Buying an iPhone from second hand retailers always comes with a bit of uncertainty. Obviously you might be worried if it’s damaged or stolen but even if everything is seemingly okay the phone might still simply be refurbished, not factory new.
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Refurbished phones have either been used by someone else or returned due to malfunctions. They usually have some faults and offer worse performance than factory new devices or at the very least have visual signs of being used like scratches. If you’re unlucky the phone might have faulty hardware or battery and simply break down. Refurbished phones also have limited or no warranty so you might not be able to get a refund or replacement. So how can you tell whether your iPhone is factory new or refurbished?
The first thing you can do is check the box. Apple has a certified seal on the phone package and its phones always come in iPhone branded original packaging. Even if what you have is the same distinct original iPhone box with the seal you should check for signs of damage or other usage that could tell you if its send hand. That however can be difficult especially for older phones or if you don’t have the box. Especially third party retailers often sell iPhone’s without the original box.
The surefire way is to check the serial number. Go to „Settings” > „General” > „About” and there you can see your iPhone serial number. The same number is also printed on the back case and on the sim card tray, just remember to turn it off before you check there. If your iPhone has been refurbished by Apple the first digit of the serial number will be „5”, changing that number is Apple’s standard procedure after refurbishment. If you check the third digit, it shows the year the phone was manufactured in. If it’s a 9 then it was made in 2009. For example for iPhone 6 it will be 4 or 5 meaning 2014 or 2015. Reading the serial number will tell you how old the phone really is or when it has been refurbished if it starts with 5. You can check online when various models of iPhones were released and if that checks out with your serial number.
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You can also check your iPhone’s serial number on Apple’s official Check Coverage page. Simply write down the serial number then type it into the text box and press continue. The site will take you to the diagnostics page which will state if the phone has been activated before or not. While that will not tell you if the phone has been actually refurbished it will at least show you if it has been previously used. That means that the phone definitely isn’t new and is usually enough to identify retailers who are trying to mislead you.
All in all making sure if your iPhone is refurbished is mostly an effort thing. In most cases you’ll be able to tell right away simply by examining the case and screen for scratches or other signs of usage, you can also check the accessories some might be missing or worn out. If you’re still unsure after that just check the serial number or ask the vendor to do it for you. Spending a few moments to make sure never hurts, better safe than sorry.