What To Check When Buying A Used/Second-Hand Android Phone?

Want to buy a used phone to save some money? Here's what you should know.

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The prices of Android devices have skyrocketed in the past few years. In fact, newer Android flagships have become so expensive that they now directly compete with Apple’s iPhone in pricing. Hence, if you cannot afford to buy a new Android device, you can consider buying a used Android phone that will cost you way less than a new one. Here’s what to check when buying a used Android phone.

There are many advantages and disadvantages of buying a used phone, which we’ll look at later in this article. Here are the seven important things to check while buying a used Android phone. We also have an article on the things you should check while buying a used/refurbished iPhone so, make sure to give it a read if you want to buy an iPhone.

What To Check When Buying A Used Android Phone?

1. Ask The Seller For The Device Purchase Receipt

Since there isn’t a concrete way of finding out if an Android phone is stolen or not, you can ensure that it’s not by asking the seller for a valid purchase receipt. If the seller refuses to provide a valid receipt, refuse to buy.

If you think the seller is speaking the truth, ask them for the original retail box of the device and cross-check the IMEI number on the box with the IMEI of the phone. If you know how to see the IMEI on an Android device? Open the dialer and dial in the USSD code *#06#. This will display the IMEI of your device.

2. Check The Device For Physical Damage

Smartphones are the most abused technology on the planet, and, chances are, the phone you’re going to buy could’ve been through physical abuse that might’ve decreased its life span. Hence, it is important to inspect the device from each angle.

broken android phone - What to check when buying a used android phone

If you’ve made up your mind about buying the phone, make sure to peel off any stickers or skins present at the back or the front of the device, as the seller could be hiding nasty scratches and dents underneath it.

Also, make sure to remove the tempered glass if it’s not transparent and check for any cracks or scratches on the screen.

Meeting in-person is the best way to buy a used phone as you can thoroughly check for issues and then decide to buy it or not, depending on its condition. Avoid buying directly on eBay.

3. Ask For The Original Power Brick And Data Cable

charger and cable - what to check when buying a used android phone
Image: Android Authority

Nothing beats the quality and speed of the stock charger that comes in the box. Hence, it is always a good idea to ask for the original charger and data cable, or else you might need to shed out extra bucks to buy a good one. If the seller doesn’t have both, try to negotiate to cover up the cost of buying them.

4. Keep An Eye On The Battery Percentage

A typical Lithium-ion battery in a smartphone lasts for two years, depending on how much the phone is used. If the phone is over a year old, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the battery percentage since there’s no battery health option in Android like in iPhones. Hence it is one of the crucial things that you should check before buying a used Android phone.

charging percentage

Use the phone for about 5-10 minutes and see if the battery is discharging rapidly. If it is, you might need to spend extra to get the battery replaced. I wouldn’t recommend buying a phone with an almost dead battery. If the phone’s in excellent condition, try to explain the issue to the seller and negotiate to cover up the replacement battery costs.

5. Ask If The Phone Has Undergone Repairs

This is easily one of the most important “buying a used phone” tips to remember. Ask the seller if the phone has undergone many repairs. If the seller says no, closely check the edge where the phone’s frame and display connect.

If the phone was repaired in an unprofessional manner, you can easily spot a replaced screen. It is advised to stay away from phones with lots of repairs as they probably wouldn’t last more.

6. Test If All Internal Components Work

Patience is the key to buying a good second-hand device. As soon as you get the device in hand, check if the following things work or not.

  • Power and volume rockers
  • Charging port (Connect the cable and test if the device is charging)
  • Front and rear cameras
  • Proximity sensor by making calls and ambient light sensor by switching on automatic brightness and covering the phone’s top.
  • The phone’s bottom-firing speaker

7. Check How Old The Phone Is

One of the issues that I’ve faced while buying second-hand stuff is that the sellers often lie about the date of purchase of the device (The seller might say that it is in warranty when it’s not). This is why the purchase receipt is so important.

If the seller doesn’t have the purchase receipt but does have the original box and accessories, and if the phone is in excellent condition, you can check how old the phone is by visiting imei.info.

All you need to do is visit the website, enter the phone’s IMEI number. Now, under free checks, find and click on the option that has the smartphone’s manufacturer’s name followed by SN and Warranty at the end.

check how old the phone is IMEI.info

Now, wait ten seconds before the website shows the actual age of the device. This way, you can easily know how old the device is.

check the warranty imei.info

How To Check Android Phone Hardware?

You might also want to check and the hardware of the phone or spot a fake phone like Samsung’s Galaxy clone. If you’re buying used a Samsung and have used a Samsung Galaxy before, you probably know the typical Samsung-like build quality of the devices.

If you haven’t used a Samsung device before, all you need to do is download the free Castro app from the Play Store and check the CPU.

spot fake samsung phone

Samsung devices either use Exynos (in India and Europe) and Qualcomm Snapdragon processors (In the US). A lot of fake clones are powered by ancient Mediatek (MTK) processors.

If the device isn’t powered by either Exynos or Snapdragon, it’s a fake one.

The app also comes with a built-in screen testing feature that you can use to check if the screen’s working fine. You can also check if the sensors are working properly.

Why Should You Buy A Second-Hand Device?

I’ve bought almost ten to fifteen second-hand Android devices and not only saved thousands of bucks but also contributed a small but significant part to saving the environment. E-waste’s side effects are horrible, and it is a growing concern in both developed and developing countries as most of it is left untreated and given very little importance.

Some people buy a new phone, don’t like it and try to sell it the next day. If you do come across a seller with the same story and is selling the phone that you like, do not hesitate to buy it.

Now, buying a second-hand device does have its own cons, like the trust factor between you and the seller and, if you aren’t aware of the above things, you might get scammed. Hence, if you’ve never bought a second-hand device, I’d recommend taking someone with you who has experience buying/selling second-hand goods.

the trust factor

The best used Android phones are those that haven’t been used for more than 18 months. Android phones receive a maximum of two major updates or three in the case of Pixel devices, so buying a two-year or older Android phone means you miss out on updates.

So, these were some of the important things to remember when buying a second-hand Android phone. Remembering these points can be difficult; hence, do save this article for future reference.

Mohammed Abubakar

Mohammed Abubakar

Abubakar is a passionate tech writer whose love for tech started in 2011 when he got a Dell Inspiron 5100. When he's not covering Linux and open-source, you'll find him binge-watching anime or Tech content on YouTube.
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