There’s no getting around the fact that smartphones are expensive, with many of the latest flagship handsets retailing for upwards of £1,000. The iPhone, in particular, is notoriously pricey, a factor which has often put buyers off and has pushed them towards picking up a cheaper Android phone instead.
However, there is another option for those looking to get an iPhone on a budget: refurbished handsets. While many often believe a refurbished iPhone would be damaged in some way, or lacking in performance compared to a brand-new handset, that isn’t the case. In fact, you can often bag a device that is good as new without having to break the bank.
We explain everything you need to know about refurbished iPhones below.
What is a refurbished iPhone?
A refurbished iPhone, often referred to as a “refurbed iPhone” or a “reconditioned iPhone”, is an Apple smartphone restored to full working condition after being either pre-owned or used as a display model.
iPhones that have been pre-owned may have been returned because there was a fault, or simply because its owner decided they wanted to trade-in to raise funds for a newer model. Additionally, some networks and retailers classify 'refurbished phones' as handsets that were returned by customers who changed their minds within the 30-day cooling-off period after they signed up for a contract.
Regardless of why an iPhone is being sold as refurbished, you can rest assured the device will be in complete working condition, the same as their brand new counterparts. All refurbished Apple products - assuming you’re buying from a legitimate source - undergo a complete analysis, including hardware and software tests and thorough checking of all components.
You can read everything you need to know about refurbished phones here.
Should I buy a refurbished iPhone?
Yes! iPhones are notoriously expensive, but by purchasing a refurbished device, you can get your hands on Apple’s latest tech without having to wipe out your bank balance.
If you’re still not keen on the idea of spending hundreds of pounds upfront, refurbished iPhones - just like brand new ones - can also be bought on pay monthly deals. To give you an idea of just how much you can save, a refurbished iPhone 13 can be picked up on a 24-month contract for just £38 a month with unlimited data. Compare our best refurbished iPhone deals to see how much you can save.
Buying a refurbished iPhone is also good for the environment, making them an excellent, sustainable choice. The average carbon emissions of a smartphone over the course of its lifetime come to around around 80kg, with 80% of that occurring during the manufacturing process. Choosing an existing device rather than a new one means you're saving this huge chunk of carbon. What’s more, choosing a refurbished handset will also help with the growing issue of electronic waste, or e-waste, which means you’re doing your bit to help save the planet.
What are the different refurbished iPhone grades?
All refurbished phones are given a grade that reflects their condition, so you can be sure what you’re getting before you part with your cash. While there’s no universal standard for grading, most retailers rank refurbished devices from grade A-D.
A grade A smartphone will be in excellent condition, and it's as close as you can get to a brand new handset without paying over the odds. At best, a grade A device will be a smartphone that somebody has returned within the 30-day cooling off period. This means that, although you’re saving yourself hundreds of pounds, it’s still a brand new phone. At worst, it'll show negligible signs of wear and tear on the housing or the screen, which could take the form of faint scratches that are barely visible to the human eye.
A smartphone graded B will still be in good condition, but will likely have some marks and scratches that are visible to the user. Unlike top-tier refurbished devices, there will be signs of previous use, though you can expect a handset’s functionality to remain the same as a grade A device.
With Grade C refurbished devices, you can expect a smartphone that is fully-functionality but shows signs of heavy prior use. Refurbished grade C means that a product is functional but shows heavy signs of use. This could take the form of noticeable scratches and dents affecting the handset’s exterior and its display, though these cosmetic marks will not impair the function of the product.
A grade D refurbished phone will be broken in some way, will look second-hand, and will have been well used. In some cases, grade D devices could be defective or cosmetically flawed beyond repair, and intended to be re-sold for parts only. Thankfully, Most networks will only sell grades A-C. You can get grade D phones from some refurbished phone traders on eBay, but even they’ll typically recommend you only buy one if you’re able to repair phones yourself.
Retailer grading systems
To complicate the process of buying a refurbished phone further, some retailers and networks have adopted their own grading system. O2, for example, uses the grades “Perfect”, “Almost Perfect” and “Perfectly Fine”, while EE ranks refurbished phones as either “very good” or “like new”.
Though they adopt their own grading systems, all networks check refurbished phones extensively before they go on sale, so you can rest assured you’re getting a device in good condition. For example, handsets are analysed for cosmetic damage and there’s a thorough LCD and screen inspection to check for debris and dark areas.
What is the best refurbished iPhone for me?
Apple’s iPhone range has grown into a wide-ranging, often confusing lineup of different devices released over several years. With wildly different prices and specs - and some models only available second hand - there's plenty of variety, which means there should be something for everyone. But which should you choose? Apple has you covered whether you’re a tech novice or a hardcore fan after the very latest in cutting-edge smartphone technology.
Here’s our guide on the best phones to help you make the right decision.
Refurbished iPhone 13
Introduced in September 2021, the iPhone 13 is Apple's latest flagship iPhone, alongside the more affordable iPhone 13 mini and the top-of-the-line iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. The standard model in the bumper range still packs a bunch of flagship-worthy features, from its Super Retina XDR display with True Tone technology and its A15 Bionic chip.
Apple has also made a bunch of additional upgrades over the last-generation iPhone 12, adding twice the storage (128GB) on the entry-level model, new cameras, improved battery life, an updated processor, brighter screens, and 5G support in more countries.
Compare our best refurbished iPhone 13 deals.
