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

Refurbished smartphones

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.

Refurbished smartphones

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.

3. Refurbishment

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.

Why buy refurbished smartphones?

Refurbished smartphones
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Refurbished phones provide us an opportunity to get standard quality phones at affordable prices. If you are running low on your budget, buying a refurbished phone within the price range is more beneficial than buying a cheap new smartphone. Refurbished smartphones come with a certified warranty, have a fair return period, are cost-effective, and most importantly they promote the green initiative. So, if you have your eyes on a high-end brand’s sleek and elite phone, buy its refurbished version!

Where to buy refurbished smartphones?

Refurbished smartphones can be found right from local marketplaces, factory outlets to online portals. 90% of the smartphone industry in India is dominated by the unauthorised grey market comprising of local vendors and retailers. The authorised market comprises of certified online portals and manufacturer showrooms. It is essential to buy refurbished smartphones from certified vendors to get a quality product and not a fake one.

Online shopping portals like Amazon renewed, Flipkart’s 2Gud, bring forth exchange schemes and regular sale of refurbished smartphones. Cashify has been in this business for over 7 years and is definitely a reliable source. Budli is the first India ReCommerce website that provides good services. These are some of the most notable, certified and reliable websites.

10 points to remember

While buying a refurbished smartphone, here is all you need to keep in mind:

  1. Find a reliable and certified source.
  2. Choose the model wisely. Do not buy old models of refurbished phones just because they are cheap, because it gets tedious to maintain them.
  3. Read up about the original model regarding its features, dimensions and specifications.
  4. Compare the price and grading of the smartphone as shown on various websites and pick the best deal.
  5. Contact the seller. Ask for details like the return policy, warranty period, ownership details and the condition of the refurbished smartphone.
  6. Read the reviews, customer ratings and frequently asked questions based on the model of phone you want to buy.
  7. Once the phone is delivered, assess it thoroughly by checking its hardware parts like buttons, ports, alignment, the position of the camera to be safe from the risk of using a cloned or fake version.
  8. Use the phone. Open all the applications, check the settings and look out for any traces of data from the previous user.
  9. Check the compatibility of the accessories with the refurbished smartphone.
  10. If you find any flaws, contact the customer care as soon as you can, and return the phone within the return period.

Present and future of the refurbished market

The current US-China trade war has brought in a significant decrease in their refurbished market sector. But a phenomenal increase is observed in the Indian secondary market( refurbished market).

Refurbished smartphones

The Indian smartphone industry sales comprise of 77% new smartphone sale and 23% pre-owned smartphone sale. As the global pandemic continues, a major portion of the educational sector and the working class has shifted to the online mode of teaching and working. Due to this, many students and part-time workers are finding the need for smartphones. With economical limitations to take care of, the purchase of refurbished smartphones is the best way out.

It is difficult to determine the course of refurbished smartphones in the future. But the certain thing is that amidst all the 2020-happenings, shifting to eco-friendly and economy-friendly devices will become the lead Mantra. Technological improvements, and innovative ideas can make a deep impact on the refurbishment of devices.

The refurbished market with Mobiru India brings possibilities like none other. We are providing an intelligent service of comparing refurbished smartphone deals from multiple websites, and bringing forth a standardised grading system that will make buying refurbished phones super easy and hassle-free. Around 40% of returned devices fall under severely damaged or unsellable categories. We aim to find solutions to these issues and make refurbishment optimised.

To all those wanting to buy smartphones, consider the option of refurbished smartphones as they are the smartest choice we can make. And don’t you forget their amazing journey from ‘scratch’ to ‘as good as new’!


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