Buying used phones?
August 29, 2013 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Mysteriously, my Samsung Galaxy Nexus is dying. I have a year left of the two year contract, and can't upgrade early without paying a $175 fee. I'm on Sprint, and while they have some refurbished phones none of them look up to the quality of the Galaxy Nexus. Google is selling their Nexus 4 online for $200, but it doesn't work on Sprint, and it looks like they stopped selling the Galaxy Nexus online around April. Is there a reputable way to buy a used cell phone these days? I'm not sure where to look and would worry that anything I was buying was just a stolen phone.

Additionally, if you would like to recommend one of the refurbished phones from Sprint as an actually good phone I'd love to hear about it, or any recommendations for cheapish smartphones in general. I understand the cheapest route is to get a refurbished dumb phone, but I really enjoy having a smartphone...
posted by DynamiteToast to Technology (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What do you mean by "dying"?
posted by inigo2 at 1:14 PM on August 29, 2013

Response by poster: It works, but the battery won't charge reliably, and if I leave it charging over night then turn it on it will only last an hour before draining. I think I got some water in it but don't know how. In any case, I went to Sprint's repair store in the area and they said they couldn't help me.
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:17 PM on August 29, 2013

Have you tried a new battery? Only $7.46 for an "official" battery (so you could probably even find others cheaper).
posted by inigo2 at 1:26 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have a friend with the same phone. We tried switching batteries and chargers, so the problem is isolated to the phone. Thanks though.
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:29 PM on August 29, 2013

Best answer: I used, and drive to their store to test and pick-up my phone. They charge $5-$7 extra for handling fee on top of the posted price, for the testing service they do. The price looks reasonable.

Regarding Sprint, one of the main reason I switched to T-Mobile is precisely to avoid the lock-in hardware and their attendant contract. T-Mobile (and Verizon) has GSM network which uses SIM card, so you can get just any old GSM phone, put in your SIM card, and voila! it works. On top of avoiding the expensive required data-plan + contract, your GSM phone will also work outside of the U.S; where all you need to buy is another SIM card. The resale value of your phone, therefore, is also higher. I like smartphone, but balk at the expensive data-plan. T-Mobile typical plan has 250MB/mo, which is useful for emergency e-mail checking or google/map lookup. That works for me.
posted by curiousZ at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's T-Mobile and AT&T, not Verizon.
posted by Oktober at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2013

Best answer: After (several) close encounters with a framing hammer, I replaced my husband's phone by finding one off Craigslist and meeting the seller at the Verizon store for the sale. I checked it out (unactivated) for quality, then they checked the ESN/etc and activated it, so I knew I had a legitimate phone. Other friends have done the same on other carriers.
posted by bookdragoness at 1:40 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you want to stick with a Galaxy Nexus for a while, I know several people who have had really good experiences with
They verify the ESN before a seller's listing goes live on the site, and are very good about policing listings to make sure the phone's condition is accurately stated based on the accompanying photographs.

Even if you want another phone, you can find other Sprint-compatible models there too, probably cheaper than refurb from Sprint.
posted by trivia genius at 1:43 PM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

My Galaxy Nexus broke and I bought a new one from a third-party reseller on Amazon for $250, even after it was no longer available through official channels. I think I could have gotten one on Craigslist for $200 or so, but I knew if anything went wrong here I would be able to get a refund from Amazon. And I wouldn't have to deal with meeting someone in person.
posted by grouse at 1:49 PM on August 29, 2013

Is there a reason you don't just return it to Samsung for repairs? I've had my galaxy note repaired by samsung under warranty twice in a year.
posted by missmagenta at 1:59 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: check out (i can't recommend them enough) like virgin and boost but with better phones, they run on the sprint network (so if you're happy with your service quality, it's the same) pay more up-front for the phone, but their service is so economical (particularly if you don't use a lot of data, i.e. are mostly on wifi) that you can really save a bundle (my bill is usually between 25-35/ only pay for what you use), even after factoring in the ETF of your current contract.
for example: Samsung Galaxy Note 2+ 6 mos of service:
sprint: $300(phone)+$600(6mos at ~100/mo)= $900
ting: $600(phone...i know, pricy) + $180 (6mos at ~30/mo)= $780
and after that I'm saving ~$75/mo over contract/big carrier pricing or a savings of approx $1000 over a 2-yr contract (ting is contract free tho, you can leave anytime)
plus they have the nexus line, the galaxy s line, refurb phones (more saving), great customer service etc. Do yourself a favor and look at your actual data/minute/text usage (on your bill or under settings on your phone) and run the numbers's probably worth it.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:10 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The CDMA Galaxy Nexus has a very easily replaceable USB charging daughterboard that require no soldering. Why not get a replacement USB board and replace it yourself [video] [pictures]? (The Verizon and Sprint Galaxy Nexus' are basically identical inside)

