The smartphone market is rapidly changing due to factors like sky-high prices and the death of the "free" phone from major carriers.
If you're in the market for an iPhone, stay tuned - we're going to compare iPhone models and tell you how to save big money on both your device and your wireless service.
Table of Contents
- Don't Overpay for Your iPhone: Choose Refurbished/Used
- Why Buy a Refurbished iPhone Over a New iPhone?
- Differences Between iPhone Models
- Key Considerations When Buying a Used/Refurbished iPhone
- Locked vs. Unlocked: What's the Difference?
- Why Should You Compare iPhone Prices?
- Save Even More Money: Switch to an MVNO
Don't Overpay for Your iPhone: Choose Refurbished/Used
The first question to ask yourself when phone shopping is: "Do I actually need a brand-new phone?"
Differences from model year to model year are minimal (I'll go into detail on this in a minute) and generally not worth the significant leap in price.
Would you rather pay less than $400 for an iPhone that's one or two models old or $1000 for a new one, only to have yet another redesign come out in a year (before your device is even paid off!)?
Used vs. Refurbished
While "used" and "refurbished" are often used interchangeably, there are important distinctions:
Used: A used iPhone listing typically indicates that the device comes as-is. That doesn't mean it's not in great, functional condition. It just means you'll want to read the listing details to make sure you know of any cosmetic or other flaws before you hit "buy".
Refurbished: This term means a device has undergone rigorous inspection and repair. It may have had a cracked screen replaced, a button fixed, etc. Refurbs have been cleaned out, with their software restored to factory presets.
Why Buy a Refurbished iPhone Over a New iPhone?
The better question is why not buy a used iPhone? There are so many benefits to this option:
- Save over half off the retail price.
- You're free to switch carriers whenever you choose because you own your device.
- It's earth friendly: smartphones can last as long as four or more years, according to the Consumer Technology Association, yet people are changing devices every 2.5 years or so (Statista).
- There are very few/minor changes from iPhone to iPhone.
- Want the extra protection of Apple service? Refurbished iPhones are eligible for AppleCare+.
- You can buy certified pre-owned iPhones with a warranty and purchase third-party phone insurance for extra peace of mind.
Differences Between iPhone Models
Wondering how much iPhones actually change from year to year? Maybe not as much as you think.
- Back made of gorilla glass, not aluminum
- 7% heavier
- Integrated wireless charging
- 25% boost in speaker volume
- Base storage doubled to 64GB
- Improved image processing
The cameras offer the same megapixels, there is no headphone jack on either model, and the screen size is exactly the same. The fingerprint sensor also remained from the 7 to the 8 and both iPhones are water and dust resistant. The price, however, increased $200.
Key Considerations When Buying a Used/Refurbished iPhone
Keep the following in mind as you compare used iPhones:
- Specifications: You'll find that when buying used you can afford bigger internal storage, a better camera, and more features overall.
- Condition: Used iPhones are usually sold in conditions like "Fair", "Good", or "Excellent". Refurbished devices will typically be rated A, B, C, etc., with A being like new.
- Return policy: Some sites, like Swappa, connect you with sellers, which means they don't have their own return policy unless the device was misrepresented. Others, BuyBackWorld for example, give you 30 days to return your item.
- Warranty: Don't count out a warranty just because your iPhone is refurbished! Decluttr gives you a 12-month limited warranty while some other sites give you 30 days.
Locked vs. Unlocked: What's the Difference?
Apple products come in different versions depending on who is selling them.
Locked iPhones: the software is restricted so that you can only use it on the carrier that sold it.
What this means in real life:
- If you buy an unlocked iPhone that was not originally sold by one specific carrier, you can take it to any carrier you wish.
- If you buy a T-Mobile iPhone or AT&T iPhone you may not be able to use it on a CDMA (Sprint or Verizon) network.
- If you buy a Verizon iPhone or Sprint iPhone, you may or may be able to use it on a GSM (AT&T and T-Mobile) network but you may not get full functionality if your 4G LTE signal goes down.
Why Should You Compare iPhone Prices?
When you use our used iPhone price comparison engine, you:
- See all available deals from the most reputable sellers
- Can easily assess specs and condition
- Are able to shop several different models at once
- Can find the best deal for you in just seconds
Save Even More Money: Switch to an MVNO
Once you've got a good bargain on your unlocked iPhone, you'll be able to take it to the carrier of your choice. If you want to save over 50% off your wireless service you might want to consider an MVNO.
What Is an MVNO?
Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are smaller wireless carriers that offer cheaper rates than the big four (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon).
These affordable prices are made possible because MVNOs rent space on the major networks and resell it to their customers. They don't have the infrastructure and maintenance costs because they don't own the towers.
Also, MVNOs typically operate totally online, so they don't have the high overhead and marketing costs that the big four providers have. They pass much of this savings on to you with cheaper cell phone plans.
Why Choose an MVNO?
- You'll save over half off your cell phone plan.
- You'll get the same reliable networks the big guys use.
- It's easy to sign up online - order a new SIM card and insert it into your phone.
- Alternative carriers have high customer service ratings.
- You can bring your own device and keep your phone number.
- You customize your own plan, paying only for what you actually need.
- There are no contracts and typically no credit checks - change carriers at any time.
Compare cell phone plans to find big savings in just seconds.
Cell phone service no longer has to be complicated or expensive. The rise in the used phone market and the advent of affordable wireless carriers allow you to save hundreds of dollars per year.
- Shop reputable sellers for a refurbished or used iPhone.
- Choose the network with the best coverage in your area.
- Find cheap cell phone plans from MVNOs on your favorite cellular network.