You are currently viewing Buying a used Iphone: 4 things to consider

As of today, the smartphone market  has reached that level of maturity that we can see in other industries such a cars or, more simply put: it enjoys a used market. While there can be trade-offs when buying used, he main benefit is that you can still find a decent device with lots of life left in it for a fraction of the price compared to more on-trend smartphones. In this blog post, I will go over the 4 things to consider when buying an used Iphone. But before that, I’ll tackle an obvious question you may have. But, before that, an obvious question to answer first.

Are used Iphones still reliable?

In order to answer this question, it’s important to establish whether the device is just used (it still works with all of its original parts) or whether it has been refurbished: meaning some thorough maintenance and repair were done and likely some parts like the screen, battery and buttons have been changed. That can weigh a lot when determine if a given used device is worth purchasing.

Secondly, you want to consider where you are buying it from. Buy from an established, reputable seller (e.g Apple, Best Buy or your phone carrier) and you can consider yourself covered. Why? Because these have a brand (and a living) to defend, so if your device goes down right after you bought it from them, they want to make to make things right so you don’t runaway to the competition. On the contrary, if you’re buying the device from a listing on Craigslist or from a more shady seller, you might want to do some thorough verifications before you commit.

So, to answer the question, it depend very much on whether you are buying refurbished or not and who you are buying from!

Now, back to the 4 things to consider when buying a used Iphone.

Make sure your Iphone has been unlocked by the original carrier

The first thing you want to check when buying a used Iphone (or any smartphone, for that matter) is if the device is still locked with its original carrier or if it has been unlocked.

Why are smartphone locked for a specific carrier?

This comes down to the fact that when carrier propose a newer device to their customer, it is generally on a subscription basis: the customer will pay for the phone over time alongside their communication plan. Therefore, the carrier wants to make sure that the customer will keep their subscription long enough so that they’ll actually pay off the device entirely. 

Furthermore, even if you pay the phone in full in one-time, carriers want to recoup their inventory and network costs (build and maintain the infrastructure that allows wireless communication), so they lock the devices for a period of 12 to 24 months from the date of purchase.

Howcan you know if an Iphone is unlocked?

Simply put a SIM from a different carrier than the original one. If the name of the carrier displays near the signal icon at the top of the home screen, that generally means the phone (actually unlocked and) is ready to use that network.

Make sure your device is compatible with your current carrier’s network

The other thing to check with regard to connectivity is a bit more specific to the regions of America and Asia. Wireless carriers over there usually use tri-band technology on their network so it is important to make the device is compatible with this technology. Also, there has been reports in the USA of certain carriers using specific LTE frequencies that others don’t use themselves. Therefore, if you are using this carrier and planning to buy a used smartphone, it’s a good thing to ask the seller for the Iphone’s model number and check with your carrier if the device will be compatible.

Make sure the device has not been stolen

Again, if you are buying from a reputable seller, the risk is fairly slim here. However, if buying the phone privately, you should definitely consider this step. Once you’ve got the number, go and check the number on the CTIA Stolen Phone Checker website.

How do you know if an Iphone is stolen?

Retrieve the device’s IMEI or MEID number (depending of carrier) from the buyer. If you have access to phone yourself, go through the following steps:

  • Open the settings on the phone
  • Select General
  • Select About

Check the used Iphone’s Battery health

Having to change the battery of a device you just bought can be a hassle… So, in order to avoid that, it’s preferable to check the battery beforehand. Iphone include a built-in feature called “Battery Health”. This provides valuable and clear information on the status of the battery in the device. In there, the value that shows up is a percentage, so the closest it gets to 100 the better. However, not that Apple itself consider 80% as the threshold between bad and good capacity…

Now, if the battery isn’t that good and as long as the seller is transparent with you on that. Apple and certified providers perform battery replacement on a regular basis. So this should not be a deal-breaker on its own and you should be able to negotiate a rebate decent enough to cover the cost of replacing the battery. Plus, if you’re buying from a respectable seller, they’ll probably have already changed the battery if it needed to be.

Check the IOS support on the Iphone model

It may be a surprise but yes, Apple doesn’t offer its IOS upgrades to every Iphone available on the market.

Why should I upgrade IOS to the latest version available?

Keeping up to date with versions of IOS is important. It allows you to benefit from the newest features and to maintain a good level of security. Indeed, every update fixes a number of security issues. Apple can be very reactive in insuring that IOS users stay safe. The latest instances was when the brand upgraded IOS 12 for a special security upgrade in January 2023.

Iphone: current VS old Iphones, what does it mean?

Usually, it comes down to which devices will stay on the shelves in the medium term on a 5 years term. Typically, models fall in 2 categories: current and old. The expression “current models” at Apple’s refer to the devices that the brand is currently selling. At time of writing, these are the Iphone 11 (including Pro and Pro Max versions), Iphone 12 (including Pro and Pro Max versions), Iphone 13 (including mini, Pro and Pro Max versions). Those that don’t populate the shelves currently are, as a matter of fact, old.

In 2022 (at time of writing), the newest version of IOS will be IOS 16. As a result, the list of compatible devices ranges from Iphone 8 all the way to Iphone 14, uincluding X XR and XS versions as well the second generation of Iphone SE.

Why does IOS doesn’t support older Iphones?

Mainly, this comes down to the specifications of the device and the capacities of the hardware. Indeed, it may become outdated and unable to meet the demands of the new Operating System. Make the device technically unable to run the software. For that reason, latest versions usually exclude those older devices.

Wrapping up

There is no doubt that the Iphone is a very capable device. Even older versions of the device can present some interest to buy on the used market. However, you should do your due diligence in order to add value to the purchase and avoid trouble. This was my take on 4 things to consider when buying an older Iphone. I hope you enjoyed reading!