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What is the Difference Between Refurbished and Repaired Mobile Phones?

By Cathy Rogers
Updated May 16, 2024
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Many companies offer previously-owned repaired or refurbished mobile phones at a savings off the original price. A phone that is refurbished has been returned by a dealer or customer to the manufacturer due to damage or other reasons. Refurbished cell phones are checked for defects and, if necessary, repaired and cleaned.

Some companies also purchase used phones and have them refurbished independently. In many cases, the phones have only been used for a short period of time, and people who buy these phones are likely to receive a warranty with them. The technicians who test repaired or refurbished mobile phones may or may not be certified. The process can also involve original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, as opposed to original parts. Some phones don't need repairs and are simply subjected to diagnostic and quality assurance tests and then reconditioned to have a like-new appearance.

Like it sounds, a repaired mobile phone is one that has had its problems fixed, but it is not necessarily under warranty and may or may not have been cleaned up. Because of the large number of cell phone models available and the speed at which new models are created, it is often more time-consuming and expensive to repair a phone than to replace it. Companies that recycle and refurbish cell phones often buy, sell, and recycle other electronic devices, such as pagers and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

Someone who buys a refurbished phone needs to verify the Electronic Serial Number (ESN), which identifies the phone and determines where the minutes of that phone are billed. With this number, a buyer can also determine whether the phone was stolen or if there was an unpaid balance on it. An individual considering buying a refurbished mobile phone must also determine if it is compatible with the carrier he or she uses.

Aside from the warranty and the low cost, there are other reasons why refurbished mobile phones may be the best choice. Some organizations sell them and donate the profits for charitable causes. Other agencies provide refurbished phones to victims of domestic violence to call for help if necessary. Buying a refurbished mobile phone also reduces the amount of waste produced by unwanted, older models.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By JaneAir — On Nov 30, 2012

@ceilingcat - I never thought about it, but you're right, the impact on the environment of all this gadget upgrading is probably significant. I know people that have a laptop, an e-reader, a tablet and a cell phone, and upgrade at least two out of four every single year. That's a lot of garbage if everyone buys like that!

By ceilingcat — On Nov 30, 2012

I admire people who buy used mobile phones just because of the positive impact on the environment. We create so much trash getting rid of our used gadgets all the time, I think it's really shameful.

I know a lot of people that upgrade all of their various gadgets every single year, and then throw the old ones away. I think this is so unnecessary. You can use most thing for a couple of years, and I find that two models of something a year apart don't have that many differences.

By Ted41 — On Nov 29, 2012

@Monika - That's a really good idea. It's really expensive to buy a new cell phone unless you sign a new contract. Cheap phones that are actually good are hard to find, so buying refurbished sounds like a nice option if you find yourself in a bind.

By Monika — On Nov 28, 2012

@simrin - I'm a huge fan of getting refurbished electronics myself. So far I've bought a refurbished tablet and a refurbished laptop. Both of them came to me in like new condition. They also came with the same warranty from the company that the new products come with, so I don't think I was really taking a risk buying refurbished.

I've been thinking about getting refurbished cell phones for my family next time someone needs a new phone unexpectedly (if a phone breaks and we're not due for an upgrade yet.) I'm glad to see that getting a refurbished phone is about the same as getting something else that's refurbished.

By literally45 — On Nov 05, 2012

I think refurbished mobile phones are better and more dependable than repaired mobile phones. At least with a refurbished phone, if I have a problem, I can return it. It's not easy to return repaired phones. Some repaired phones are used a lot too, they look kind of beaten up.

I do agree with the article that it might be cheaper to just get a new phone altogether. By the time the old phone is repaired, a newer phone series will be out anyway.

By burcinc — On Nov 04, 2012

Oh, so repaired and refurbished is the same. The only difference I guess is that refurbishing is usually done by the original company, but repairing can be done by any company. Got it!

By SteamLouis — On Nov 04, 2012

I highly recommend getting refurbished electronics when you can. Most of the time, these phones didn't have a major problem. Sometimes it's a small glitch, sometimes it's just a scratch that the new item comes with. People return these all the time and the company fixes it and resells it. So technically, refurbished items are also brand new and you can get them so much cheaper.

I have bought two refurbished phones and a refurbished mp3 player and I have been using them for years without problems.

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