Refurbished smartphones: six iPhones on the grill

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Thanks to the smartphone sector, there is a growing demand for refurbished products. iPhone is one of the most popular devices on online platforms. But what experience should we expect? We ordered and tested six iPhone 11 Pros to find out.

Our six refurbished iPhone 11 Pro. © Digital

After theory there is room for practice. We have prepared for you a file with a detailed description of the work of re-equipped specialists, specializing largely in mobile telephony. The most popular smartphones on these platforms are, unsurprisingly, the iPhone, which is expensive at launch and not eligible for discounts or promotions. Based on a survey published on Digitalwe too have tried to buy refurbished smartphones from some of the main specialists in the market and checked if the products received meet our expectations.

Methodology

Our pick was directed at one of the stars of the updated iPhone 11 Pro. When it was released in 2019, this model cost no less than 1159 euros in the 64 GB version. Of course, we refer you to its test published at the time to (re-)find out all its performance.

After polling our readers, we have selected six sellers with a variety of transactions and we encourage you to read our file to understand all the intricacies. These brands are Recommerce, YesYes and Certideal, all three of which repair their devices themselves; but also BackMarket and Amazon which use third party restorers and CDiscount which offers both services. So we ordered from this sample, which is only a fraction of so many sellers on the web, a 64GB higher iPhone 11 Pro, but a level slightly lower, which usually promises better value for money. Only Amazon, which only sold the iPhone 11 Pro in Excellent condition at the time of our purchase, made us break the rule. We also took care of the choice of trading platforms (ie. markets), French sellers or closer to France.

A source platform type State Price
apple (link) / New (used 2 years) 1159 €
Yes Yes Reducing agent Good condition 559 €
CDdiscount Marketplace Very good condition €527.99
rear market Marketplace Very good condition 500 €
Sertideal Reducing agent Very good condition 493 €
Amazon Marketplace Excellent Condition 489 €
Overtrade Reducing agent Very good condition €549.90

These six iPhone 11 Pros, theoretically identical or nearly identical, were individually subjected to the same series of tests on criteria that can be considered critical. Thus, we evaluated:

  • their screen (colorimetry, Delta E, brightness)
  • their autonomy
  • their main photo sensor (with wide angle lens)

As you may have guessed, the iPhone 11 Pro tested in 2022 is not running the same version of iOS as the model tested when it was released (iOS 13), but they are based on iOS 15.3. Therefore, we used for reference the iPhone 11 Pro, tested by our editors in 2019, also updated to iOS 15.3. This terminal is in very good condition, however, it has been used and, in particular, shows a battery charge of 92% of its capacity. Therefore, we had the right to hope that in the area of ​​autonomy, the repaired terminals would be able to provide approximately equivalent services.

Refurbished iPhone 11 Pro

Our six refurbished iPhone 11 Pro. © Digital

First of all, let’s remember that the items noted regarding our refurbished smartphones are valid for those specific models. Since every refurbished unit has a different background, its refurbishment is bound to be different. In a word, our observations allow us to get a general idea of ​​​​what can be expected from a refurbished smartphone, and not to “evaluate” each refurbisher individually; this applies even less to marketswhich, for their part, require several repairmen. It is impossible to rate them all!

Tested in our laboratories

screen

Refurbished smartphones raise several questions, starting with the display. The iPhone 11 Pro’s 1125 x 2436 pixel Oled display at 5.8 inches was excellent.
A nice surprise during our various tests: we found more or less the same results on our reference model and refurbished smartphones. All displays have a maximum brightness of 740 to 800 cd/m²; their Delta E, signaling possible colorimetric drifts, is very low (between 1.1 and 1.3); their color temperature is finally near perfect: 6721K on our reference iPhone and between 6226K and 6898K on the purchased models.



  • Colorimetry iPhone 11 Pro (reference smartphone) | © © Digital

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Only one model stands out (YesYes), for which a notification right after turning it on told us that its panel had been replaced by a third-party model: its color temperature is colder (7319 K) and its Delta E rises to 1.8. However, it remains very good, Delta E is less than 3, resulting in a drift not visible to the naked eye. Please note that despite the lack of smartphone notifications from other restorers, nothing allows us to confirm for sure that the screens of our other iPhone 11 Pro are all original or signed by Apple.

