What is a refurbished iPhone? It’s really not that bad

Nowadays, almost everyone wants to have an iPhone. The latest iPhone are very expensive and iPhone never has discount sale. That’s why a lot of people choosing used iPhone. But lots of people don’t want to buy or afraid to buy a refurbished iPhone. They think the refurbished iPhone always has issue and easy to get damaged.

But the fact is not like that. Do you really know the refurbished iPhone? What is a refurbished iPhone? How many kinds of refurbished iPhone are there have and How to choose a refurbished iPhone?

Let’s get answers below.

What is refurbished iPhone means?

Refurbished iPhone means the iPhone has been repaired or has some replaced parts by vendors or manufactures. Refurbished devices should be fully tested and fully functional. By rights, refurbished iPhone should be accepted by most of used iPhone buyer, why there has lot of people don’t want a refurbished one? That’s because there has different kinds of refurbished iPhone. What’s more, different type of refurbished device means totally different quality of the device.

Let’s talk more about those different types of refurbishment.

Different kinds of refurbished devices

Why there have so many kinds of refurbished iPhone? That’s because there have different refurbishers. We know that both vendors and manufactures could do refurbishment by repairing or replacing parts of the device. The variety of vendors and manufactures made refurbished iPhone so different from each other. Let’s go ahead to talk about the most kinds of refurbished phones selling on the market.

Type 1: Apple official refurbished device—highly Recommended

The best quality refurbished device should come from their original manufacture. They know best about their products. So, for a refurbished iPhone, the best one must come from Apple. It is officially called Certified Pre-owned iPhone. This kind of phone comes with a white box and brand new accessories. Apple also provides a whole one-year warranty on that.

The quality is apple quality and Apple also confidently provides one-year warranty like a brand new one. This kind of iPhone can be found on apple website and customer could purchase it online. But the official price is still expensive.

You may also find some on other used iPhone markets such as eBay but not that many. It will be much cheaper than apple official site. How can we identify this kind of iPhone?

It will be show “RFB” on the white box means that is a refurbished one. Also, the part number on the box will be started with an initial “F”. The part number will be also found on iPhone “Setting—general—about—model”

If the part number is not start with the “F”, it is not apple official refurbished iPhone.


Type 2: Apple repaired device—highly Recommended

This kind of iPhone will not be sold by Apple official channel. They hide amount the thousands of used iPhone. As iPhone has one-year warranty from it’s original purchase date, the original user may repair it under the warranty. When the original user sell their old, phone, they may tell you their phone is a refurbished phone. Let’s talk apple repair first.

There almost have two different kinds of repair in general: swap repair or normal repair. Swap repair means the issue is covered by the warranty, but the issue is non-repairable. In this situation, Apple will issue a replacement device. That is swap repair. The Apple replacement phone is actually a brand new iPhone, rather than a refurbished one.

Normal repair means that the issue is repairable. Apple will replace some parts or components such as logic board. In many cases, Apple will replace logic board, battery and screen. In fact, this phone is a brand-new one and the only used component is the old phone housing.

The part number will be started with an initial “N”. The part number will be also found on iPhone “Setting—general—about—model”

As this kind of iPhone is replaced/repaired by Apple by AppleCare expert and using apple original components, the quality is great. This kind of refurbished device is also highly recommended.

Type 3: Third party refurbished device—overall OK

Some repair companies or insurance companies also refurbish iPhone. As a lot of user buy their phones from carrier, and carrier always promoting their phone protection plan in a bundle when selling phones. Some customer will repair their phone via those protections plan, rather than apple care. (It is really a waste of money, and will discuss this topic in the future)

After they pay some deduction, carrier will issue them a replaced phone. This replaced phone is 100% percent refurbished phone and their old phone will be refurbished and will be re-issued to another customer.

This kind of phone most likely using a third party display or battery, some phones even use used logic boards, which are pulled out from other salvaged phones. Unlike Apple, Apple never repairs logic boards as repaired logic boards often has issue. Apple will replace a brand new logic boards, which is perfect; but for the third party refurbisher, they cannot get brand new logic boards and only way they can fix the issue is to find the used working logic boards to make the replacement.

The phone housing of this kind of phones are usually old and most of them are graved characters like “refurbished by xxx”. Some of old iPhone also shows the different IMEI as the refurbisher replaced the logic board and as a result, the refurbished iPhone has a different IMEI.

After refurbishing process, the refurbisher will run full tests on it to make sure it is ready to use. But as it is refurbished by third party and using third-party parts, the quality and durability is not that good, but overall, it is still good.


Type 4: Refurbished by unknown party—DO NOT BUY !!!

There has another kind of refurbished phone on the market. It looks like a brand new phone and even with film on it. Some of these are very old model, which Apple already stop produces. Also, they are very easy to be found on the used market.

