SE with 16 GB may have been manufactured in 2016.

What you should also know: The battery replacement has become more complex from model 7 and good battery sets cost just under 30 euros. The replacement should come from a reliable source - Apple also swaps batteries. This costs 49 euros up to and including the 8 model, but it is more reliable and safer than doing it yourself or letting the hobbyist from the neighborhood use the phone. iPhones from iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 are usually no longer waterproof after replacing the battery yourself.

Data from all iPhones

The free app Mactracker, which contains equipment, technical data and other information, is a great help when buying used Apple products.

Private purchases

If you buy a used smartphone, you can often get it from a private seller at a particularly low price. However, there is always the risk of a defect that is only noticed later - such as a defective headphone input.

Private sellers normally exclude the guarantee. You can't maliciously hide errors, but proving that they were known is often difficult. When selling privately, you should therefore take a look at the iPhone, test switches and connections, as it is easy to get stuck with existing errors. In addition, the device should not have a SIM lock and "Find my iPhone" must be switched off so that the activation lock is not activated. The “Battery” setting also tells you whether the battery is still OK or whether the CPU is already slowing down.

However, classifieds markets are particularly interesting for smaller purchases: For example a Lightning adapter or an inexpensive iPhone SE for 70 euros. Ebay classifieds has almost a monopoly on such offers. Here advertised offers have often long since been sold and one shouldn't be surprised at offers like an “iPhone 5 SE”.

Bargain on Ebay

A good place to go when looking for used iPhones is the Ebay website. You don't have to buy here right away, but there is a large selection of devices and if you look at auctions that have expired, you can quickly get a feel for the usual used prices.

Using the display option “Items sold”, you can quickly research the currently expected Ebay price. (Since this changes quickly, we have dispensed with our own overview of iPhone prices.)

A boom is not only to be expected at the start of sales of the new iPhone generation, many old devices will also be offered shortly after Christmas, although the pressure to buy from other bidders and thus the prices will be slightly lower than before the festival. Whether you prefer auctions or portals for classified ads is a matter of taste. The latter tend to offer local offers that can be viewed beforehand. Here you can get a used "completely clean" iPhone 7 for just under 150 euros.

Professional used seller

Not every private seller wants to go to the trouble of creating Ebay offers and messing around with often dubious prospects. They often sell their iPhone to professional Ebay dealers such as Asgoodasnew, Wirkaufen, Rebuy or Flip4New. As a buyer you get a little more security when buying, the sellers often document the condition of the devices in great detail and offer a right of return. But you often have to pay significantly higher prices for this. An iPhone XR “like new” was available at the time of going to press for just under 424 euros, with a few scratches for 334 euros.

It gets complicated: “gray market” iPhones

There are still a number of offers where the iPhone is not "new" but actually not used:

New devices from private buyers:

Suppliers like Asgoodasnew not only buy used devices from private individuals, but also iPhones in their original packaging and sell them at a discount. A discount of 20 percent or more is often possible here. The problem: For legal reasons, the buyer receives an invoice without VAT. This is unfavorable for companies and the self-employed, as they cannot then deduct VAT from the tax. (Differential taxation according to § 25a UStG)

It can also be a device from abroad, for example from Italy or England. An international guarantee from Apple then applies, but the device can be excluded from exchange programs - for example from Apple's exchange program for the iPhone X display. At least many providers offer guarantees (note: this is not a guarantee). IPhones from Japan also have an annoying peculiarity: a loud tone can be heard every time a photo is taken - which cannot be switched off.

Demonstration models

Unfortunately, the "demonstration model" category is a matter of trust. Actually, it should be as good as new products, which maybe even only briefly displayed in a Vodafone or O2 shop. However, it is uncertain how long it was out and whether the device has already been registered with Apple - which immediately reduces the duration of the manufacturer's warranty. The regional origin is also uncertain, which limits the guarantee as described above. With these models, customers complain more often that the device was no longer as “as new” after all.

You are also unlucky when you receive a so-called display product, a demo device for the retail trade. These devices are not actually intended for sale and are not covered by the Apple warranty.

Customer returns

In our opinion, this is a category for risk enthusiasts on Ebay offers. These are devices that a customer has returned within the exchange period. If you're lucky, he'll just unpack the device and it's as good as new. If you're unlucky, he's been on a beach vacation with it and it's undetected damage from salt water and grains of sand. Or the customer returned it because it was a Monday device with flaws and a scratched display at the factory. We would rather avoid both the categories "so-called demonstration model" (whatever that means) and "customer returns".

The situation is different with "real" returns, which some retailers like Galaxus offer through their shop. You can definitely get a bargain here.

Conclusion

Basically, you shouldn't be intimidated by our black markings: Most users handle their expensive iPhone very carefully and demand fair prices. And thanks to powerful CPUs, even second-hand iPhone 7 and iPhone X are powerful devices that can be used for a long time.