Thoughts on buying a second-hand smartphone
In our page on mobile evangelism, we suggest that you consider a smartphone with capabilities that can be used for evangelism and discipleship, rather than using a low-end phone. That page highlights the features you should consider, and where to find online reviews.
Most phone companies now provide a good choice of top-end smartphones on contract, at a moderately higher price than base-level phones. However, if your phone usage is quite low, you may prefer Pay As You Go, and in this case phone companies may still supply, but at virtually full retail price. An alternative is to consider buying second-hand from Ebay, for these reasons and with qualifications and warnings:
- First, visit the various review sites to narrow down your needs to one or two models. There are only two operating systems that have a wide range of 'applications' available for them: Apple and Android. Probably more Android phones than iPhones are available secondhand. HTC Android phones have a particularly good reputation as top-end Android smartphones.
- Many people are legitimately selling mobile phones on Ebay – they have received an upgrade on their phone contract, but they prefer their existing phone, or are at least happy to continue with it and quite reasonably turn their upgrade phone into cash.
- If the seller has paperwork to prove the date of supply from their phone company, the guarantee may well transfer to you. Check with the phone manufacturer via their website or contact page to confirm the position.
- However, a phone which was originally supplied locked to one mobile company and which has subsequently been unlocked, will probably not be guaranteed. Note however that phones are also sold unlocked quite legitimately by Amazon and other suppliers, so factory-unlocked status does not invalidate a guarantee. But a phone which has been unlocked, but has no paperwork to indicate its supplier, should be avoided.
- If a phone has not been unlocked, it will only work for company it was sold for. So if you wish to transfer an existing PAYG SIM card to your new phone, make sure you choose a phone locked to that network. On the other hand, if you do not mind switching companies, you can usually get a new SIM card for that company free plus the cost of a topup. Do check reception issues in your area or other locations you are likely to use the phone though. Different companies may have inconvenient dead spots. Ask friends to show their phones working in, for example, your house or office.
- You can contact the seller via Ebay's email system to find out more, get a sense of the seller and phone details, and ask what paperwork they have to validate the date of supply.
- Check the background of the seller by clicking on their username. Here you can see feedback from buyers and sellers who have dealt with them in the past. If their sales pattern (e.g. selling lots of phones or electronic equipment) does not seem to match their story of reason for sale, be suspicious.
- If you are not familiar with Ebay, learn the bidding system (Google for a number of sites that explain this). Try 'watching' a few phones on sale, and learn how bidding proceeds, especially in the last few minutes. Learn how to keep two browser screens open, and the way to submit and confirm a bid within the last 10 seconds of sale.
- Don't be bounced into paying more than necessary. Set a limit and stick to it. There will be many other examples of the same model available.
- Bargains are certainly possible. Your writer got a top-end HTC phone for about 65% of the new price.
- An Ebay item with a closing time during the working day may attract fewer last-minute bids than one during the evening.
- Always but always pay for items bought on Ebay using PayPal - they will cover you against fraudulent sales - check the terms and conditions online. The only possible exception is if you visit the vendor in person and are totally satisfied with the product on offer.
- An alternative to smartphones are the growing choice of tablet devices, which may or may not have phone capability, but will incorporate all the other smartphone capabilities including the ability to download 'apps' with the bonus of a bigger screen. These are unlikely to often be available second-hand yet, but base-level tablets are cheaper than top-end smartphones.