Actually, they are definitely the refurbished devices. The refurbishers are mainly located outside of USA. They illegally use brand new but fake iPhone housing, third party screens and batteries etc. The only component from Apple is the used logic board. (That’s why there have a lot of companies buying used salvaged iPhone and iPhone motherboard) These logic boards may have different kinds of issues. These unknown refurbishers will repair these issues RATHER THAN replacing a fully functional logic board.

One thing you need to know about this: iPhone logic board is very small and integrated a lot of chips on it. It is TOTALLY UNREPAIRABLE AT ALL. That’s why Apple and third party refurbisher rather cost more to replacing a fully functional logic board.

After the old logic board fixed, it will work for a period but it will always have variety of issues.

This kind of iPhone is strictly the fake iPhone at all and we do not recommend you to buy it.


Should we accept a refurbished iPhone?

Now, we almost know all kinds of refurbished device. Should we accept it?


Just take it easy to choose a good used iPhone. Refurbished phone is just a kind of used phone. A real refurbished iPhone is really good quality. But overall, used phone is used phone. There will more or less have sign of use.

Don’t be greedy to choose used phone that with film on it or have very clean charging port or headphone jet. All these may indicates that you are buying an unknown party refurbished device. (Apple repaired stock and Apple replacement device will come with factory film, and may have clean charging port or headphone jet. We will specially talk more about this two in the future)

If you really care about the condition of the phone, you may choose a good condition used one, rather than choosing “the brand new outside but really bad inside” one.

If you still have question, just leave comments below and I am very happy to discuss with you.







  1. When I lived in South East Asia people putting out fake products was so common. I remember a friend buying a computer that was an Alienware and the motherboard was replaced with a cheap one. He would of never known if I didn’t look at the specs on his computer.

    This is a great article to keep people aware.

    • Yes, most of fake iPhone (and other electronics) comes from there.We really need to be aware of these junk and need to know how to choose a really good refurbished one.

  2. I have been thinking of buying a used phone becuase I think the new ones are to expensive but never felt safe on what I´m buying but thanks to you I now know what to look for when buying a new phone thank you!

    • Thank you for reading. We will also introduce some good stores and places for buying used iPhone in the future. But realize some tips for choosing a right phone is always important thing we need to do.

  3. I have bought several refurbished phones with no problems but maybe I got lucky.Great information for the future. I will keep buying used for the price.

    • Actually, as long as they use no issue logic board, the quality is still good. just be aware of the bad refurbished one. Also, I will also introduce some good stores and places for buying used iPhones and cellphones in the future.

  4. I have an Apple Phone it was used but was well taken care of and was very clean and I must say it has really given me a great deal.I like it when you mentioned it is always good to choose what is best out there not to be too greedy.

    • Yes, some of refurbished iPhone looks like brand new but was released two or three years ago, those are very fishy. Greedy buyer will buy but it is risky.

  5. This was interesting information! I was actually thinking about getting a refurbished IPhone because they are so much cheaper. Seeing that picture of the fake IPhone housing has me leery. I guess the best way is not to buy off Amazon, because you might not get one that was refurbished or repaired by Apple, even if they say it has been.

    • Yes, just buy an used one from some good seller. I will introduce some good seller in the future. Used phone is much safer than the refurbished one especially buying from original owner whom you know well.

  6. I feel that as long as it works then I am happy to purchase the product. This sounds like that they are in perfect working condition and at half the price!

    Thanks for the article Peter, I will check them out:)

    • Yes, most refurbished iPhone works well but those with repaired logic boards are very bad. Just don’t be greedy and choose a real refurbished iPhone or used iPhone.

  7. I’ve never heard of the concept “refurbished” for a phone before but I can clearly see why people wouldn’t want to get one for themselves. I totally agree that the refurbishment should be done by the manufacturers themselves, as they know everything about their product, much more than anybody else. When I purchase a refurbished IPhone next I know what I’ll be asking, whether or not it was done by a qualified technician otherwise I’ll be running for the hills. Thanks for the help!

  8. crazy. I didn’t realise what a big business this all was. I would have been worried about battery life on a refurbished phone but now see that this is the least of my worries. Thanks for sharing, cheers, Karen https://writingforcash.com

    • Yes, battery could be replaced easily. Just keep away from the the type 4 in article, they are not real refurbished iPhones, but fake iPhone.

  9. Wow, I didnt know all these details about refurbished iphones! Great article…or rather case study on this!

    • Thank you. Will keep posting articles that regarding to buying used iPhone, refurbished iPhones and other tips. All our common goal is to spent less for great iPhone.

  10. From what I saw when I was looking for new phones and laptops, third party refurbished items are usually not of good quality, therefore not a very good deal. Some websites offer a great price for them, and often attracts people looking for renown brands. By seeing attracting prices, people can be fooled but in the end, a bit disappointed by the device when they finally receive it.

    Anyway, great article, I didnt know Apple had refurbished iphones. Thanks.

    • Yes, Apple really sell pre-owned iPhones, but they are in very good quality. After all, Apple knows their product the best. But Apple refurbished iPhone is much expensive than other refurbished iPhones.

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