There is a lot of material on the internet these days explaining the benefits of purchasing refurbished cell phones as they function like new, save the creation of hazardous material for the environment, and cost a fraction of the price of new phones, but there isn’t much information about why a phone is refurbished in the first place. Because consumers are often hesitant to purchase products of which they no little about, I have compiled a list of the most common reasons for a cell phone to be refurbished.
First of all, refurbished means that an item has been purchased and then returned for some reason. Returned products are examined and fixed (if there was actually a problem with the item), but, by law, they can never again be sold as new. Most cell phones that are returned have nothing wrong with them. The customers simply change their mind about their purchase and decide to take the item back. So most refurbished phones are virtually brand new as they have hardly been used, if they have been used at all, and they have been cleaned for sanitary reasons after they were returned.
When a customer returns a phone because it has actually malfunctioned, the technicians in the refurbishment department take the phone apart, run a diagnostic exam to determine the problem, and the replace any part that is not functioning properly. Parts that are most often replaced range from motherboards to speakers or microphones. The most common part of a phone that is replaced is the LCD screen. Because LCD screens are so delicate, they are easily cracked if a phone is dropped or slammed into something. If a phone is returned because the screen no longer works, the screen is simply replaced with a new screen, the phone is then tested for full functionality, and then the phone (which now functions as new) is sold for a fraction of the original cost.
Besides the internals that are often replaced, there are several common external problems that lead to refurbishment. Most common would be simple external, cosmetic wear and tear. If the internals of a phone test successfully but the outside of the phone shows wear, the outer housing is simply replaced with a brand new one. Another external part that often needs to be replaced from wear is the charging port. This is another simple fix that just requires the replacement of the port.
The issue that seems to concern consumers the most in regards to purchasing refurbished phones is water damage. Often, phones are exposed to water, whether it be that the phone was dropped in a pool or simply caught a few rain drops. If the water happens to make its way to the “Water Damage Sticker” that is located in the housing of each phone, the sticker will turn red. Water damage often affects little more than the sticker in reality, but phones returned with water damage are, just like all other returned phones, fully inspected, and any damaged parts are replaced. Customers, however, often see the red sticker and immediately assume that they have been taken advantage of but in reality, the phone functions as new.
Let’s say the insides of a water damaged phone are fried, but the housing still looks brand new – in this case, the insides will be scrapped and replaced with new parts, but the housing will be placed back on the unit. The internals of the phone are now basically brand new, but the sticker will still indicate water damage.
Batteries also have a water damage sticker, which is extremely sensitive. If a customer purchasing refurbished items receives a battery with a red water sticker, they should test the battery before beginning to worry. Often, batteries are purchased in large over stock lots consisting of hundreds of batteries in a container, which has been sitting on a shelf in a warehouse for an extended period of time. If the batteries are exposed to high levels of humidity, the stickers will activate and indicate water damage even though the batteries still function as new. These types of batteries are often wiped down after being taken out of their containers to remove any dust that has accumulated from the warehouse, which will also often activate the stickers.
Because any phone that has been truly refurbished will function like new, any retailer selling refurbished phones should offer some sort of warranty on the device. When shopping for a refurbished phone, make sure to purchase from a retailer who has enough confidence in the refurbishment of their phones to offer you a customer satisfaction guarantee so that you can rest assured that you are purchasing a fully functional phone for a fraction of the original price.