Pre-owned iPhones are in high demand and a great way to save on an Apple smartphone. You should do your research before making a purchase.
Here are the basics of buying a used iPhone
These tips are intended for people who can physically inspect an iPhone, such as when purchasing from someone via a resource like Facebook Marketplace.
Online sales are not possible. You will need to conduct your due diligence online. Reputable sellers will provide plenty of photos showing any scratches or other damage. They’ll also include detailed descriptions of the item. While feedback is a great indicator of the item’s quality, not every seller who sells an iPhone will have many.
PayPal offers buyer protection and allows you to request a return if the item doesn’t match your description. You should not buy items through local classified websites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace unless you’re personally inspecting them. Otherwise, you don’t have protection against scams that may attempt to misrepresent genuine listings.
Personal safety is the most important thing when you are purchasing an item in-person. You might consider taking someone along when you meet in a public space like a cafe, shopping center, or other public area. Consider using peer-to-peer services like Venmo and Cash App to pay instead of carrying around large amounts. If the seller insists on cash only, inspect the item before you make a withdrawal at an ATM.
Avoid meeting at night or in isolated areas like car parks. Meet the seller and agree to terms, such as a payment method and the ability to inspect the item in detail. This will help to deter scammers.
It is possible to fall for a scam if the price seems too good to be true. You should not be allowed to inspect the item if the seller doesn’t allow you to. Do not agree to take the cash with the seller if they insist on it.
Genuine sellers will respect your desire to be safe and smart. If they don’t have anything to hide, they’ll allow you to inspect the item. It is in their interest to meet at public places that are well lit and where they can feel safe.
1. Does the iPhone turn on?
It is important to verify that the iPhone can turn on. While this may seem obvious, sellers will try to convince you that an iPhone won’t start because it has a dead battery. Avoid falling for this scam and ensure that the iPhone boots to either the lock screen or the “Hello!” prompt.
It is also a good idea to insist on an iPhone that comes with a charger and a wall adapter. The likelihood of an iPhone being stolen is higher if it does not have these items. However, the seller may just want to keep them. It is best to make sure your iPhone charges correctly. If you don’t have one, consider buying a Lightning cable or a portable battery.
2. Is Activation Lock Still Enabled?
When the iPhone boots you’ll see a lock screen asking the owner for a passcode. You may see a message asking you to enter a password to activate your iPhone. Even if your iPhone is not stolen, you cannot use it in this state. It’s best to just walk away.
Insist the seller to activate the iPhone by entering their Password. An iPhone can be unlocked by deactivating “Find My iPhone”, under Settings > [Owner’s name] > Find My.
3. If the iPhone is already dead
An iPhone that has been erased may be available for sale when you meet with a seller. While this is not necessarily a bad thing it prevents you from fully testing the iPhone. If this happens, you may see a “Hello”, or “Swipe for Begin” message.
You should ask the seller for their information to enable you to test the iPhone. You may be asked to insert your SIM card in order to activate the iPhone. Then, you can go through the steps listed below to confirm that you are ready to buy the device.
Once you are happy with your iPhone, demand that the seller remove Activation Lock. Then erase it using “Erase All Contents and Settings” under Settings >General > Transfer or Reset iPhone. You will need to provide your Apple ID password so that the seller can disable Activation Lock.
4. Is there visible damage?
The majority of iPhones that have been used for a long time will show signs of wear and scratches. You should always take the case off an iPhone that is being handed to you. Examine the entire device for visible damage.
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The more serious signs of damage to the internal components, such as the battery, are dentations in the chassis. You should check if your iPhone is flattened on a flat surface. If it does, this will indicate that the chassis has been bent. Check the lens assembly for damage or scratches.
It’s okay to ignore superficial damage but it should be taken into consideration when calculating the item’s value. A mint condition iPhone will have a protective screen and tough case from the first day. It will be worth much more than a damaged iPhone. You can also use this information to determine whether the seller is asking an honest price.
