Refurbished = Good or Bad Idea?
December 30, 2009 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Is getting a refurbished 32 GB iPhone 3GS worth it?

My contract is up for renewal and I'd like to get a new iPhone 3GS. I'd like to get the 32 GB 3GS and I'm thinking about getting a refurbished one. It won't come with a full year warranty, just a 90 day warranty. Or should I just suck it up and get a completely new 3GS?

FWIW I already have one iPhone (an 8GB 3G) but it's just time to replace it.

Thanks in advance!
posted by TurquoiseZebra to Technology (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Refurbishment for devices that have solid state parts is generally a good decision. The device has already broken, so it'd been fixed and is thus less likely to fail. If you're worried about the warranty, Apple sells their AppleCare extended warranty. It might be less than the price of a new phone even with the AppleCare warranty, especially if you are a student, or !COUGH! if you can convince a college student to come to the shop with you. AppleCare is one of the few good warranties out there, so I'd go for it, especially with this 90 day warranty business.

From what I've read, Apple replaces the casing, so it's cosmetically the same.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:36 AM on December 30, 2009

I'm thinking about getting a refurbished one

Why are you looking at a refurbished one over a new one? If it's the price difference, you have to factor in the one year warranty vs the 90 day warranty and decide if paying and getting a smaller warranty is worth it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:39 AM on December 30, 2009

I've had a couple of different refurbished iPods and they've been great. I wouldn't hesitate to get a refurbished iPhone instead of a new one.
posted by exogenous at 8:55 AM on December 30, 2009

We got lucky - we wanted 2 refurbished 8 gb iphones (3g not S) at $50 each and the AT&T store didn't have any refurbished ones. The manager gave us new $100 ones instead, plus a $100 credit on our first bill.

I would call around to AT&T stores and find one that doesn't have a refurb in stock and then go try. We were new customers, so that might affect your chances, as well.
posted by artychoke at 9:09 AM on December 30, 2009

It won't come with a full year warranty, just a 90 day warranty. Or should I just suck it up and get a completely new 3GS?

Hmm, this wasn't the case when I bought a refurbished iPhone 3G through AT&T.

It does come with a 90 day warranty, but it also came with whatever warranty was left from Apple. In other words, Apple has a year warranty for iPhones. If I received my refurbished iPhone 6 months after it was originally sold, I still had 6 months left. The 90 warranty was good just in case there was none of the original warranty left.

When I got my iPhone it had never been activated. So it was bought, and then returned, and they couldn't sell it as new. So when I registered it with Apple I had a full year warranty.

Maybe this has changed, I haven't checked, but that was my experience.
posted by justgary at 10:11 AM on December 30, 2009

where does it actually say it's only got a 90-day warranty? everything else Apple sells refurbished gets a full year from when you purchase it - the device'll have a new serial number and everything. (I couldn't find that verbiage on the AT&T Wireless site, and Apple doesn't seem to sell refurb iPhones directly. it'd be weird, but not unheard of, to have a different policy for this.)

I usually recommend refurb units, as it at least means someone's had to go over it before it gets sold again. there's not really a whole lot in an iPhone to break, as it's all solid-state parts, and if anything was actually broken in it it'd be likely the whole piece would be tossed and replaced (i.e. if it had bad flash RAM in it, they'd replace the whole motherboard, not just the RAM). personally, my refurb MacBook has been going strong and is out of warranty now, and has never had an issue. depending on what kind of credit card you have, you might get warranty extension on the phone anyway - American Express and some other Visa/MCs will double the warranty you get on the device.
posted by mrg at 10:29 AM on December 30, 2009

Data point: My refurbed 8Gb 3G has worked just fine these past 10 months....
posted by mojohand at 10:30 AM on December 30, 2009

I managed to get a second hand iphone, in perfect condition, on ebay for £420. I wanted a second-hand one because any iPhones made after October are (almost) impossible to hack (jailbreak). A second hand one bought before october solved my issues. And I saved a few quid.

