How to Inspect a Used Smartphone

Smartphone prices are rising by the year, and not everyone wants to spend 1K on a new iPhone X or a prohibitive $750 for the newest Galaxy model. Buying a used smartphone is often a wallet-friendly way to upgrade to a new phone. Like purchasing any used item, buying a used phone comes with risks, and you need to know exactly what you’re buying so you don’t end up with a dud. Once you’ve done some research on the type of phone and model you want, how can you find out if the phone you saw on eBay is a good buy?

Research prices. The most important factor when buying a used phone is price. Before deciding if this is the phone for you, research similar phones and compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Deciding on a fair price depends largely on the physical and internal state of the phone. More on that below.

Do a physical inspection. The first step when inspecting a used phone is examining the body and screen for external scratches or cracks. Aside from physical flaws, check for evidence of repeated dropping or abuse that could indicate accompanied internal damage. If the flaws are purely physical, remember that they can be covered by a phone case and also used as a bargaining chip to get a better price. Don’t forget to double-check the front and back camera for scratches.

Do an internal inspection. Don’t judge a book by its cover. While the phone might look great, it’s sometimes hard to know what problems lie beyond the glossy screen. Some important features to check out are the speakers, charging port and touch screen. One method is to test various features by hand. You can even bring your own charger, headphones and SIM card to confirm that everything works perfectly. Alternatively, you can use a comprehensive diagnostic app. TestM runs free full hardware diagnostic tests for smartphones that can pinpoint problems with the device. The 20+ wide-ranging tests cover screen, sound, motion, connectivity, hardware and camera. Ask the seller to run the 5-minute test and send you the report stamped with the date and time of the inspection.

Check compatibility. Aside from price and condition, there may be some other aspects that factor into your decision. Not all phones can be used on all wireless carriers so checking compatibility is an absolute must. Make sure the device is either unlocked, or locked to *your* carrier.

Other considerations. Remember that new phones come with accessories such as a charger and headphones. See if the used phone comes along with these fixtures and if not use that as another way to bargain down the price. Confirm that the phone has been totally reset and that all the previous owner’s settings, photos and accounts have been wiped clean.