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Should You Buy a Refurbished iPhone, iPad or Laptop?

Jonathan Wylie is a Digital Learning Consultant who has a passion for helping others get the best out of their technology.

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Deal or Dud: What You Need to Know

Refurbished electronics are typically used devices that have been returned, traded, or sold back to retailers. They are cleaned, inspected and, if necessary, repaired so that they are in good working order and ready to be sold again. I'm a big fan of refurbished devices. I've bought them from Amazon, Apple, BestBuy, and more. A lot of people shy away from buying refurbished electronics, but I have had almost no problems buying devices this way. If you buy smart, you can minimize the risk and snag yourself a real bargain. Here are some shopping tips to help you buy with confidence.

Buy Refurbished & Save Money

There's no two ways about it. Buying refurbished will save you money. I mean, it has to. You are not buying a brand new product, so you have every right to expect to pay less when you buy refurbished devices. This, in itself, has lots of implications. It could mean that you could get a better model than you would have been able to afford if you were buying new. It may also mean that you are able to buy your teenager their first iPhone earlier than you expected.

Buying refurbished is also a great way to get a hold of some cheap electronics if you bricked the one you had and you need to bide some time until your contract is paid off, or until the next generation device is released. Regardless of your motive, if you want to save some serious money, a refurbished iPhone, iPad or laptop is definitely the way to go.

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Condition is Everything

Buying refurbished will save you money, but how much? That all depends on condition. The better the condition, the more expensive the device. For instance, if you buy a refurbished iPhone or iPad from Apple, you get a device that looks as good as new. This is because Apple replaces the screen, battery and outer case on these devices before they sell them to the public. They also include all the original accessories. This is great if you want a pristine device, so long as you understand that you won't save as much if you buy a device in that condition.

However, there are plenty of other options if you are willing to lower your threshold a little. Retailers like Back Market have devices in all kinds of conditions. If you want to buy a refurbished iPhone in mint condition like the one you get from Apple, they have them, and they sell them for less than Apple does. However, if you are willing to accept a few light scratches, (that will probably be covered up by your phone case), they have those too, and these devices will save you even more money.

Check Battery Life on Refurbished Devices

Of course, one more thing to consider if the condition of the battery in a refurbished device. On a recent iPhone, you can go to Settings > Battery > Battery Health to get a measure of the battery capacity in your device. A new iPhone battery has a rating of 100%, but this will decrease with use over time. You can expect to replace your battery as is gets close to 80%, so bear this in mind when buying a refurbished device. iPhone batteries can usually be replaced for around $69.

On a Macbook, you should be looking at the battery cycle count. Most recent Mac laptops will easily get to around 1000 charge cycles, but that doesn't necessarily mean 1000 charges. In fact, it usually means a lot more than that because one charge cycle is equal to 100% of battery use, so it could take you several days of incremental charges to reach that number. Follow the steps below to check the battery cycle count on a Macbook:

  1. Hold down the Option key and then click the Apple menu
  2. Select System Information
  3. Click Power on the sidebar
  4. Under Health Information, look for Cycle Count
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Reuse to Save the Environment

Why else might you buy refurbished? A growing number of people buy used devices because of the growing problem of electronic waste. In 2019, the World Economic Forum declared that e-waste was, "the fastest growing waste stream in the world." The truth is, our obsession with gadgets sees millions of tonnes of old tech pile up each year. It's the technology industry's dirtiest secret, and although many companies do a great job at recycling and re-purposing devices, others do not.

When you buy refurbished, you are helping to reduce the amount of e-waste that is generated every year. You are easing the burden on the environment by buying a device that would otherwise have been discarded by its previous owner. Best of all, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you have done your part to help make the world a better place, and that feels good!

Warranties for Peace of Mind

Last but not least, you want to know that you can buy with confidence. Many retailers, like BestBuy or Amazon, will only give you a 90-day warranty with a refurbished iPhone, iPad or laptop. Three months is easily long enough to surface any faults that might have escaped that final quality control check, but it doesn't always give you the confidence you might want for the long term.

Apple gives a full one-year warranty with their refurbished devices, and they are also eligible for Apple Care. Online retailers like Back Market offer 12 and sometimes 24-month warranties on their iPhones, and every purchase comes with a 30-day money back guarantee in case you are not happy with your purchase. Other retailers will vary so make sure you check their terms before you buy.

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Should You Buy Refurbished?

Sometimes you can find great deals on brand new products, but if you are short on cash, a refurbished iPhone, iPad or laptop can be a great option. Do you take a risk when you buy this way? You do, but if you follow the advice above, it's not as big a risk as you might think. Shop smart and you can easily come away with a device that you can be proud of and the chances are, no-one will ever know that you bought a refurbished device...unless you tell them.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jonathan Wylie