Should you be buying a second-hand smartphone?


Phone being refurbishedImage copyright
Back Market

French entrepreneur, Thibaud Hug de Larauze, looks down at his laptop and taps a few keys.

“So today we have 200,000-plus smartphones available to sell,” he tells me.

None of those smartphones are new, instead they have been refurbished, a process involving checks, repairs and cleaning.

Once the phones meet the required standard they can then be sold with a one-year warranty on his company’s website, Back Market, which operates in European countries plus the US.

Based in France, Back Market sells electronics across Europe and the United States. While smartphones are the big sellers, his website lists everything from coffee makers, laptops, to irons.

Formed six years ago by Mr Hug de Larauze and two partners, Back Market does not refurbish the products itself, instead it provides a marketplace for hundreds of other firms to sell their used goods.

It is one of many firms riding the wave of growth in refurbished electronics.

Image copyright
Back Market

Image caption

Thibaud Hug de Larauze, co-founder and chief executive of Back Market

Last year, around 137 million used smartphones were sold in the US and Europe, according to Counterpoint Research.

Jeff Fieldhack, the head of research at research at Counterpoint, says that sales of used smartphones now account for about 10% of all smartphone sales.

So what’s the attraction of owning a second-hand phone that’s a few years old? Why not buy a cheaper brand new device?

It all hinges on the so-called flagship phones from Samsung, Huawei and, in particular, Apple.

Bought new these top of the range devices can be wildly expensive – Apple’s top end iPhones will set you back more than £1,000.

But within months of their launch they will start appearing on second-hand marketplaces with perhaps a 15% discount and after just two years the discount will be a healthy 50%.


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