Refurbished iPhone 12
Although it has since been succeeded by the iPhone 13, the iPhone 12 continues to pack a punch when it comes to specs and features. The handset, which like Apple’s new handsets boasts a sleek flat-edged design with aluminium edges, features a powerful A14 Bionic processor, a high-resolution screen protected by durable Ceramic Shield Glass, and Apple’s unique MagSafe feature for more reliable wireless charging, and support for attachable accessories.
Due to the fact it’s no longer the latest and greatest smartphone in Apple’s smartphone lineup, it’s much more affordable than the iPhone 13 - particularly if you pick up a refurbished handset. What’s more, given the handset is less than two years old, you can be confident that your refurbed iPhone 12 will be in good condition.
Take a look at our best refurbished iPhone 12 deals.
Refurbished iPhone 11
The iPhone 11, though it doesn’t pack all of the bells and whistles found on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, remains a worthy buy in 2022. While it lacks 5G support and a 120Hz refresh rate, the handset does match its successors in a number of departments. It has IP68 water resistance and toughened glass for durability, and packs a punch in the audio department with support for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. Its cameras continue to impress too, as with the iPhone 11, Apple introduced a new dual-lens camera that features a standard wide-angle camera and an ultra-wide-angle camera with a 120-degree field of view.
The smartphone, although two years old, is unlikely to disappoint when it comes to performance either. The handset packs Apple’s A13 Bionic 7-nanometer chip along with a third-generation Neural Engine. At the time the handset launched, Apple touted it as the fastest chip ever in a smartphone with a 20% CPU and GPU than the A12 before it.
Check out our best refurbished iPhone 11 deals.
Refurbished iPhone SE
The iPhone SE 2, though introduced in 2021, is the most affordable iPhone in Apple’s smartphone lineup. Aimed at those who want a compact, fuss-free device, the iPhone SE 2 doesn’t boast the same top-end specs as its siblings and continues to sport a boxy design reminiscent of the iPhone 4. However, though its design is somewhat dated, the handset has been given a major revamp under the hood compared to the original iPhone SE, and packs a punch in the performance department.
The iPhone SE 2022 features the same A15 processor that powers Apple’s top of the line iPhone 13, and it also comes with 5G support for the first time. Beyond these upgrades, the handset packs the same familiar features its users are after: the Touch ID sensor remains, as does the compact 4.7-inch Retina display.
See out best refurbished iPhone SE 2 deals.
Refurbished iPhone XR
The iPhone XR may forgo Apple’s numerical naming scheme, but it packs the same array of features that you’d expect from an iPhone device. It has a 6.1-inch Retina display and glass-encased design, along with a front-facing Face ID system and custom-made A13 Bionic CPU that continues to give its newer rivals a run for its money. What’s more, with Apple promising software updates for all handsets for five to six years, the iPhone XR continues to receive new iOS features and security fixes.
The handset, which was first introduced in September 2018, has been discontinued by Apple, and replaced by the iPhone 11, iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models. However, the iPhone XR can still be picked up as a refurbished handset. And due to the fact it’s now four years old, there are some bargains to be had.
Check out our best refurbished iPhone XR deals.
Refurbished iPhone 8
The iPhone 8, though it has since been succeeded by a number of handsets, remains a decent device to buy in 2022. Along with the iPhone 8 Plus, it originally hit the scene in September 2017 alongside the iPhone X as one of the last handsets to feature the iPhone 6 design that Apple had been using since 2014. While it may not have been as exciting as its iPhone X sibling, the iPhone 8 proved a great option for those who weren’t quite ready to jump aboard the bezel-less and button-less future Apple has been pushing towards ever since.
It remains a great option for those after an iPhone on a budget. Though it lacks newer features, such as Face ID and 5G support, the handset packs an attractive glass and aluminium chassis, a Retina HD display, an A11 Bionic CPU, wireless charging and support for augmented reality. It continues to receive software updates too, which means it's up to date with many of the latest iOS features.
Look through our best refurbished iPhone 8 deals
Do refurbished iPhones come with a warranty?
In most cases, yes. But while the majority of networks and retailers will offer a warranty on a refurbished iPhone, it’s important to note that not all sellers will offer a refurbished iPhone with warranty included, so it’s best to check before you buy.
Are refurbished iPhones cheaper?
Yes! Refurbished iPhones can be up to 90% cheaper than a brand new model. That’s not because a handset has been well-used or is extensively damaged, but simply because it does not meet the “brand new” criteria.
Is it safe to buy refurbished iPhones?
It’s safe to buy a refurbished iPhone, as long as you’re careful. Make sure you buy it via a trusted network or retailer, check it has a warranty, and carefully read any documents. You can also be sure that the handset will be like-new when you receive it and won’t contain any data from the previous owner. All refurbished iPhones are factory reset, so the device will act as if it’s the first time it’s been switched on.
Are refurbished iPhones locked to a network?
That depends on where you buy your refurbished iPhone from. If you buy a SIM-free device, it’s likely your refurbished iPhone will be unlocked and available to use on any network you choose. However, if you buy it directly from a network, it could be locked to that specific operator. The good news is if you decide to switch providers, it’s really easy to unlock an iPhone so it can be used on another network.
Do you need to buy a SIM card for a refurbished iPhone?
Again, it depends on where you buy the device from. Many retailers will sell refurbished iPhones without a SIM card so that it can be used with your current SIM. However, some networks, particularly if you’re buying a refurbished iPhone on a pay monthly deal, will ship the handset with a SIM card included.