How to keep yourself safe when buying a second hand phone

What to look out for when buying a second hand phone.
What to look out for when buying a second hand phone.
What to look out for when buying a second hand phone.

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…
Shop around
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 good phone.


Prepare yourself
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 phone.
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 flashlight
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 water damage.
6. SIM and MicroSD slots – See if they open hassle-free, and insert your own SIM and MicroSD card.
7. Software – Switch on the phone and test the software and see whether you’re comfortable using it.
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 working.
17. Charging – Connect a charger to the phone and check if it charges and how fast. If it charges too slow that could indicate a problem. It might need a battery replacement.
18. ESN and IMEI – Make sure the phone isn’t stolen. 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 price.
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 out there.

By Liezl Grobeler, Junk Mail Media Group