Tracing the amazing journey of Refurbished Smartphones
Have you ever wondered about what happens to the phones that are discarded, or to those that are returned during smartphone exchange programs? Well yes, in most cases they undergo a methodical journey to be transformed into refurbished smartphones. In the wake of global economic disturbances, refurbished smartphones have taken the smartphone industry by storm. With demands raising the bar per day, it is essential to know the story of how these are actually made.
What are refurbished smartphones?
Smartphones that are returned to the manufacturers and vendors are systematically graded, tested for hardware and software defects, repaired and conditioned according to industry standards to make their functionality as good as new. These are now said to be refurbished smartphones. Unlike used phones, refurbished phones show very slight signs of cosmetic imperfections, and come with an updated software system.
The history of refurbished smartphones
Prior to the refurbishment of smartphones on large scales, used smartphones were repaired and sold off at low prices. It is hard to determine the exact start of refurbishment, but it must have started when customers contacted manufacturers if the phones had manufacturing defects. This is when the post-purchase repair policies came into existence. Customers unsatisfied with the repair naturally asked for an exchange of devices. And these returned smartphones were refurbished. The history and progress of refurbishment is scattered because refurbishment was done on different levels by manufacturers, individual vendors, and private retailers through different spans of time.
How are smartphones refurbished?
Initially, simple tests and substitute parts were used for refurbishment. With cutting-edge technology coming forth, refurbishment today follows a systematic and organised path with multiple tests and tools used in the process. Refurbishment happens on three major levels. At Individual-level, Business-level and at Manufacturer-level.
The Individual level refurbishment is seen in local markets. Smartphone vendors and Phone repair shops work on refurbishing smartphones that are sold to them. Often, this way of refurbishment doesn’t precisely correct all the errors and imperfections. There are chances that cheaper substitutes are used to replace faulty parts. But, recently these vendors have also started to improvise their ways of refurbishment, making them a potential reliable seller.
The Business level refurbishment is dealt with by companies trading exclusively with the business of refurbishment. They collect devices from multiple sources, categorise and refurbish phones. The refurbished smartphones are distributed to retailers or sold by the company itself. Here are the general steps of refurbishment:
1. Collection of smartphones
There are multiple sources from which smartphones are collected.
- Exchange programs: Shopping portals and stores offer exchange schemes through which you can buy new phones at a low price by handing out your used smartphones. These smartphones are either refurbished in-house by the portal or sold to the refurbishment industry.
- Selling used phones: Many platforms buy used smartphones from customers and sell the refurbished versions.
- Delivery returned: Smartphones that are returned on delivery due to manufacturing defects undergo refurbishment.
- Floor models: Smartphone handsets put on display in showrooms are sold off after refurbishment.
2. Grading and Trade
These smartphones collected from various sources are categorised based on their brand, year of manufacture, type of phone display (touch screen or button) and other technical criteria. Basic level of checks are done to check the quality of the phone. Zenro’s smart grading system consists of two steps: Cosmetic evaluation and Functional evaluation. Step 1 includes thorough checking of phones, spotting the dents and cracks, examining the working of the ports and buttons, and checking the screen touch mechanisms.
Step 2 includes running tests to check the speed, battery, system software functioning, touch rate, connectivity and processing of the smartphone. Based on the segregated categories, these phones are traded and sent to refurbishment units.
America and Japan have standardised grading patterns followed nationwide. America follows an intensive pattern called CTIA that covers details right from cosmetic checks to rust checks, smudges, discolourisation, alignment and much more. Japan follows a similar pattern with distinct grading called as the RMJ.
Refurbishment proceeds in two steps. Fixing the hardware, and then the software. The cosmetic imperfections are taken care of by either replacing the covers or polishing and patching them. Broken buttons, jammed ports are fixed. Faulty parts are repaired or replaced depending on the severity of the damage. Similarly, software malfunctioning is fixed, camera features, wifi connectivity, speed are all made functional. The data of the previous user is wiped off. Software is updated and the settings are reset to factory default. This makes the functionality of the refurbished smartphones like new.
4. Imports and Exports
Post-refurbishment, the smartphones are graded again based on their final quality, and the price is decided. Certain companies export the refurbished smartphones, while others put it up for sale in their own country.
The Indian import law does not permit the import of refurbished smartphones. So, the refurbishment is done within the country. Indonesia is another country which self-refurbishes their smartphones. Japan, is a leading manufacturer of refurbished smartphones, but the customer base for refurbished phones there is considerably low. Japan exports most of the refurbished and used devices to other countries like HongKong, Bangladesh, South Africa, and Pakistan.
Factory refurbished smartphones
The Manufacturer-level refurbished smartphones are also known as factory refurbished smartphones. The sources include floor models, handsets returned to the original manufacturer, and when shopping portals send smartphones to parent manufacturing brands. These phones undergo the 4 step refurbishment as mentioned above. Factory refurbished smartphones come with their own set of perks. Brands like Apple boast that their refurbished phones come with new covers, new battery and original accessories. Local vendors and online portals have minimal chance of providing these benefits.