I lost my uninsured iPhone and I'm not due an upgrade for nearly eight months. I don’t want to go back to my old Nokia but don’t want to fork out hundreds of pounds for a new, sim-free smartphone.
Would a refurbished phone be good value or could I be stung with a dodgy handset?
Wayne Stone, via email on 11 August 2011
A refurbished, or reconditioned, mobile phone is a great way to get hold of a new handset without spending too much cash.
If you're concerned that a pre-used phone may have some bugs or scratches, you don’t have to buy yours from eBay or Gumtree - although an officially refurbished handset might have some minor cosmetic damage, these phones usually come with the same warranty as any other mobile bought from the manufacturer, network provider or mobile phone shop.
What a reconditioned handset definitely isn’t, is simply a used mobile phone.
O2 says: “A reconditioned handset is a used handset that has been restored to its original state. If any parts were faulty or damaged, we have repaired or replaced them prior to the handsets being fully tested and inspected.”
As a bare minimum, your refurbished mobile phone will come with a battery and mains charger - though for sanitary reasons it won’t include a handsfree kit. You’re not guaranteed to get any other accessories that might have been included when the phone was first sold.
Obviously, it’s unlikely that you'll find the very latest, fastest and most powerful handsets on the refurb list, but you can get a decent phone to tide you over until your upgrade comes through - especially if you go one model behind the latest phones - such as the Apple iPhone 3GS instead of the iPhone 4 or the HTC Desire instead of the Sensation.
If you slide further down the tech scale, you can get some really good deals by choosing a refurbished phone. According to Three, you can save £336 on a Samsung Galaxy Ace over 24 months when you take a refurbished handset.
Although you'll pay more for a reconditioned phone than you would buying a secondhand one online, you do get the peace of mind that comes with a warranty.
Monthly contract payments are usually lower than with an out-of-the-box model, but if you're already tied into a contract and are just waiting to upgrade you won’t want to commit to whole new contract. In this case, you might be able to save some money by signing up to a rolling 30-day contract and then cancelling.
If you're looking for a phone that offers 3G mobile internet, a large touchscreen and all the Facebook you can handle - but don’t necessarily want a super-shiny model - then a refurbished phone might be the right option for you.
But don’t get refurbished phones confused with secondhand mobiles. While there are some great deals to be had on the likes of eBay and the Amazon Marketplace, you get few guarantees about the condition of your “new” phone.
If you do want to buy a cheap handset online, make sure you ask the seller for photos of the phone’s bodywork as well as information on how long they've had it - as this will affect the battery life. You should also ask if the original charger and memory cards are included, and, if it’s advertised as “refurbished”, whether the phone has simply been given a new body - leaving the original, older insides.
Whenever you're looking for a new deal on a phone, the key is to compare costs. Find out if it really will be cheaper to go for a reconditioned phone, and decide whether you’d rather spend a bit more to get a new phone, or want to spend less and maybe settle for a slightly lower spec.