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What to Check Before Buying a Second Hand Phone

Most of us know someone who has found a great bargain on a second hand phone, only to later discover they’ve bought a dud. It’s not a great experience.


So here are a few things to make sure you check the next time you’re looking at purchasing a second hand phone.


Note: If you’re purchasing the device online you may not be able to check all of these, or you’ll have to rely on the word of the seller. If safe to do so I recommend buying the handset face to face, so that you can confirm the quality of your potential new handset!


  1. Request that the phone comes fully charged: So you can test the handset you’ll want it to be charged. I’d also recommend bringing a compatible charger cord of your own, in the event that the handset is not charged.
  2. Test a compatible SIM card: Popping in your own SIM card will allow you to double check that the handset isn’t locked to a network you can’t use. Often only the named account holder will be able to unlock the phone. If the handset is locked you’ll want to make sure the seller gets it unlocked before you purchase it. This can normally be done via a short phone call to the appropriate service provider.
  3. Call the new phone: Use another phone to call the one you’re inspecting so you can check the mic and the speakers. Make sure that you switch to hands free to check the speaker. This will also help double check that your desired network is not blocked. Try adjusting the volume while on the call to test the buttons.
  4. Test other buttons: Try some of the shortcut gestures (e.g. the double or triple click of the home button for iPhone) to make sure all buttons are responsive and in good condition. Also remember to try the lock/sleep button to check you can get back into the handset as needed.
  5. Check the camera: Take a photo with the front and rear cameras and have a look at them. Make sure the camera can focus as needed. A foggy camera may just need a clean, but if this doesn’t help the handset will likely need to be repaired.
  6. Inspect the charger port/dock: Make sure that the charging port, normally on the bottom of the phone, isn’t chipped or crooked and that the charger cord you’ve hopefully brought along sits firmly in there. If you have to sit the phone a certain way to get it charging I’d seriously think twice before continuing with the purchase. It might not seem like a big deal, but it’s likely to only get worse.
  7. WiFi: If possible it’s not a bad idea to try connecting to a nearby WiFi network, just to confirm that device has no issues locating and connecting to other networks.
  8. Try the touch screen: Have a flick around the phones home screen and try entering and exiting a couple of apps, just to make sure the phone is going to respond to your commands appropriately.
  9. Confirm the network bands: Depending on where the handset was purchased, and from which provider originally, it may only work on certain network bands. Confirm the model number, and do a quick bit of Google searching to confirm which network bands it will work on. For compatibility with the Telstra Mobile Network, you’ll need to make sure that the handset can operate on the 850 MHz or 2100 MHz bands for 3G and the 1800 MHz band for 4G. Telstra also supports 2G on 900 MHz, but this is currently being decommissioned.

Those are the big ones, but of course if there are specific features you’re buying the handset for, make sure you give them a try too.

Version history
Revision #:
4 of 4
Last update:
May 2017
Updated by:

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