Every year, a new phone model gets released with premium specs and an even more premium price tag. Getting a hold of these top-quality smartphones almost seems impossible without having to break the bank. But with something called refurbished phones, did you know you can buy these older models at a fraction of the original price?

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What is a refurbished phone?

A refurbished smartphone refers to a pre-owned mobile phone that was returned to the manufacturer, perhaps for a minor factory defect, or the customer just changed their mind. It was then restored to good working order and resold back in the market.

When somebody buys a new smartphone but experiences unsatisfactory performance with the touch screen, the speakers, or the battery, they can claim the replacement warranty and have it returned to the manufacturer to get a new unit or refund. That’s how it works in other countries, which is the reason why we see a lot of refurbished devices in the market.

The malfunctioning device is repaired by the manufacturer accordingly until it functions as it should. It is then resold as a refurbished model at a lower price and additional coverage for support.

How is a refurbished phone different from a secondhand phone?

While refurbished phones are technically “secondhand” because they were pre-owned, they are different from the secondhand phones you encounter on online marketplaces and websites.

2nd hand phones usually do not undergo any restorations and are sold by the previous owner themselves. Meanwhile, refurbished phones are usually inspected and repaired by the manufacturer, and are sold in official stores or by authorized resellers.

Are refurbished phones cheap?

Refurbished phones are always cheaper than a brand-new model, but how much the price reduction is will depend on the original quality of the phone and the quality of restoration. If it’s the newest model from the manufacturer or if the phone’s condition is like it’s brand new, the phone usually retains its original price with a slight discount.

For older models or those with a slightly lower restoration grade, the price reduction becomes more significant and buyers get to save more money.

What are the grades of refurbished phones?


Refurbished phones are often given a grade to signify their restoration and overall condition. While there is no standardized system used for grading refurbished phones, most sellers follow the following breakdown.

Grade A/Excellent Condition/Like Brand New — The phone is as nearly new as it gets, usually sent back to the manufacturer within the first 30 days of purchase. Perfect functionality, with very little to no signs of wear.

Grade B/Very Good Condition — The phone may have a few scratches but nothing too major, while having perfect functionality.

Grade C/Good Condition — The phone will look used and have visible signs of wear, but otherwise is in satisfactory condition.

Grade D/Okay Condition — The phone will look well-worn and/or may have minor unresolved defects.

Most manufacturers and resellers will only sell refurbished phones of Grades A to C. Smaller resellers and phone traders may sell Grade D refurbished phones. Still, they are usually recommended only to those who know how to repair phones themselves.

Do refurbished smartphones have a warranty?

Yes, refurbished smartphones sold in official stores or by authorized resellers are covered by a warranty. In most instances, this is a 12-month warranty, but the warranty can also range from 3 to 36 months depending on the seller and the phone model.

This warranty gives you some peace of mind regarding the quality of the refurbished phone and in getting your money’s worth.

What comes with a refurbished phone?

Depending on where you buy your refurbished phone, your purchase will come (or not come) with certain accessories. For example, refurbished iPhones are sometimes called Whitebox units because they come in a plain white box, without the Apple logo to signify that it is a refurbished model.

If you buy from official stores and authorized resellers, your refurbished model will likely come with all accessories, cables, and operating systems that come with a brand new model. If you buy from unauthorized sources, they may try to cut costs and provide third-party accessories instead.

Where can I buy refurbished smartphones?

Official stores and authorized resellers


The best place to buy refurbished phones is through the official stores of the manufacturer or through authorized resellers. This way, you can guarantee that the refurbished phone you’re going to get is of top quality. Apple and Samsung have a dedicated refurbished section where you can purchase certified refurbished products on their official websites. Unfortunately, it’s currently not available in the Philippines.

Refurbished phone retailers


Big resellers like Allo Allo are another popular option to get authentic refurbished phones here in the Philippines. Allo Allo primarily offers refurbished Apple and Samsung phones, as well as other Apple products like iPads and AirPods.

CompAsia offers Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) phones, which are second-hand devices that have undergone minor repairs, much like refurbished phones. They offer CPO phones from Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi.


Telco companies

Telecom companies like Globe and Smart sometimes offer refurbished phones as part of their postpaid plan bundles. In 2020, Globe offered refurbished Whitebox units of the iPhone 6s bundled with their Plan999. However, these offers are occasional and not part of their standard postpaid bundles.

Online marketplaces

Smartphones advertised as refurbished models are also sold in online marketplaces like Carousell, TipidCP, and Facebook Marketplace. However, since these models may not come from the manufacturer, there is no guarantee that they have undergone any type of restoration to be considered refurbished.

Should I buy a refurbished smartphone: Pros vs Cons

Pro: It’s much cheaper.

The biggest pro to buying a refurbished phone is definitely its lower price compared to an original model. Especially if you purchase a refurbished version of an older phone model, the price reduction can be immense (sometimes up to 50%), so you can really save thousands of pesos when buying a smartphone.

Con: It’s not brand new.

