After purchasing more than 1,000 cellular devices through our company, we've gained the knowledge and expertise of buying smartphones and other cellular devices secondhand. If you're looking to purchase a smartphone or cellular device secondhand, whether it be eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, or elsewhere, here is a compact list of what to check.
1. Always Check The IMEI / ESN For The Device
- The IMEI ((International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a unique 15-17 digit code assigned to every cellular device. This number can help identify devices that may have been reported as lost or stolen, as well as devices that might still be attached to another account. There are a number of methods for checking an IMEI, and below is an up to date list on where to check an IMEI.
- Stolen Phone Checker (https://stolenphonechecker.org/spc/)
Stolen Phone Checker is our go to for checking the current status of a cellular device. This website will show if a device has been blacklisted (reported lost or stolen). They have options for law enforcement and commercial uses as well.
T Mobile offers their own online check system that will verify an IMEI is compatible with their network.
Verizon offers an online check system that will verify the compatibility of the device with their network.
- Subsidiary Networks (Cricket Wireless, Xfinity Mobile, etc.)
Some subsidiary networks have online check systems however it is always best to call in and have a customer service representative check the device in their own system before purchasing that device.
2. Check The Device's Serial Number Through The Manufacturer Website
Most manufacturers like Apple, Google, Samsung, and more, have a warranty check available on their website. Some require you to register the product to an account before viewing warranty information. This information will help you confirm the model and brand information for the device you're looking to purchase.
3. Inspect the Device
A physical inspection in person should always be done to verify all the components of the device check out. Thankfully, we have published our own "Multi-Point Inspection" checklist which will guide you through all the things you should check for a device.
Should a device not pass this inspection for any reason, it is best to return the device to its owner or refuse to purchase it.
4. It Is Preferable That The Device Is Carrier Unlocked
The term "Unlocked" refers to the device's ability to have cellular service from any carrier (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.)
Over the 7 years we've been in business, we've ran into multiple issues buying carrier locked devices. These issues ranged from the device still being attached to an account, being financed, and being unable to activate on a new account. Starting in 2022, we decided the best course of action was to refrain from buying carrier locked devices and require that our suppliers unlock their devices from their carrier before selling to us.
For Apple iOS users, here is a complete guide to check if an iOS device is unlocked - How to Tell If Your iPhone is Unlocked?
For Android users, this information will be listed in settings depending on the brand, however if it not, it's always best to bring a SIM card along to verify your service will work with the device. - How to Tell If Your Phone Is Unlocked (Android)
While new information becomes available (such as eSIM technology), we will continue to update this post with information and suggestions to keep customers and consumers as safe as possible purchasing cellular devices secondhand.