Apple iPhone X

Buying a refurbished iPhone – are the savings worth it?

We normally talk about the latest and greatest smartphones on these pages, but with the differences between new handsets more iterative than revolutionary these days and the costs of flagship devices soaring ever higher, could it be time to save some money and choose a recycled device for your next phone?

The folks at GiffGaff were kind enough to send us a refurbished Apple iPhone X (64GB) to test out the process and quality of the refurbed items, which we are going to explore in more depth below. They’ve been leading the charge in getting customers to both recycle their old phones and choose refurbished devices when they upgrade, to the extent they opened a recycled and upcycled popup shop in London last November, so they should know a thing or two about second-hand devices.

Why choose a refurb?

Choosing a second-hand device will save you money (often up to 50 per cent!), but also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of e-waste we produce. And importantly the phone will generally work “as-new”, with reputable refurbished phone sellers offering year-long warranties that match new devices.

You might have to wait a few months after a device is launched before you can buy one as a refurb, but as long as you aren’t hunting for the shiniest of shiny new devices then you will probably find the phone you are after – and that delay can save you hundreds of pounds.

Phone conditions explained

When you buy a second-hand device, sellers will generally describe the condition of the device and price the item accordingly, with phone’s of a “good” condition significantly cheaper than those described as “like new”. No matter which condition you choose, the device will be cleaned, unlocked, and reset to factory settings, You will generally not get the phone in its original box or with additional items like headphones or chargers, but if you’re upgrading (and staying loyal to iOS or Android) then generally your old charger and headphones will probably work with the new device too.

To give you an idea of what GiffGaff means with the conditions of the refurbished phones they sell, here are their descriptions alongside the current price of an iPhone X (64GB):

Good – iPhone X for £379

“Well-used and loved by their previous owners, so you might see more wear and tear. But these cheeky devices are beautiful on the inside and eagerly await a new home.” –

Very good – iPhone X for £449

“Phones that have enjoyed a bit of time in pockets and bags, and therefore might have some light marks. But they will be data cleansed and better value for your cash.”

Excellent – iPhone X for £479

“These phones weren’t quite born yesterday and might have some light marks on the body. But we make sure the screens look pristine and that they run like new.”

Like new – iPhone x for £549

“So good, you’ll think it’s brand new. In fact, most of these phones have been bought new and returned unused. We still check for faults and data cleanse them, so you’re good to go.”

When a new iPhone X costs £799, whichever option you choose will save you a significant amount of money!

What about the battery?

Smartphone batteries deteriorate with use and there is no escaping that fact. When you buy a second-hand device, that battery has already gone through a number of cycles and the more the phone was used by its original owner the bigger the impact this could have on battery life.

If you are worried about battery life then choosing “like new” is probably your best bet as those devices will generally have been returned either completely unused or with just a single charge – the battery will not be impacted at all. On the other end of the spectrum, the cheapest devices in “good” condition will often have been used for a year or more by their original owner – they will still look and work great, but the battery will not last quite as long as brand new.

Whichever condition you choose, GiffGaff offers a 21-day no-quibbles return policy so that if you are not completely satisfied with the device you get you can just send it back. On top of that they also offer a longer 30 day returns window for faulty devices and a full 12-month warranty – so you are well protected. You will not get these protections from an individual seller on a marketplace like Ebay, so do take note.


As I mentioned above, GiffGaff refurbished phones do not come in their original box or come with accessories like headphones or chargers. However, the phones do come securely packaged in a GiffGaff box, with a charging cable, and a SIM card tool – the phone event has a dust cover on the front.

The Phone

The phone I received from GiffGaff was in perfect condition without a scratch or scuff anywhere to be seen on the screen, back, or anywhere else. It booted up instantly and I was off to go through setup. A few early tests also showed the battery to be working as if brand new, so now issues at all.

I’m not going to go through an in-depth review of the iPhone X here, but safe to say that it is a fantastic phone and whilst Apple has released both the iPhone XS and now the iPhone 11 Pro to replace it, the iPhone X still produces beautiful photos, has a gorgeous screen (with a notch), and is fast enough to run pretty much everything you throw at it.

iPhone X: Key specs

Display: 5.8-inch diagonal all-screen OLED Multi-Touch display, featuring 2436 x 1125-pixel resolution at 458ppi and True Tone technology.

  • Height: 143.6 mm
  • Width: 70.9 mm
  • Depth: 7.7 mm

Weight: 174g
Battery life: 

  • Talk time (wireless): Up to 21 hours
  • Internet use: Up to 12 hours
  • Video playback (wireless): Up to 13 hours
  • Audio playback (wireless): Up to 60 hours

Back-facing camera: 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras (wide-angle: ƒ/1.8 aperture; Telephoto: ƒ/2.4 aperture). It has an optical zoom, and a digital zoom up to 10x.
Front-facing camera: 7MP TrueDepth camera.
Video recording: 

  • 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
  • 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
  • 720p HD video recording at 30 fps

Splash, water, and dust resistance: Rated IP67 under IEC standard 60529, which means it can be submerged underwater for 30 minutes at a depth of 1m.
CPU: A11 Bionic chip
Charging compatibility: Lightning port, wireless (Qi compatible)
Headphone jack? No
Home button? No

Should you buy refurb?

If you are a gadget lover that always wants the latest and greatest shiny new device then perhaps spending the extra money on a brand new phone is worth it. However, for the vast majority of us last year’s flagship device is more than good enough and you can save a lot of money by buying a refurb.

For me, I would probably only go for a refurbished phone described as “Excellent” or “Like New” to make sure I get the best battery life I can, but if you are on a tight budget then buying a phone described as “Good” will save you even more – but whichever you chose you will get a lot more bang for your buck than buying brand new.

And don’t forget that when you upgrade your phone, you can also recycle your current device for a bit of extra money – reducing the outlay on your new device even further!

Header image by QuinceMedia

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