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Top 5 Most Important Things to Look for When Buying a Used Cellphone

by Chris Sandl and John Cooper January 14, 2020

1. General Cosmetic Condition

When you have a look at the phone, you’ll want to have a close look at the phone’s exterior. Cracks or damage to the screen glass could mean a damaged display and touch response. Check for any visible external damage to the volume, home and power buttons, auxiliary (if applicable) and charge ports. Breakage of these could adversely affect their function. Scuffs on the chassis may be unsightly but do not have a major impact on the functionality of the phone, whereas major indentations or bends could indicate damage to internal components.

2. Functionality

Ensure that the seller has the phone charged when you view it. This will allow you to test the phone’s functionality. You will want to run through a series of tests to make sure the important features are working properly. If you have access to WIFI, the best way to do this is to download an app that walks you through a full functionality test (we recommend TestM or Phone Check and Test). Such an app will systematically help you test features such as front and back cameras, GPS functionality, Bluetooth, speakers, microphones, earpieces and more. At eMobile, we run devices through a 35-point check to make sure all systems are fully functional.

3. Battery Health

When buying a used phone, you will certainly want to check the battery health of the device. This will give you some peace of mind that you won’t be spending more money to get a tired old battery replaced. With the iPhone 5 and newer , this is an easy task. Simply go into Settings > Battery > Battery Health. Here the battery health is expressed as a percentage of the original battery capacity. For example, if you are looking at an iPhone X, the original battery capacity is 2716mAh (which translates roughly to 12 hours of heavy use, according to one source [1]). If the battery health is at 80%, the capacity will have diminished to 2173mAh or approximately 9.5 hours of heavy use. With other cellphone models (i.e. Samsung, LG, Google, etc.), assessing the battery health is not as quick and easy. Ideally, you would run a test (using an app such as AccuBattery for example) over a number of usage and charging cycles to give you an indication of the remaining battery capacity. But that is not usually practical when buying a used cell phone. In this case your best bet is to use one of the aforementioned-apps (TestM or Phone Check and Test) to run a battery test which checks for unusual temperature and voltage.

At eMobile, we check the battery health for you and guarantee that all Apple devices have a minimum battery health of 80%.

4. Passcodes and Account Locks

Check to make sure that the previous user hasn’t left any screen locks in place. Also be sure to check that there are no account locks in place on the device. On iPhones, ensure that any pre-existing iCloud accounts have been signed out of. Otherwise, you will not be able to log in to the phone with your credentials and access your own iCloud account.

On Android devices, ensure that the previous user has removed any screen locks and has signed out of any Google accounts so that the device can be easily reset.

5. IMEI number

Lastly and most importantly, you will want to check the phone’s fifteen-digit IMEI number. This is the phone’s unique identification number and can be used by carriers to blacklist a phone if any nefarious acts have been associated with it. A blacklisted phone can not be registered for use with any carrier so this is a major deal breaker.

The IMEI number can be found either on the back of the phone, on the inside of the phone’s SIM tray, or simply under Settings > General > About on iPhones or Settings > About Phone > Status on Android devices.

Use an IMEI reference website (we recommend and check the “blacklist” status to ensure that the device has not been blacklisted.

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