Five Tips For Buying A Used iPhone | Ultimate Buying Guide for 2020

by Ricardo Gonzalez May 02, 2017

Five Tips For Buying A Used iPhone | Ultimate Buying Guide for 2020

Last Updated as of January 2, 2020

With a brand new iPhone 11 Pro Max costing over $1,000, it isn't shocking to hear that people are beginning to revert to purchasing second hand iPhone's from third-party applications such as OfferUp, LetGo, Craigslist, 5Mile, Facebook Marketplace, or any other similar applications.

These third-party applications have made it extremely easy to buy, sell, trade, or even give away used belongings. As a result a large number of individuals in the United States have used these applications to earn some extra cash. But of course these applications come with some risk especially when purchasing a used second hand iPhone or any other electronic device.

    For this article we want to focus in helping people minimize that risk and provide a safe and secure way to purchase a used iPhone.

    Listed below are four common issues that people face when purchasing a second hand iPhone. Then we'll proceed in giving you five recommendations to help you minimize these risks. 

      1. The phone hasn't been properly reset and as a result it has an iCloud Activation Lock *Hint don't assume the iPhone is ready to be used just because it's in factory reset landing page. 
      2. The phone has an issue that the seller is not disclosing. This could be a bad battery, trouble with service, bad camera, water damage etc. 
      3. The person is purposely selling you a lost or stolen phone
      4. The individual selling you a fully functional device and later claim it through their insurance as lost or stolen. This is more common with people purchasing second hand iPhone 11 pro or Xs models due to the value of the phone costing $800-1000 in the used market and insurance deductibles costing $200-$300. This problem is less common with iPhone 8 models and under. 

    Side note: These four potential risk are common issues people face when buying a second hand phone from some random Joe online. It may be the main reason why many customer continue to come to our store. I strongly believe you should consider purchasing a used phone from a local business that offers some sort of warranty, especially if it's a phone as expensive as the iPhone Xs or 11 series, reference issue #4 listed above.  

    The following are focal points you should consider before you purchase a used iPhone from OfferUp, LetGo, Craigslist, eBay, and the Facebook marketplace.     

    1. Meet at a Public Area

    Our first suggestion is to meet individuals in the public area that hopefully gives you access to free Wi-Fi. Meeting in public area is for the safety of both parties and accessibility to Wi-Fi is important to testing the iPhone.

    The following are suggestions for public locations:

    • Starbucks: Starbucks has plenty of people around and also gives you access WiFi. 
    • At a store owned by your provider: That way you can verify that the phone works for your provider
    • Mall: A local mall may also offer you easy access to both your phone provider, WiFi, and a place to trade in your phone if the phone is not as the person described online.

    A red flags should automatically be raised if they are not willing to meet in a public area so proceed with caution. Of course try to read the individual and body language. 

    2. Check for iCloud Lock and Erase content on the iPhone

    This video shows you how to spot iCloud Activation Lock

    DON'T! take ownership of any iPhone with a iCloud Activation Lock. iCloud lock is nearly impossible to remove unless you're the original owner. Not even an Apple Store employee can help you remove it without proper documentation.

    iCloud Activation Lock is the second most common way people get scammed when purchasing a second hand iPhone on Craigslist, LetGo, Facebook Market Place, eBay,  and OfferUp. iCloud Activation Lock is a form of Factory Reset Protection (similar to Google Lock in Androids) that was established by Apple. This lock is activated when a iPhone or iPad is reset to factory settings and iCloud wasn't removed. 

    Best way to avoid iCloud Activation lock on an iPhone:

    • Don't hand over the money until you verify the iPhone is working properly
    • iCloud: Check if any iCloud is attached to the device.Use the video up above to help you determine if an iCloud is still active. If so, hand back iPhone and politely ask them to log out. DON'T accept a phone with an iCloud because you will NOT be able to remove it. 
      • From Startup menu: Insert your sim card and go through the steps until you get into the home menu
      • From Home Menu: Settings> there should be no name active in the phone
    • Ask the seller to completely erase the device by doing the following:
        • (Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings) on Apple devices 
    • Next, put in your sim card and put your iCloud information. 

    Extra Information:

    • If the owner isn't present to remove the iCloud then ask them to remove it from this link They can also remove it iCloud from their current iPhone under iCloud
    • Don't take ownership of the device until the iCloud is removed

    3. Make sure the used iPhone hasn't been reported lost or Stolen: Check the IMEI 

    The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is unique serial number given to each phone device. It is used to identify if the device is stolen, lost, or blacklisted. This is one of the second thing you should check if you're considering purchasing a used cell phone or tablet. 

    Find the IMEI on your device:

      • Dial *#06#
      • iPhone Apple devices: Settings > General > About
      • On the back Side of the iPhone
      • On the SIM card tray

    Easy way to check the IMEI. For Free!

      • Swappa (This requires an account. When I first wrote this article back in 2017 they didn't require an account)
      • T-Mobile (T-Mobile is nice enough to provide this for their customer. This link allows you to check the status of the phone if was originally a T-Mobile Phone)
      • AT&T Device Unlock (this page not only unlocks the phone but also informs you if there is something derogatory in the phone) 

    *It's against the law to knowingly sell and purchase any stolen/lost iPhone*   

    4. Verify that the device will function with your phone provider

    Back in 2016 I purchased a brand new Blackberry Priv from a seller on eBay. The Blackberry Priv came At&t factory unlocked (GSM) and I was super excited to bring into the Verizon network (CDMA). At that time my understanding of unlocked phones was that "unlocked" meant you can use it with any carrier without restrictions. To my disappointment it didn't work. All I can do is text and call. Not even changing the APN setting worked.

    Do the following to tests to verify if the used cell phone is compatible for your phone provider:

  1. Plug in your sim-card or activate the device to your carrier
  2. Make a call to see if you can receive and make calls
  3. Send a multimedia text (picture text message or group text)
  4. Surf the web and watch a video
  5. Change the APN settings if one or more of the top things don't work. Simple Google [[your cell phone provider]] APN Settings

    5. Run tests to make sure the iPhone is functioning

    If the price if too good to be true, then it probably is. More often than not, a phone selling at a good price probably has an issue. Therefore it is important to fully test the device. Failing to test the phone properly can potentially end up costing more since it may require you to take it to a phone repair store.

    Test the following features:

    • Selfie camera
    • Back camera
    • Loud speaker - Make a call and put it on speaker or watch a YouTube video
    • Earpiece - Make a call
    • Earphone jack - Attached headphones if you have some available
    • Volume Buttons
    • Home Button
    • Power Button

     Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave a comment down below if you have recommendations. 

    Ricardo Gonzalez
    Ricardo Gonzalez