What phone should I buy?
June 2, 2013 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Is a several-years old (2009-2010 era) smartphone worth $30 on eBay?

My trusty Verizon dumbphone has given up the ghost after several years of honorable service. I'm thinking about making the smartphone jump and figured I would buy a cheap used dumbphone on eBay to last a few months until the new iPhone comes out in the fall, and then I could make a more permanent decision about a phone.

But then I saw that you can get older smartphones on eBay for about what I was going to spend, and thought maybe it would be nice. But also maybe it would be terrible since they are old and slow and their firmware isn't supported anymore...?

I basically want to make calls, text, and maybe take pictures and text them to my mom. It would be nice to play games, I guess?

Okay, tell me if one of these old guys would make me happy or if I should just get a clamshell. I will do what you tell me.
posted by Snarl Furillo to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't see a downside, really. It shouldn't be any slower than it was when it was new, provided that it's been reset to factory default settings and hasn't been upgraded to a version of android it can't handle, which would be unusual. You won't be able to run many of the newer apps, but you should at least be able to use the browswer and e-mail, the most important apps. You might want to be sure that Verizon will activate a smart phone on a non-smart phone plan, I think they used to have a rule against that.
posted by skewed at 2:15 PM on June 2, 2013

Best answer: From personal experience I wouldn't recommend one of the Moto Droid ones with the slider keyboard, but if you can find one that's reasonably reliable then I don't see why not. I also wouldn't get a Blackberry, especially not one of those cheapies. You're probably going to have to upgrade your Verizon plan however.

If you don't get a smartphone, I can tell you that from glancing at that list, the LG enVs are good, sturdy little phones. People like the LG Cosmos too. The Samsung Convoy is really rugged. (I used to manage the cell phones at my old job so I'm familiar with a lot of Verizon phones.)
posted by radioamy at 2:20 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I THINK the plan I am on has some limited amount of data (like 2...somethings a month?). I can use a web browser on my phone and I got my email on it for a while.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:23 PM on June 2, 2013

Best answer: I was perfectly happy with my LG enV for a few years before I got my iPhone. It's adequate for what you need - texting, pictures. I'm pretty sure I had Tetris and other simple games on it, and I could use Twitter and read mefi. If my iPhone died tomorrow I would go back to it until I could afford another iPhone. The thing I'd miss the most is GPS, though.
posted by desjardins at 2:36 PM on June 2, 2013

I'd be concerned about how the battery is. Lithium (something) Batteries don't seem to last more than a couple years even in the best case. So if you do want something old/used, id make sure it had a replaceable battery, but then, the batteries may be $50+, so something newer might be cheaper?
posted by TheAdamist at 2:37 PM on June 2, 2013

I've heard you can buy one of those prepaid no-contract phones they sell at Target and Best Buy and just switch out the sim card as long as it's with the same carrier. Not sure if this works with smartphones because when I was looking into this it was just related to flip phones a while back, but that might be worth researching because I know you can get some not so stylish but still brand new smartphones for around $50 or even less.
posted by belau at 2:44 PM on June 2, 2013

You have probably already thought of this, but can you get a free upgrade on your phone? My poor dumbphone recently died and my contract let me get an iPhone 4 as a free replacement.
posted by mlle valentine at 2:55 PM on June 2, 2013

I've bought replacement (off-brand) cell phone batteries on ebay/Amazon marketplace for $10 including shipping with no problem. I've had good luck with the brand Anker so far. So that shouldn't be too much of an issue.

Also, even if your current dumpbhone plan includes data, sometimes they require you to upgrade to a different, more expensive smartphone plan if you get a smartphone. I'm not sure what the logic is other than "hey, we can make more money from people if we do this."
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:11 PM on June 2, 2013

Response by poster: Okay, on y'all's advice I just ordered a $30 LG enV. It will be perfectly serviceable for me. Thanks, everyone!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:02 PM on June 2, 2013

Ha, before my current phone I actually ordered an old-school Blackberry as a replacement for a prematurely-dead Moto Droid (first gen; digitizer crapped out, I think). It was slow, had trouble with modern websites that relied heavily on js, and the GPS was almost unusable (never got a signal, could only get me to within 1000 feet most of the time); in its favor, it was also light and bulletproof, and had a QWERTY keyboard and excellent battery life. I certainly developed a certain affection for it, but based on your needs and what people are saying about the enV, I think you're not missing anything by passing on a Blackberry of that vintage - sounds like they would really be filling similar niches.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:54 PM on June 2, 2013

I'm on Sprint, and took the smartphone plunge in 2010 with a new Transform. Bad move, because the Transform was pretty much immediately ignored and marginalized by Samsung. Fast-forward to 2013, and I buy a used contemporary of the Transform, the Epic 4G. Much, much better, and up to the rigors of anything I might want to do, even though it's upwards of three years old at this point.

Basically, as long as your phone is in good shape and has an active — either formal or informal — support community, you're good (That last part is important. On the Samsung I languished with the quirks of early versions of Android because nobody in either Samsung or the wider community could be bothered to port stable versions of anything past Froyo to the Transform. The Epic, in spite of being an older model, got both better official support to the extent of a Gingerbread version, and unofficial support in being one of the devices CyanogenMod is still actively developing for).
posted by jackbishop at 5:37 AM on June 3, 2013

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