Refurbished items are usually sweet. My refurbished Toshiba Laptop has done me proud for 3 years, and the laptop I had before that for 3 years was also refurbished. Usually a refurbished product is just a send back to shop and replace a tiny component job.
posted by 0bvious at 11:24 AM on December 30, 2009

I thought about it - and I'm holding out until July.

You'll likely have to re-up your two year contract. Which means when the 4g iphone hits in June/July that you won't be able to buy it at a discount.

When the 2G users saw the 3G hit the streets - ATT changed their plans, you could go to the 3G for the changes (mostly the data plan went up $10/month)
When the 3G users saw the 3GS hit the streets:no dice. Later, after loads of complaints, they let people who had hit their year mark upgrade at a discount.

I anticipate that those who change their plans now won't be able to do anything - neither a discount or 'early re-upping' of their plan to get a discount on whatever hits in about 6 months. Only when the 4G has enough refurbs will you be able to do so...
posted by filmgeek at 11:59 AM on December 30, 2009

I've bought 2 refurbished products from Apple, both laptops. They've been aces in the reliability department; better than the new products I've bought. But both of them have cosmetic flaws, namely slightly bent cases. These cases are thick aluminum and can't be bent back and it is annoying. Still they work great.

The GS is great phone so I'd say go for it but be prepared for cosmetic damage such as scratches on the back or slightly bent cases.
posted by chairface at 12:04 PM on December 30, 2009

I would give an emphatic NO to your answer.

I had an iPhone 3G for 18 months and it died. I bought a refurb. It died in a week*. I traded it in for another refurb. It died in 2 days*. I traded it in for another refurb. It died in a week*. I traded it in for another refurb. It died ten fucking minutes ago*.

* Crackly on incoming calls.
* Microphones stopped working
* Wouldn't regain signal after losing signal (like when you come out of the subway) without being rebooted.
* "Drive cannot be written to or read from."
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2009

And the OP is correct, the refurbed iPhones have 90 day warranties.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2009

If the refurb comes from AT&T - it's almost always going to come with some cosmetics defects.
If it comes from Apple, it's going to look brand new. (w/ 1 yr warranty)

FWIW, I purchased a 1G iPhone from AT&T back when there was no contract associated. It had some pretty bad scuffing on the back. However, the touchscreen went bad and Apple replaced it over a year later (Although it was a known defect).
posted by wongcorgi at 2:34 PM on December 30, 2009

I decided to just go ahead with buying a new 3GS. I figure that with as much as my 2 & 4 year old nephews play on my iPhone, I needed to get a new one with a full warranty AND Apple Care. I really appreciate everyone's feedback - It was a great help and much appreciated!
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 3:47 PM on December 30, 2009

Just to give you that extra warning, the Apple Care of course doesn't do anything for accidental damage - like a broken screen from a set of 2 year old hands. Good call with avoiding the refurb, I fully believe the one year warranty is worth the extra cost when you consider the real cost of the phone is more like $600 instead of $300. You can look into third party warranties like Squaretrade, but they are pricey (especially if you pay monthly on it instead of a lump sum up front).
posted by shinynewnick at 9:37 PM on December 30, 2009

And the OP is correct, the refurbed iPhones have 90 day warranties.

Then this has changed since march of 2009. iphones came with whatever was left of the apple care warranty, and in my case, all of it.

Just for a data point for any future visitors to this thread:

1. My refurbished iPhone came with a full 1 year apple warranty.
2. It came with no marks, no scratches, still with the little plastic strip protecting the screen.
3. I'm coming up on a year and had no problems with it.

Again, just my experience, and should be taken as just that (except for the warranty, which you will get regardless of what you're reading here unless they've changed in the last year).
posted by justgary at 10:14 PM on December 30, 2009

justgary, I know that's how it was (and may still be) when you receive a refurbished phone as a replacement under warranty. With my original iPhone, the refurbished replacement from Apple (which was spotless) had a warranty of 90 days or the remainder of your original phone's warranty, whichever was longer. That way if you had 30 days left on your warranty, and your refurb crapped out in 60 days, it was still covered.
posted by shinynewnick at 4:21 PM on December 31, 2009

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