Tips for Buying Second Hand Cell Phone - Essential Guide for Purchasing Used Gadgets

While I don't know anyone who'd pass on the thrill of unboxing a freshly bought, brand new gadget, I wouldn't dare denounce people who check out secondhand stuff. Given the current state of global economy, it's totally understandable why some of us would consider purchasing a used gadget for about 2/3 or even half its brand new price.

Cellphones, in particular, are a favorite second-hand pick. Perhaps because:
1. Transfer of cellphone ownership is easy and
2. Second hand flagship releases sell for only as much as their brand new entry-level counterparts.

So yes, in some cases, it makes sense.

Buying a second hand cellphone, however, is not as risk-free as we would want it to be. This explains why there are people who vehemently refuse to give in to the temptation of buying cheap used stuff. Truth be told: There are a lot of problems that you can encounter with such purchase and if you don't know what you're doing, you can get yourself in deep trouble. Some of these problems include lack of warranty for the good, hidden issues and worst, risk of buying stolen item.

In this light, here are some tips to consider when buying secondhand cellphone:

1. Make sure you're not buying stolen item.

Ask for receipts. And check if the name of the seller matches the name of the buyer on the receipt.

Did you know that you can get imprisoned for buying a stolen item? In the Philippines, you can be prosecuted under merits of Presidential Decree no. 1612 or The Anti-Fencing Law of 1979.

Fencing is defined as:

[...] The act of any person who, with intent to gain for himself or for another, shall buy, receive, possess, keep, acquire, conceal, sell or dispose of, or shall buy and sell, or in any other manner deal in any article, item, object or anything of value which he knows, or should be known to him, to have been derived from the proceeds of the crime of robbery or theft. (source)

Here's one of the various penalties for fencing:

The penalty of prision mayor, if the value of the property involved is more than 12,000 pesos but not exceeding 22,000 pesos; if the value of such property exceeds the latter sum, the penalty provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding one year for each additional 10,000 pesos; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In such cases, the penalty shall be termed reclusion temporal and the accessory penalty pertaining thereto provided in the Revised Penal Code shall also be imposed.

I know. Scary. So ask for receipts.

Now, if the buyer can't show you any legal proof of purchase but swears upon his life that he owns the cellphone and has at least 3 witnesses to prove it, I guess you can just ask for the box, manuals and complete accessories and make him file and submit a notarized certificate of ownership. ( Any legal experts here? Is this good enough? )


2. Research about the features of the phone you want to buy.

Make sure you know enough info about the phone you're getting. Ask questions:

Does it support Wifi and 3G connectivity? Or just Wifi? Or just 3G? Does it have resistive or capacitive touchscreen? Does it even have a touchscreen? Does it feature Xenon or LED flash? Does it even feature flash? Does it have a trackball or a trackpad?

If you're clueless about its features, how on earth will you know if your second hand purchase is working properly or not?


3. Don't trust photos! Ask to hold the unit first before you buy it.

Call me paranoid but I believe that in this day and age of rampant photo manipulation, pictures are not to be trusted.

Ask the buyer if you can see and hold the unit first before deciding to buy it.


4. Inspect hardware for problems. Check the exterior.

a.) Case

Does it have scratches? Cracks? Dents? Does it look battered beyond recognition?
If the answer is 'yes' and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone actually looks. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the ugly case, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

b.) Keypad

Do all the keys work? Are there missing keys? Are the keys faded? Is the navigation key working? Has the chrome plating faded? If you see keypad problems and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone actually looks. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the busted or ugly keypad, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

c.) Stylus

If you're buying a phone with resistive touchscreen, ask the seller if the phone comes with a stylus. If yes and the stylus is missing, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works without stylus. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the lack of proprietary stylus, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

d.) Screen

Check if the screen has stuck or defective pixels or lines. If you see screen problems and you still want to buy the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works and looks with stuck pixels. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the defective pixels, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

e.) Slide Mechanism

If you're buying a slider, check if the slide mechanism is working smoothly. If there's something wrong with it and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works and looks with broken slide. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the broken slide, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

f.) Hinge Mechanism

If you're buying clamshell phone, check if the hinge mechanism is working properly. If there's something wrong with it (doesn't close properly or is hard to close) and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works with broken hinge. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the broken hinge, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

g.) Touchscreen

If you're buying a touchscreen phone, check if the screen is responsive to touch. If it's capacitive, is it responsive to multi-touch gestures? If there's something wrong with it and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works with busted touchscreen. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the malfunctioning screen, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

h.) Camera and flash

If you're buying a cameraphone, check if the camera works. If the camera comes with flash, check if the flash works. Check the photo quality. Are there white specks on the photos? Do the photos look blurred? If there's something wrong with the camera and/or the flash and/or the photo quality and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works with busted camera. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the malfunctioning camera, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

i.) MicroUSB and MicroSD Card slots

Most smartphones nowadays have both MicroUSB and MicroSD Card slots, check if these two are working properly using accessories that are supposed to be included in the package. If there's something wrong with the slots and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works with busted MicroUSB and/or MicroSD card slot. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the bustd slot/s, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

j.) Battery

Cellphone battery drops in performance as it ages. A good fully-charged cellphone battery should be able to hold enough juice to keep a phone up for at least 48 hours on standby. Ask for a personal warranty from the seller so you can test uptime after the purchase.

k.) Headphone Jack and Speakers

Multi-media cellphones deliver the best in audio and video entertainment. If you're buying one, check if the speakers are working well. Play a music file and listen for cracking or distorted sound. Headphone jacks are usually the first hardware feature break on a multi-media phones simply because they get used often.

5. Inspect software and internal features for problems.

a.) Operating System

Check if the phone's operating system is working smoothly or if it requires a reformat. If it requires reformat and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works with misbehaving OS. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by the broken OS, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

b.) Connectivity Options

If you're getting a phone with a wide range of connectivity options (Bluetooth, Wifi, 3G HSDPA), check if all of them are working properly. Bring another bluetooth device to check bluetooth connectivity. Take the cellphone to a wifi hotspot to check wifi support. Load up your SIM to check 3G connectivity. If you see problems with connectivity options and you still want to get the phone, ask yourself if the price matches how the phone works with connectivity problems. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Now, if you get turned off by busted wifi and/or 3g and/or Bluetooth support, don't be afraid to pass on the phone and say NO.

6. Ask for a 1-week personal warranty from the seller.

You're paying for this gadget with your hard-earned cash. Ask for warranty, even if for just 1 week. If the cellphone acts up within that period, consider getting for a full refund.

7. Get warranty papers from manufacturer, if applicable.

If the secondhand cellphone you're buying is still under manufacturer warranty, get complete papers including warranty card from the seller.


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There you go! :)

I guess the most important thing to keep in mind when buying second hand phone is to not be afraid to pass on it and say NO if you see something you don't like.

I hope you find this helpful if you're considering to buy a second-hand phone.

I'll try to add more tips soon. :)




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