Used or refurb iPhone ins/outs/what-have-yous?
May 26, 2015 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I've used an iPod Touch and prepaid feature phone for years, and I'm now looking to consolidate my devices into one. I'm hoping to get a used or refurbished iPhone, and looking for some advice as to where, and potentially, what to buy.

After years of owning an iPod Touch for apps and a cheapie Tracfone for calls and texts, I've been getting frustrated with doing the two device shuffle. Tracfone recently started a 4G BYOD program, which, if what I'm reading at Howard Forums is correct, would allow newer iPhones to use their less expensive pay as you go cards. I know it's not necessarily the best deal per minute (or especially for data), but I'm a very light phone user, and I'd be mostly taking advantage of wifi for data.

I'm looking at the possibility of getting a used or refurb iPhone to eventually transfer my existing Tracfone number. Nothing against Android, but I'm pretty set on an iOS device, given my current level of familiarity and app buy-in. I'm guessing that an iPhone 5s is the current sweet spot for performance/price/relative futureproofing, but I'm open to different model suggestions. As I'd be porting into Tracfone and live in the relative nowhere of central Maine, I'm pretty much limited to Verizon models.

I've had good luck with manufacturer refurbished iPods in the past, but it doesn't look like Apple sells any refurb iPhones directly, unless I'm missing something. I've seen some refurbished units pop up on Walmart's website, and I'm curious if anyone's had any experience buying these?

As for used phones, I'm familiar with Swappa, and have done some looking on Ebay and Gazelle, but I've started hearing horror stories online about people buying phones that pass an ESN check when purchased, but months later get deactivated due to the original user's non-payment on their contract, or being reported stolen. How common is this kind of thing, and is there any recourse/way to avoid it, other than buying a brand new phone?

Apologies for the multi-headed question hydra - seems like there's a lot more complexity to the smartphone ecosystem than I had expected...
posted by anthom to Technology (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a confirmed Swappa fan and user for most of my Apple electronics. I've never heard of the trouble you mentioned with the deactivation after the sale. I would definitely email "" and ask your questions and have them address your fears before purchasing anything.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 8:01 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Orchard (Canada).
posted by ageispolis at 8:08 AM on May 26, 2015

I like I bought a used iPhone 4 there this year and was happy with the whole shopping experience. Plus their search tools are pretty helpful.
posted by mermaidcafe at 8:30 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Swappa. I've bought SEVERAL devices through there: iphone 5c, Moto X (1st gen), and iPad Mini (non-retina). All arrived perfectly functional.
posted by kschang at 10:22 AM on May 26, 2015

Best answer: but I've started hearing horror stories online about people buying phones that pass an ESN check when purchased, but months later get deactivated due to the original user's non-payment on their contract

This is mostly a tmobile thing, since they'll report the phone is fine but then ban it because of their payment plans that they not only refuse to disclose, but don't expose anywhere to their phone support reps/store employees to check unless it's the specific person who took out that payment plan asking. It's REALLY asinine and they need to fix it. Some places have actually banned selling/trading tmobile phones because of this.

Swappa is great, just get a verizon 5s since they come unlocked. Or an at&t one, and use an at&t sim from tracfone/net10/straight talk(they're all the same company) because they'll try and herd you on to the awful bullshit tmobile network otherwise. Request an AT&T sim either way.

If it's not tmobile, as long as its not icloud locked you're pretty much fine. Theres always the vague risk of ESN bans for nonpayment, but that also ruins the sellers credit. And verizon phones that get banned generally don't get banned on other networks.

I've never had an actual problem with it, for what it's worth, and i've only gotten one new iphone ever, while having owned every model but the 3gs buying them all used.
posted by emptythought at 2:13 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's good to hear, emptythought. I did notice a lot of the reports of post-sale deactivations were from people on T-Mobile. Their network is pretty spotty out here anyway - I'm probably pretty safe from that pitfall.

Also, I'm wondering if right now is the time to be looking at this. I'd guess prices on 5s and the like will be getting lower as the typical autumn iPhone anouncement gets closer. Will I be kicking myself come September for getting a 5s if I could have waited for a better deal on a newer device? Is the most recent generation even worth the premium over a 5s? I don't care much about screen size, as long as the device has performance comparable to (or better than) a 5th gen iPod touch.
posted by anthom at 8:06 AM on May 27, 2015

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