The giants in mobile phone manufacturing
trump themselves every year by releasing better
and better hi-tech handsets. In most cases
people buy them because they want to keep up
with the Joneses and simply must have the
latest and greatest.
Understandable. But what
many don’t realise is they don’t need to plunge
themselves into another lengthy cellular
contract or credit card debt to have one of the
best phones on the market.
Because smartphones get replaced by greater
models so frequently, the secondhand market
is huge and thousands of people sell their
phones daily. Armed with a bit of knowledge,
knowing where to shop and how to negotiate,
you can take advantage of this and pick up a
great bargain on a quality phone. Here’s how to
go about it:
Be clear on what you want
Before shopping around, ask yourself a few
questions… What kind of phone do I want?
What make and model? What operating
system? iOS, Android or Windows? What
minimum specifications will I be happy with?
How powerful should the camera be? What is
the oldest phone I am willing to buy? What do
I want to spend?
Do some research first before deciding on your
budget. Use the internet and see what people
are generally selling their secondhand
smartphones for, particularly the make and
model you are interested in. A phone’s price
will depend on its condition. Phones in good
condition would normally fetch a higher price
than phones not in the best shape any more.
In deciding which phone you are going for,
know what features you are willing to
compromise on and what are non-negotiable.
With secondhand phones you are unfortunately
going to have to compromise on certain things,
but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find
a great deal on a fantastic phone…
Now that you’ve got a clear idea of what it is
you are looking for and what your budget is,
start shopping around for a bargain. There are
many platforms people use to sell their
secondhand phones.In South Africa, classifieds
sites are big on used phone trading. Some of
these classifieds sites, like Junk Mail, give you
the convenient option of swopping phones with
someone, with no cash involved in the
transaction.Other than classifieds, you can turn
to social media to find a great deal. Facebook
Buy and Sell groups are a great platform
people use to trade used items, and you might
just spot a great handset at a steal.Word-of-
mouth can also be effective to find a bargain
phone. Keep your ear on the ground to find out
when someone you know might want to sell a
Before parting with your money, you will have
to meet the seller in person, in a safe, well-lit
public area and inspect the phone.
Communicate with the seller beforehand about
what you’ll want to test before buying the
You want to see that the phone has no problem
switching on and off, it charges as it should, it
takes your sim card, is not network locked, all
the features work well, including the camera,
buttons, keypad etc. If this makes the seller
uneasy or resistant, be careful as you could be
dealing with a scammer.
Inspect the smartphone
In this day and age, you can’t simply rely on
someone’s word. A phone might appear in
good condition, but closer inspection could
reveal some technical issues that might not
have been disclosed to you. So it’s a good
idea to always do a thorough inspection first.
Here are some tips for when you are going to
inspect a secondhand smartphone:
What to bring along with you:
A compatible SIM card loaded with some
airtime and data
A laptop or battery pack
A compatible charging cable
A Bluetooth device
A portable Wi-Fi router
What to inspect and test:
1. Screen and frame – Check for any visible
cracks, scratches and dents.
2. Camera lens – Look for scratches on both
the front and back camera lenses.
3. Buttons – Make sure all the buttons press in
or move as they should.
4. Battery – Open the back and check whether
it is still the original or a third party battery.
5. Water damage indicator – Most
smartphones have a small water damage
indicator. Check to see whether there has been
6. SIM and MicroSD slots – See if they open
hassle-free, and insert your own SIM and
7. Software – Switch on the phone and test the
software and see whether you’re comfortable
8. Speed – Test the speed by opening up
apps, the browser and general settings.
9. Bluetooth – Test the phone’s Bluetooth
capability on another Bluetooth enabled device,
and see whether it’s discoverable.
10. Wi-Fi – If you have a portable router on
hand, switch on the phone’s Wi-Fi and check if
it connects easily.
11. Personal Hotspot – If the phone has this
feature, use your laptop to test whether it can
connect to the phone via Wi-Fi.
12. Browser – Make sure the phone can
browse the web as it should.
13. SMS – Send a test SMS.
14. Call – Make a test phone call.
15. Sound – Connect your headphones and
listen to something on YouTube or in the
music library to check the quality of the sound.
16. Picture quality – Take a few snaps and
inspect the quality.
If it’s blurry, the camera
might be damaged. Also check that the flash is
17. Charging – Connect a charger to the phone
and check if it charges and how fast.
charges too slow that could indicate a
problem. It might need a battery replacement.
18. ESN and IMEI – Make sure the phone isn’t
There are free online checkers available
where you can enter the ESN/IMEI numbers
and it will tell you whether the phone has been
blocked or added to the global blacklist.
Negotiate the right price
The great thing about buying secondhand is
that you’ll have the opportunity to negotiate the
price. You can pre-determine what you’re
willing to pay, but upon closer inspection of the
phone you might find some negotiation points.
A third party battery instead of the original, a
few scratches or minor dents, lack of a charger
etc. could help you negotiate a slightly lower
Don’t be afraid to walk away from a
transaction, and don’t feel forced to make
purchase, however. If the seller seems pushy
and evasive, is unwilling to negotiate and the
phone does not meet your expectations, rather
protect yourself and set your sights on one of
the other great deals on secondhand phones