We are distributors of

Cell Phones

that are used, tested, graded, and ready for resale.


Arthur Bronfman / June 2, 2022

Regardless of whether you are Team Apple or Team Android, purchasing a smartphone today has become a significant investment. When browsing online through Amazon or shopping with in-store retailers like Walmart or Best Buy, you may have noticed handsets for sale that say they are refurbished phones. It seems like a good deal, but you may wonder what a refurbished phone is and whether it’s a good buy.

This guide explains the characteristics of refurbished devices, why they are a good alternative to new phones, their benefits (economical, sustainability, business), and other useful insights that can help you decide between a brand new iPhone or Android, a used phone, or a refurbished phone.

Refurb vs. Pre-Owned vs. Used

Once a phone has been sold, it cannot be offered again as new. As a result, you will see that retailers use terms like “pre-owned,” “open box,” and “refurbished.”

There are many characteristics of a refurbished phone that set it apart from a used phone in terms of appearance, functionality, cost, and reliability. A refurbished iPhone or Android mobile phone is defined as a device that has been barely used and returned to where it was purchased.

On the other hand, open box phones were returned to the store within days and never activated for use. The basically new phone might have been a gift, or the person who bought it just changed their mind.

With a refurbished item, the reason for returning this practically new device is that the smartphone may have had some type of fault. Once the fault is completely fixed with any necessary parts replaced, it is tested to ensure it functions just like a new phone. After that, it is considered refurbished.

That timeframe is significantly different compared to a second-hand phone where the previous owner turned it in for an upgrade after months or years of use. In this case, the refurbished phone will show significantly fewer signs of wear and tear compared to a pre-owned device, which often has noticeable blemishes. To be labeled as refurbished devices, these gadgets have to undergo full diagnostic tests, including a rigorous inspection process, to ensure full functionality.

The Benefits of Choosing a Refurbished Phone

There are many reasons why a refurbished phone may be the best phone for you.

The first to consider refurbished Android phones or refurbished iPhones is that it is an opportunity to get a current or newer model at a lower price tag. For example, this might be an iPhone X or Galaxy S20.

Another reason to consider these gadgets is that you can feel confident that the phone will be in good condition. To ensure it is in good working order, a reseller will perform a list of diagnostic tests, provide some type of grade (typically a Grade A or Grade B), and clean and repackage it. If they identify anything that needs to be replaced or repaired, that work will be done. This could be a screen, an updated operating system, and/or a new battery.

If you are someone who values sustainability and wants to contribute to creating less waste, it’s good to know that you are making use of existing phones rather than just buying a new one.  

What to Consider When Buying a Refurbished Phone

Before purchasing a refurbished smartphone, think about if what it offers is right for your needs compared to what a new smartphone offers. 

The certified refurb smartphone may also not come with the original packaging, including the box. For many, this may not be important as boxes are generally not needed should you ever want to upgrade whatever phone you have.

If you are planning on making a bulk purchase of smartphones for a team or group, it may be difficult to find enough of the latest model as a refurbished device if you focus on retailers. You may need to use many different resellers to find all the smartphones you need. However, RecirQ, as a wholesale distributor, can provide a large number of devices for work teams, including smartphones and laptops that have been refurbished.

A Checklist for a Refurbished Smartphone Purchase

Before you choose a refurbished phone, you need to know where you can find them. Choices include private sellers (such as eBay) and your carrier’s retail store (such as Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T). Other places to shop are mobile device resellers or electronic retailers (like BestBuy, Target, and Walmart). 

Start your research by checking on whether a reseller is offering a grade for their devices. There are different refurbished phone grades that tell you what to expect from that specific refurbished phone in terms of age, condition, and performance.

Along with finding out how the device is graded, find out who performed the refurb and what they did to ensure it works well. A reseller should be able to show you their checklist for how they inspected and prepared the smartphone for resale. Verifying that the smartphone has been restored to an excellent or good condition can also allow that reseller to offer it as certified.

A reseller should also be able to show you the device is an unlocked phone and features and functionality are operable.

Another criteria to consider when looking to buy a refurb phone is how you will be protected should you find an issue. A certified refurbished smartphone often comes with a 1-12 month warranty as well as a return policy.

Find out the timeframe for returns and the warranty so you can ensure you have enough time to test the device out. Additionally, if you use a credit card to make the purchase, it might be worth checking with your credit card provider to see if they offer any type of extended warranty.

Locations That Offer Refurbished Phones

There are different places where you can browse and buy a refurbished phone, and each type of reseller has its pros and cons.


One of the most popular places to shop for these types of devices is to go directly to the source behind a particular smartphone model. Manufacturers use a rigorous process and their own technicians to refurbish each device. While you might think that manufacturers would have the most models available to choose from, Apple and Samsung focus more on selling new phones and have limited refurbished options.

Cell phone providers

National wireless carriers like T-mobile and Verizon offer refurb services for smartphones and tablets that are certified and list the type of processes they have used. You can purchase the devices outright or sign up for one of the providers’ monthly installment plans. 

If you purchase a refurbished device through a carrier, you are locked into using their wireless services for as long as the signed contract. They also only offer Samsung and Apple phones.


A wide range of reputable brick-and-mortar (Best Buy) and online retailers (Amazon) offer a diverse array of phone models. However, you may need to spend considerable time researching and comparing retailer offers. These options typically provide some type of certification or verification of their diagnostics and refurbishment process.

Price comparison sites

Although you might think that these sites were just a place to conduct research, they are also sources for refurbished devices, including phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. You can look for a particular device, compare places to buy it, and then be directed to that source to complete your purchase. Information about specific refurbished items and what has been done to them would only be provided by the source you were redirected to for purchase.

Re-commerce companies

Re-commerce is a type of store that allows you to trade in one old gadget for a refurbished one. They tend to have a wide range of competitively priced refurbished devices that list the type of inspection and work that has been done on a phone.

Buy from a Trusted Refurbished Phone Reseller

A refurbished phone offers a cost-effective alternative to a new phone. Compared to a pre-owned phone, a refurb phone also provides greater confidence that you have a phone that has been inspected, tested, and restored to look practically brand new. 

There are many places to shop for these types of phones, including online and brick-and-mortar manufacturers, service providers, retailers, and private resellers. It’s important that you do your due diligence wherever you shop for a refurbished phone to ensure you are getting what’s advertised. 

If you are looking for a trusted source for a refurbished phone for yourself or your team, contact RecirQ to learn about our refurbished phone purchase program.