Buying an Android phone - how to verify it's really new?
February 22, 2019 12:07 PM   Subscribe

How can I check that an Android phone sold as "New" is actually new?

I bought a Nexus 5 phone a few years back on Ebay. It was sold as "new" but I got burned: the phone came shrink-wrapped in an original box, with charger etc., and looked truly new, and did the normal new-phone thing of asking to be set up. However, when the camera failed a month later I opened it up and saw the motherboard screws had damage. No way was it new, and the seller gave me a refund.

I'd like to avoid making the same mistake again! I've waiting for delivery of a Pixel 2 bought again as new from Ebay. How can I check it's actually new? Someone suggested checking the battery charge cycles but I haven't found a way to do that.

(I'd have bought direct from the Goog but Pixel 2s are out of stock)

Thanks for any ideas
posted by anadem to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Google doesn't really have deals on their gear very often. The price you see on the Google store is the lowest price offered. If someone is selling a Pixel on ebay for less than Google is selling it for, it is either refurbished or stolen.

This site will tell you if the IMEI has been reported stolen. I think you can also call your carrier right away and ask them if they can check the IMEI. If it's not a new device, contact ebay and report the seller and get a refund. For extra points, report the seller to Google as well.

As far as them being out of stock, you can opt to be notified when they are back in stock. Good things come to those who practice patience.
posted by talex at 12:58 PM on February 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

On Ebay, you're not so much buying a product, as you are finding a seller who looks trustworthy.

1) Does the seller have a 100% feedback rating? Click on their name to see the feedback details. Accept nothing less than 100%. Not even 99.9%.

2) Has the seller sold plenty of items before (i.e. their feedback is as a seller, not just as a buyer)? At least 10 items over $20 would be good. More than a few hundred could be a red flag, unless they have 100% feedback.

3) Is the seller a real person, as opposed to a company that refurbishes phones? You can generally tell this from their selling history. A real person will sell a whole bunch of different items. A company will only sell phones or electronics. Sometimes the username is a giveaway.

4) Did the seller take detailed photos of the phone from all angles?

5) Did the seller provide an actual description, using their own words, of the phone in the listing? If they just copy-pasted some generic info about that phone model in general, that's a yellow flag.

6) Did the seller provide the IMEI number? This is very important to verify the phone is not stolen. It's a good sign if the seller included this upfront in the original listing. It's an okay sign if they provided it to you when you asked. If they refused to provide this information, citing vague security concerns, or if they posted a fake in some way (e.g. by taking a photo of a different phone's IMEI but cropping out any identifying features of the other phone), absolutely do not buy from this seller.

7) Did the seller provide photos of the phone while it's turned on?

8) Did the seller provide details of the battery life, screen scratches, any repairs that have been done, etc.? The more detail the better.

I know not all of this info is readily available because the listing has already ended, but it's still good to keep in mind. Shrinkwrapped is generally a red flag because it gives the seller an excuse to not provide a lot of these details, even though anyone can buy a shrinkwrapping machine.
posted by danceswithlight at 3:25 PM on February 22, 2019

Once you have the phone in hand, you can go through a bunch of simple tests to see if it's functioning properly.

First, check for water damage (typically unreported even in the best Ebay listings) - a flashlight may be helpful

Here's a great guide for checking if the phone you bought is fully functional (written for iPhones but also applies to other phones)

Finally, check battery health/capacity (Android does not provide this capability natively, but you can use the AccuBattery app if you do it in a very specific way, as described in the top-level comment in that link. First discharge the battery as low as it will go without shutdown, around 1%. Then charge it to full and leave it in the charger for another hour. Then use AccuBattery to see the Design Capacity vs. Estimated Capacity for your battery. For a close-to-new phone, Estimated Capacity should be 95% or more of Design Capacity.)

If you're not happy with the results of these tests, you can file a dispute with Ebay saying the item was not as described and probably get a refund. Fortunately for you, they almost always side with the buyer.
posted by danceswithlight at 3:50 PM on February 22, 2019

Thanks danceswithlight and talex. The phone checked out OK as not reported stolen, it's fully functional, and the battery is healthy/new.

"Good things come to those who practice patience."

As far as I know the Pixel 2 is no longer made (superseded by Pixel 3) so there's not much patience could do for getting it back in stock .. I should have worded my post better.
posted by anadem at 8:06 PM on February 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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