I bet that's the source of the problems and it will only be the cost of the board and some tools.
posted by dobi at 3:16 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you look up into the mini-usb port on the bottom of your phone and it looks like the little metal "bar" in there is slanted downward rather than sticking straight at you, you can try getting in there with something thin and gently pressing it upward. This is what solved my Galaxy Nexus's charging/battery issues. Yours sound only generally similar so I'd give this a 20% chance of being the problem, but it takes just a few seconds to attempt.
posted by a birds at 5:14 PM on August 29, 2013

I replied to another thread about this recently where someone had water damaged their phone and said exactly this... But even though your phone hasn't been spilled on i think it still applies.

I bet you could get a decent price out of selling it. Probably around 75(i surfed some ebay listings, feel free to have a look). Throw it on ebay "AS IS" and then go on swappa and buy one of the ones on there that's like $120.

Swappa is absolutely legit, and vets all the phones being sold there as not stolen, only ones in good shape are allowed, good support, etc.

This avoids having to do tiresome phone surgery(which i've done a lot of, and still despise) and you're only out about $45.

Personally, i'd use this as an excuse to upgrade for a bit more $. But that's just me.
posted by emptythought at 6:30 PM on August 29, 2013

Response by poster: Swappa seems like a great idea, but every phone I've looked at buying on there you need a PayPal confirmed buyer address which is proving very time consuming to set up.

Great point dobi, I may just try repairing it. It looks like the charging daughterboard you linked is specifically for the Verizon variant, but I think it would probably work with my Sprint phone too. Am I wrong about that?
posted by DynamiteToast at 6:44 AM on August 30, 2013

To address your other question, regarding refurbished phones available on Sprint, I got a refurbished LG Viper for less than $100 because I also didn't want to pay the early upgrade fee plus however much a new phone would cost. I didn't want a Galaxy because although I love my Tab, the phones are just too big. I wanted an Android phone roughly the same size as an iPhone, so YMMV and all that. As far as I can tell, this was a brand new phone; it seems to be one that someone bought, decided they didn't like, and returned immediately. I have had no problems with it, there were no scratches or other damage to the phone, and it works fine. It updated to the most recent version of Android, has decent screen size without being too big for my personal taste and does everything I need. However, although it is 4G LTE, since that network isn't all pervasive, I have the option turned off for now because it seriously drains the battery looking for the LTE network, and in any case the battery needs to be recharged nightly, which I guess is becoming par for the course for smartphones but still annoys me.
posted by jennaratrix at 8:15 AM on August 30, 2013

Confirming a PayPal address is pretty easy--you add a credit card or bank account that shows your address, and that becomes your confirmed address. If you do a credit/debit card, it takes maybe five minutes.

For whatever it's worth, every phone I've purchased in the last five years (probably a dozen of them) has come from eBay. About half of them have been from individual sellers who upgraded their phones, and the purchased phone has come with the original packing, etc. The other half have come from companies that do refurbishment. I've never had a problem with any of the phones I bought, and it looks like you could pick up a Galaxy Nexus for about a hundred bucks.
posted by MeghanC at 11:44 AM on August 30, 2013

I checked the disassembly video of the Sprint version and the USB board looks identical to the one in the Verizon version. I couldn't find a part number listed that specifically called them out as identical, however.
posted by dobi at 6:43 AM on August 31, 2013

Response by poster: sexyrobot's number crunching made me realize that it might be worth it to eat the Sprint ETF, and finally join accounts with my wife (which I was planning to do once my contract was over anyways). After looking into it, this was the quickest and arguably cheapest venue for me. If you are finding this question down the road looking for advice about used phone buying, swappa definitely looks like the way to go in general.
posted by DynamiteToast at 8:34 PM on September 2, 2013

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