Autonomy

The second criterion of capital: autonomy. First of all, it should be noted that with the same testing protocol, i.e. setting the screen of all devices to 200 cd/m² and streaming video content to Netflix over Wi-Fi, the reference iPhone 11 Pro running iOS 15, despite the state of its battery, significantly improved in autonomy: we measured 19 hours 29 minutes of video versus 14 hours 28 minutes when it was released, probably due to software developments.

The autonomy of the restored iPhone 11 Pro

The autonomy of the refurbished iPhone 11 Pro that we tested. Above is our reference iPhone (92% battery). © Digital

We subjected our restored iPhones to the same regime. Overall, you’ll see some consistency in the results, which is pretty reassuring. Only two of our devices have a noticeable difference (CDiscount and Amazon) and, to a lesser extent, YesYes. This data needs to be compared with another element: the state of their battery. It seems that in most cases this equipment is stock, but not always at its best. A key metric to keep in mind here is that at less than 80% of initial capacity, an iPhone battery is no longer considered “optimal” by Apple.

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Battery status of our refurbished iPhone 11 Pro (with official Apple battery, otherwise data is unavailable). © Digital

See the graph above: the results are, to put it mildly, random. Some flirt with the 80% limit, while others have been used little enough to keep their batteries at their full capacity. The data most often correlate with the autonomy finally measured by us. One note: Battery status is not available for any of our refurbished smartphones (Yes, Yes). And for good reason: as indicated by the warning displayed on the smartphone immediately after its launch, its battery has been replaced by an unofficial battery. However, on the information plate that came with his smartphone, the repairman indicates that its capacity reaches 3028 mAh from 3046 mAh of official Apple batteries, or 99.4% of the original capacity. We have to believe that this new battery is not, or nearly, as efficient as Apple’s model, as the battery life of the device is one of the lowest in our sample…

The photo

One of our concerns was the quality of the images taken with the refurbished smartphone. This is hard for end users to understand unless you take your device apart! – if the sensor or associated optics have been replaced. This does not appear to be the case with our iPhone 11 Pro test, where we observed the results from a wide angle, always comparing them to our Apple device updated to iOS 15.3.

In fact, we found slight differences in exposure and colorimetry in our daytime shots. But fortunately, in terms of sharpness, the results are uniform and very comparable to those of our reference model. This observation applies to our night photos as well.



  • iPhone 11 Pro test – day | © Digital

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  • iPhone 11 Pro Test – Night | © Digital

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Should we be afraid of refurbished smartphones?

The DGCCRF (Fraud Control) has recently been moved by the fact that refurbishers and specialist platforms often inaccurately describe the condition of the products they sell. Our experience, albeit incomplete, confirms this.

Because there are actually several trends that emerge from our tests. Firstly, the appearance of the received smartphones is generally very good. Five of the six devices received had no scratches, and ultimately it was Amazon’s highest quality device, with noticeable marks, albeit minor ones. We did not have any unpleasant surprises in the issue of displays. Are they original or have they been replaced by approved parts? Impossible to say, except in the case of the YesYes model, whose screen (new) is not certified and is of lower quality than the official panel. However, in his case, as in the case of his competitors, there is nothing to know before buying whether smartphones are equipped with official elements; However, Apple, being far-sighted, communicates the integration of a third-party screen or battery through a notification. Once again, remember that this smartphone is only one of the products sold by the repairman, and that when ordering, you can receive a device with original components.

Refurbished iPhone 11 Pro

The notice indicates the integration of third-party components into refurbished iPhones. © Digital

As far as battery goes, the results are more mixed. Some devices have batteries that are almost brand new, providing a battery life comparable to that of an iPhone with parts unchanged. Others, on the other hand, play on the bare minimum, barely exceeding Apple’s recommended 80% load capacity.

This brings us to the next piece of advice: don’t hesitate to take the time to examine your new device in detail when you receive it. Go to your iPhone’s settings (Settings > Battery > Battery Status) and check its charge capacity: if it’s very close to 80%, it’s safe to say that you’ll need to replace the battery soon. Finally, if a notification informs you that one of your device’s components has been replaced, its performance may be degraded: the terms of the rejection and return deadlines are designed to give you a chance to change your mind. But as we reminded you in our previous file: choosing refurbished smartphones is probably less easy than choosing new smartphones. However, it is possible to do great business there by doing as much as possible to limit waste and overproduction.

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