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Your guide to buying the right refurbished smartphone

Battery health or cost? Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are thinking of purchasing a used or refurbished smartphone

Most certified players in the refurbished smartphones market check whether a phone has good battery health or not. Refurbished phones should have the ability to retain at least 80% of the battery life. (iStock)

Over the past five years, Delhi-based advertising professional Vipul Shastri has become quite comfortable with the thought of buying refurbished smartphones. In 2016, when Flipkart had just begun offering such phones through a third-party seller, he purchased a Redmi 3S Prime phone, which originally cost 8,999, for around 4,000. “I used it for a year and then Cashified it for the same price when upgrading to a Samsung Galaxy S9+,” recalls Shastri, referring to Cashify, one of the biggest online marketplaces for refurbished devices.

More customers entered this market during the pandemic, when people were forced to work and study from home. Families needed more devices and it made sense to buy refurbished phones at an economical price. “Once remote working and learning started, it became essential to possess individual devices,” says Nakul Kumar, co-founder and chief operating officer (COO) of Cashify. “For most, it wasn’t always possible to walk into a showroom and get their hands on the latest gadgets.”

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Industry analysis firm Counterpoint Research noted in a report in July that the global refurbished smartphone market saw healthy growth across most regions, including India, in the second half of 2020. The market more than made up for a slump in the first half of 2020 with a modest 4% increase compared to 2019 volumes, the report explains.

In 2019, India was one of the top markets showing promise for smartphones in the secondary market, says Glen Cardoza, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research. This year, he adds, sales of refurbished smartphones have gone up “drastically” for online players such as Amazon, Flipkart, Cashify and Yaantra. “Such devices cost 30-40% less than the market price. If the quality is maintained, people would definitely go for the economical option,” adds Cardoza.

Cost is a crucial factor while deciding whether you should buy new or refurbished. For instance, how much should you be paying for a refurbished iPhone, if its original cost was, say, 60,000?

This varies from model to model. Let’s say you are purchasing a refurbished iPhone XR, released originally in 2018, in 2021. The chances of getting a great discount are higher in this case. “Phones also depreciate over time. If you are buying a refurbished smartphone which was released recently, in the last year or so, then it will be slightly expensive. The ceiling for discounts on such refurbished phones is usually around 20% on the original price,” Rohan Singh, co-founder and COO of Blynk, an online marketplace for refurbished smartphones.

A customer tests a smartphone during the launch of the new iPhone XS and XS Max sales at re:Store Apple reseller shop in Moscow, Russia September 28, 2018.
A customer tests a smartphone during the launch of the new iPhone XS and XS Max sales at re:Store Apple reseller shop in Moscow, Russia September 28, 2018. (REUTERS)

“You are essentially recycling or reusing the phone, which has been augmented with certain new parts. It not only helps in cutting down on electronic waste but also saves you money,” adds Singh, who says that consumers are even buying refurbished models of some of the biggest brands in the market today, including Apple, OnePlus and Samsung.

Blynk and other players ensure a rigorous quality check of each device. Every refurbished device at Cashify goes through 32 quality checks; each carries a six-month warranty. At Blynk, refurbished phones go through multiple layers of quality checks through an automated system. A diagnostic and quality check report is included in the box for consumers when they purchase a device.

What should you look out for? “It depends on the consumer,” says Singh. “In terms of value proposition, it is important to check if you are being offered a warranty on the device. Always ensure that the phone you are buying is from a trusted seller.... You have to ensure that the battery health is good.”

Here are a few extra tips on what you can look out for while buying a refurbished phone.
Here are a few extra tips on what you can look out for while buying a refurbished phone. (Mint Design)

Most certified players in the refurbished smartphones market check whether a phone has good battery health or not. Refurbished phones should have the ability to retain at least 80% of the battery life. If it doesn’t meet this standard, the battery is replaced with a new one.

A user can check this metric on their own as well. In case you are buying a refurbished iPhone, you can check the battery health in the phone’s settings. For Android, you can try third-party apps such as AccuBattery and Kaspersky Battery Life that inspect the device’s battery health, capacity and actual battery usage.

The screen quality comes next. “That’s something you will be looking at all the time. Too many scratches would hamper your experience,” adds Singh. The next step is to check the basic features: ensure a functioning camera, Wi-Fi connectivity and Bluetooth. The device generation is an important aspect, says Kumar, since it’s crucial to check if the device has features or is upgraded enough to support tasks.

“I think people have realised the value of money a little more during the pandemic,” says Singh. “Refurbished phone customers should think of it as a smart purchase, not an apologetic buy.”

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