While a refurbished smartphone may look, feel, and function like brand new, it will still be technically pre-owned. This may be unsuitable for certain people who prefer the experience and guaranteed quality of a brand-new smartphone. 

The difference may be minimal for refurbished phones of grades A or B, but for phones with lower restoration grades, the wear and tear may be more noticeable.

Pro: It’s been rigorously tested.

Before refurbished devices are resold in the market, they need to be properly repaired and restored to address any defects. Then, they undergo several tests to ensure that everything is in perfect working order before they are purchased by the customer. But remember that this only applies to devices refurbished by the manufacturer themselves, as the quality for third-party isn’t guaranteed.

Pro: It’s covered by the standard warranty.

Legitimate resellers and retailers equip their refurbished smartphone offerings with their standard warranty, which usually covers up to 12 months. Some resellers also offer additional coverage like a money-back guarantee and easy return policies to give their customers peace of mind when purchasing a refurbished device.

Con: Its quality varies per retailer.

If you purchase from official stores or resellers, you can expect to receive a refurbished product that is up to par with the manufacturer’s standard quality. However, if you purchase from retailers that renew or repair the phones in-house, it is not guaranteed that the refurbished phone’s quality will be comparable to that of a new model.

Pro: It’s eco-conscious.

Not only is a refurbished phone good for your wallet, but it’s also good for the planet. When a manufacturer refurbishes a pre-owned phone, they use much less energy and resources compared to creating a brand new phone. Refurbishment also helps repurpose old or defective devices, thus helping to reduce e-waste.


Tips when buying a refurbished smartphone

Only buy a refurbished phone from reputable stores and retailers.

Spare yourself from worrying about the quality of your phone by only purchasing from legitimate stores. This is especially important for refurbished phones because you need to have the assurance of their quality after being repaired and restored.

When buying from unauthorized sellers, there is no guarantee that the pre-owned phone is actually refurbished and not just “second-hand”, without any restoration.

Know what you are buying.

Take note of the restoration grade of the refurbished phone you’re purchasing so you know exactly what to expect. If it’s labeled as Grade A or like-new, then you know to expect your refurbished phone to be in excellent condition, with no or very minimal signs of wear.

You should also bear in mind what exactly the refurbishment entails. Is the battery new? Was the outer casing changed? Is it SIM unlocked? Which accessories will be included? These should be properly detailed by the seller.

Make sure there is a warranty and an easy return policy.

Never buy a refurbished phone without a replacement warranty. With a refurbished phone, you are promised a device that functions perfectly and is already defect-free. And if that isn’t met, you need to be able to have it exchanged or get your money back. 

Your refurbished phone should come with at least a 6-month warranty. Reputable sellers and retailers will usually have the standard 1-year warranty, plus a return policy and money-back guarantee.

Do a thorough quality assurance test.

After you’ve gotten a hold of your new refurbished phone, immediately test it out and make sure that there are no defects whatsoever. Check for the following features, which are the most common defects reported:

  • Touch screen
  • Front and rear cameras
  • Battery
  • Power charging
  • Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Speaker
  • Microphone
  • SIM card
  • Buttons (Home, Power, Volume)

Make sure that you also get all of the things that were advertised. Assess how the refurbished phone looks and check for scratches or scuff marks, and see whether its appearance matches the restoration grade. Additionally, check that all accessories that were said to be included are included in the package.

Frequently asked questions

Is it safe to use a refurbished smartphone?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to buy and use a refurbished smartphone. As part of the refurbishment process, phones undergo a complete factory reset that erases any data from the previous owner. Just like when you purchase a brand-new phone, you essentially have a blank slate if you’re working with a refurbished phone.

How long does a refurbished smartphone last?

Refurbished phones have received all the necessary repairs and have been rigorously tested to make sure they are working perfectly. This means that they should last the same length of time as a brand new phone of the same model would, without suffering a dip in quality.

How do I check if my smartphone is refurbished?

When you’re buying a phone, the seller — whether it’s the manufacturer, a network, or a reseller — is mandated to make it absolutely clear whether or not what you’re purchasing is a refurbished phone. However, if you’re buying from an online marketplace or a private seller, they may not readily advertise the phone as being refurbished.

If you’re unsure if your phone is refurbished or not, there is an easy way to check on the iPhone and other Apple devices. Go to Settings > General > About, and here you will see your phone’s alphanumeric Model Number.

If the Model Number begins with the letter M, this means your phone was bought brand new. If it starts with the letter F, then your phone has been refurbished.

For newer Android phones, there is no quick way to see whether your handset is refurbished because some of the phone details have been hidden. Instead, you can download an app that shows you your phone’s information, which will often indicate whether your phone was bought refurbished or brand new.

When shopping for a new phone, don’t let that hefty price tag stop you from upgrading to a better model. With refurbished phones, you can purchase one of the recent smartphones at a fraction of the cost, without sacrificing the quality of the device.

Have you tried buying or using a refurbished smartphone? How’s your experience? Let us know in the comments section below.

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