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Buying a pre-owned cell phone

When buying a used cell phone, you’ll want to make sure that the phone is in good working order, isn’t tied to anyone’s account or data, and doesn’t have any other outstanding issues. The following tips can help.

iPhone tips

Android tips

  • Since Android specifications and settings can vary, research the model you’re interested in to know what to look for.
  • To check the phone's status, contact the carrier.

Phone condition

  • Check the condition of the device and look for any hardware wear.
  • Test basic features like the buttons, touch screen, headphone jack, speakers/volume controls, and charger.
  • Take a photo or video to test the camera.
  • Try out WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS connections.
  • Check the battery life and health.
  • Ask if there’s a valid warranty or extended warranty on the phone.

General advice

  • Ask the seller if you can check the device’s serial number before buying the phone. The number may be called ESN, IMEI, or MEID, depending on the phone and carrier. These unique IDs will help you confirm with the carrier that the device hasn’t been lost or stolen and doesn’t have any account issues.
  • Be sure that the device has been erased and is no longer linked to the previous owner's account.
  • Meet at the carrier's store with the seller and activate the phone on the spot. Once it’s activated, try making a call.

Related links

Buying guides

Tips for buyers

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