Technology is all about the next big thing, so you should be upgrading your phones and tablets every month or so, right? Well, besides the sheer impracticality, most of us don’t have the budget to do that. So, how do you stay in touch without a second mortgage? By stepping back from the leading edge and buying smart.
I’ve become a big fan of second hand technology. I don’t mean using a tatty old 3210 though. I’m talking about classy phones and tablets that will get your friends thinking you’ve spent a fortune. There are, however, pitfalls to be avoided, so here’s my rule of thumb guide to staying close to the leading edge.
My first tip is actually to change your mindset with regards to mobile phone contracts.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds.
When I were a lad and having a mobile phone was considered opulent, most networks offered every phone on a twelve month contract. These days, however, you’re lucky if you can find an eighteen monther; most will have you two years out of date before you can upgrade. As anyone who has gone from contract to pay as you go will tell you, to free yourself of a contract is surprisingly liberating. It gives you freedom to change phones whenever you like.
So, you’re on PAYG or a rolling monthly contract. Now it’s time to buy a phone!
These days, no matter what your budget, you can get yourself a very accomplished mobile. Assuming you’re not going to buy the new iPhone on release, or pre-order the next court case from Samsung, you will have the choice of older (but still brand new) phones, or something a little more exotic second hand. The last thing you want is an exotic brick though, so here’s what to look out for:
The screen – the vast majority of smartphones use touchscreens. The screen, therefore, is not only the window into your cyber world, it’s your only means of interaction with it, so a good screen is essential. If there are lots of scratches on the screen, then demand a large discount or walk away.
The body – this is where you can pick up a bargain. In stark contrast to the screen, a damaged body can be a bargain hunter’s dream. A lot of people see a scuff or dent as a deal breaker, but if you can live with a protective case on your pride and joy then nobody need ever know. Don’t tell the seller that though!
The battery – this depends on the phone you’re looking at. If the seller states that the battery doesn’t hold its charge very well, it’s generally because one of the cells is knackered. This is easily resolved with a replacement, which can be picked up cheaply from your favorite Internet auction site.
Not so fast though. Always check that your proposed purchase has a replaceable battery. iPhones, HTC One X’s and various other modern phones are sealed units. So, unless you’re a surgeon, steer clear of these devices if the batteries are degraded.
Software – If you’re looking for a reliable phone to use immediately, then keep away from phones with software problems. However, if you’re technical, or want to become technical, a phone with a software issue is also a potential bargain. Search the net for the make, model and symptoms. Chances are that you’ll find out if it’s fixable, and if so, how to fix it. Beware though! Some fixes can be very risky, and you could very easily end up making things worse. Only buy a faulty phone if it’s cheap and you’re confident you can rectify the defect.
Don’t underestimate the value of trust – The ideal situation when buying second hand is seeing it before paying for it. However, the reality is that there’s far more choice online.
When buying a phone online all you have to go on is a description and photos. Unfortunately one person’s idea of “good condition” is another’s “on its last legs”, so if you’re not going to see it before parting with your pennies you need to judge how trustworthy the seller is. If there’s a choice of two identical phones, always go for the most reliable seller, even if you have to pay a slight premium.
Reconditioned products – If you want second hand goods but feel wary about not having a warranty then you can find lots of reconditioned phones with limited warranties. Once again, they can command a higher price, but you’re paying for peace of mind. Apple (amongst others) even have their own reconditioned outlet. I’ve seen their products and you’d never know that they aren’t brand new.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do your research. Sites such as ours are constantly reviewing handsets, but we don’t delete them once their discontinued. They’re archived away, but easily accessed, not only on Google, but also through the site search facilities. Forums are also a good place to look and ask question of current and past owners.
Let us know in the comments section below if you have any more tips on buying second hand mobile phones, and your experiences (good or bad!).
Thanks to Tom Ranson for his suggestions whilst I was writing this guide.