Tips for buying a second hand smartphone

Those who want to own a high-end smartphone with a superior set of features but are not willing to pay the hefty price tag, usually opt for second hand devices. Buying a second hand device isn't a bad idea, and you may actually walk out with a good deal. The local tech markets are flooded with seconds, but grabbing a good deal needs some thorough inspection of the device along with other factors like wear and tear, warranty, how long it has been used, internal damages and so on. Now, this doesn't mean that the reason why people sell their handsets is because it is damaged or there's something wrong with it. Nevertheless, this may be true sometimes. There are also consumers who love laying their hands on every popular device that enters the market and replace their smartphone with newer ones frequently.

To ensure that you get a raw deal while buying a second hand phone, here are a few tips.

Examine visually
Once you have done your research and decided which smartphone to buy, head directly to your local tech shop. Seconds need a set of thorough check-ups before you finally settle for one. Firstly, take a look at the phone from every angle. This may sound obvious, but one has to inspect the phone closely to detect scratches, cracks, tempered body and bruised edges, if any. Check the edges thoroughly to see if the phone has undergone multiple drops.

Next, move on to the screen of the device and check the screen for scratches and cracks. Always switch on the device and check the screen for cracks, which usually appear as bright line/lines on the screen or in the form of bleeding pixels. This could affect the viewing experience. In case the phone has a physical keyboard, then check for broken keys. Check the camera lens for any kind of damage.

Functional touchscreen and keyboard
Looks could be deceptive. A phone can look brand new but may not necessarily perform like one. So, always have a quick hands-on with the smartphone. For instance, if its touchscreen, swipe your fingers across the screen and tap on the icons to see if it is functional. Check for lagged response. In case of physical keyboard, press each and every key to know if it is completely functional. Move across menus and apps to gauge if the navigation is smooth using the touchscreen or keypad.

Camera and other features
Once you have visually examined the camera lens, check the camera app and take a few quick snapshots. Try taking pictures using the physical camera button as well as using the touchscreen. Some high-end phones are known for specific features such as 1080p display, high resolution camera, intuitive stylus and so on. It is important to check the functionality of the features that you plan to use frequently in the smartphone.

Battery and liquid damage
Sometimes the device comes across as functional but may have suffered some serious damage. This means it could be functional just temporarily. One such issue is internal damage due to liquids, which leads to slow corrosion of the internal elements and gradually destroys the phone. It is easy to check for liquid damages – just open the back flap and pull out the battery. The battery will have a white square/rectangular sticker on one of its edges, all you need to do is just check that the colour of the sticker hasn't turned red or pink. Needless to say, the owner of the device could have easily replaced the battery, so inspect further as there should be a similar sticker somewhere on the backside of the phone. In fact, most of the high-end smartphones now come with a sticker somewhere on the back of the phone instead of the battery. Also, check the ports for charging and USB, look for discoloration as these ports are usually of metal and discoloration means water damage.

Liquid damage (Image Source)

Liquid damage (Image Credit: tescomobilerecycle)


Secret service codes test
This simple test will let you know if all the components/features of the second hand phone are working. Smartphones come with a secret service code which you can search online. Enter the code into the dialler of the phone and a Service menu will show up. This menu will include options like Service Info, Service Test and Customization Settings. Tap on Service Test and you will see a long list of phone features such as touchscreen, display, LED/illumination, microphone, vibrator, battery, call time and more. Tap on each of these features and then the phone will either check if the aspect is working. However, some of these, like the battery test, could take an hour or so.

For instance, the secret service code of the Xperia Arc is *#*#7378423#*#* and using it we could check all the above mentioned aspects. This may not be the same for all Xperia phones, so you will have to check online to find out.

Service tests

Service tests


Examine all the ports carefully. Besides checking for discoloration of ports as mentioned earlier, take along a pair of earphones and listen to music/FM radio. If the device comes with accessories, check if these accessories are functioning well. Check if the phone is charging with the bundled charger or carry your charger along if the phone comes with no accessories.

Getting the price right
You will have to check a couple of local shops to get an idea of the minimum price that you will have to pay to buy a second hand device. This price may differ depending on the condition of the phone, warranty and guarantee if any, accessories bundled and so on. For instance, a second hand Samsung Galaxy Note II is available for roughly Rs. 28,000, but this price can vary depending upon the above mentioned factors. You may have to pay a little extra if the device is bundled with accessories or comes with warranty.

There is also a usual tendency that lesser the time period for which the phone is used, better its condition. This is one reason why a reseller or vendor will always inform you if the phone has been used for three months, six months or likewise. However, a phone used for one month can be more damaged than the one used for six months. So, it is important to inspect the device closely and thoroughly. Apart from local vendors, sites like Quikr and OLX also have second hand phone options. Irrespective of where you plan to buy the second hand device, the inspection rules remain the same and we wouldn't suggest you buy it just on the basis of its description or photo shown online.


Main image: Jagdish Limbachiya

Cover Image: Getty Images

Published Date: Mar 01, 2013 11:29 AM | Updated Date: Mar 01, 2013 11:29 AM