5. How does the battery health look?
Over time, lithium-ion batteries can degrade and an iPhone that has been used will likely have a battery with less than 100% capacity. For two key metrics, maximum capacity as well as performance capability, you can go to Settings > Battery>>.
Maximum capacity will give an approximate idea of how much battery charge you have. Anywhere above 90% is fine, but the lower the number, the shorter the time between charges. More important than the battery’s capacity is its performance.
Battery Health on iPhone
As it attempts to maintain performance and longevity, iPhones may slow down when their battery health drops significantly. It’s time for a new battery, if the iPhone is reporting anything but “Peak Performance Capability”, it’s time to change the battery. You aren’t getting the best out of your device.
6. Are there any replacement parts?
To check if your iPhone has been refurbished, head to Settings >General > About and look at the “Model Number Entry”. If the number starts with an F it has been refurbished either by Apple or by a carrier. It’s not necessarily bad, but it may be something you want to know. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know if the device was repaired by a third party.
If the seller states that the battery has been recently replaced, you can inspect the parts and service history to confirm that it is genuine Apple. Navigate to Settings > General > More and search for the relevant section below the “Model Number” field.
If the list is empty, then either the iPhone isn’t running iOS 15.2 (or later) or it hasn’t been replaced. iPhones running iOS 15.2 or later will have parts that have been removed listed as “Genuine Apple Part” and “Unkown Part”, if the replacement was not made by Apple.
Genuine parts are more expensive to make than those made by third parties. While it’s impossible to be certain, genuine parts (e.g. battery replacements) can provide greater security than those of unknown origin.
7. How does the performance compare?
Try the iPhone for a while to get a feel for how it works. Consider the age of the device. Also, older devices may be slower than newer models. You should look for any signs of slowdown which might indicate an internal problem.
A few of the simple tests you could perform are browsing a responsive website such as apple.com, searching using Spotlight for an app, opening the App Store and perusing it, zooming and scrolling the Maps app inside, accessing Notification Center or Control Center, and switching between widgets and icons on your homescreen.
8. What’s the Display Conditions?
You should check the operation of any traditional edge-lit LCDs (such as the iPhone XR and SE), if the iPhone has one. OLED displays (also known as Super Retina XDR in the iPhone X, 12 and 13) should be checked for burn-in. While these issues may not impact the device’s functionality, they should be detected under normal usage.
Both of these problems can be checked against a solid background by using different colors. Take a YouTube video similar to this one and use full-screen mode. Pause on the different shades to see if there are any problems. You can see LCD backlighting issues more easily on a solid-white slide. However, some colors may have burn-in due to the way that sub-pixels wear.
9. How do the Speakers and Microphones work?
The Voice Memos app, which Apple has built in, allows you to easily test the microphone. You can play back the recording or preview a ringtone by going to Settings > Sounds & Haptics.
It is also a good idea that you check the volume in the earpiece. This can be done by calling. You may find it hard to use your iPhone when the speaker stops working. You can use FaceTime instead if you don’t have a SIM Card in your iPhone.
10. Also, check out the Other Buttons
Verify that the mute switch, which is located on left side of iPhone, works properly. You’ll also find volume rocksers. These buttons are used for turning up your iPhone’s call volume or taking photos. You will also need them to force restart your iPhone.
The side button is located on the right side and can be used to wake, sleep, invoke Siri, force restart and access Apple Pay. It is important that everything works correctly and feels great to press. It is possible that a button “mushy” may be in the way.
11. Does Every Camera Work as Advertised
Finally, verify all lenses and cameras. Open Camera and switch to front-facing camera. Next, use all cameras on the back of your device (including ultra wide and telephoto if available).
Good lighting will make the image clear and sharp. The image should not be a slideshow, but should appear smoothly. Tap the screen to focus on that area.
You can also save money by purchasing an iPhone elsewhere
Saving money doesn’t mean you have to buy a second-hand iPhone. There are many ways that you can save money without sacrificing the quality of a “as-new” device. The best way to do this is to purchase a refurbished iPhone directly at Apple.
You are thinking about buying a second-hand Mac? Here are some Mac-specific points you should consider before you make a purchase.