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- I bought a refurbished iPhone 11 Pro from Apple, and it’s in perfect condition and working order.
- The refurbished discounts aren’t epic, but they’re still cheaper than buying new.
- Older refurbished iPhone models are not recommended, as they pose very poor value.
For some, the word “refurbished” means a used device that has been cleaned up and offered for a discount, and there’s sometimes a doubt about inheriting cosmetic or even functional damage.
We wanted to see if that was the case with the refurbished iPhones Apple sells in its refurbished store — the company’s best kept secret. Specifically, we’re checking the cosmetic condition of the iPhone, as well as functionality, like cameras and battery.
We bought a refurbished 256GB iPhone 11 Pro for $849 for this inspection rather than obtaining a unit via the usual press channels to ensure that our refurbished unit would represent what anyone else would get. Apple says that’s a $150 discount from the full $999 price of a 128GB iPhone 12 Pro.
The short of it is that the refurbished iPhone 11 Pro we received is completely, totally, and utterly flawless, and everything works perfectly well. That’s largely because Apple replaces almost everything, including the back glass, the screen, the metal frame, and the battery. In fact, the only pre-owned original part in refurbished iPhones is the logic board, which includes the processor and other hardware that makes the phone work, and the camera module.
Essentially, when you’re using a refurbished iPhone from Apple, everything you touch is brand new.
What does ‘refurbished iPhone’ mean?
A refurbished iPhone is an iPhone that was once owned by someone else and has been renovated, and repaired if needed, so it can be sold to a new owner, usually for a discounted price.
One of the biggest uncertainties with buying a refurbished product is the quality of the refurbishment or renovation. In Apple’s case with its refurbished iPhone store, Apple’s refurbishment quality is extremely high. Check out the cosmetic and functional condition of the refurbished iPhone 11 Pro we bought from Apple:
The refurbished iPhone came in a nondescript cardboard package.
The iPhone 11 Pro is presented in the box identically as if it were new. The front and back are wrapped in plastic that you can easily peel off.
Apple says it replaces the “outer shell” of pre-owned iPhones, which means the back, front, and metal frame are all replaced.
Essentially, everything your hands and fingers touch on this refurbished iPhone is new and blemish free.
The only things that are original are the logic board inside, where the processor and other hardware resides, and the camera module. There are no scratches on the metal frame at all.
Rather, it simply feels like you bought an iPhone from Apple. Here’s the top edge of the refurbished iPhone.
All the accessories are brand new, including the charger, charging cable, and wired EarPods.
And look at that: you still get Apple stickers if you buy a refurbished iPhone.
It wouldn’t be the first time this iPhone has been turned on, as it’s pre-owned, but it’s ready to be freshly set up out of the box.
After the usual set up, you have yourself a totally fresh and clean iPhone.
The battery is at 100% capacity, which confirms that it’s a new battery, as capacity would likely be lower if it had a used battery. Charging with the cable and wireless charging both work as expected.
I can also confirm that all three cameras work perfectly fine. This photo was taken with the normal wide camera.
Should I buy a refurbished iPhone from Apple?
Yep. Refurbished iPhones from Apple come in perfect condition, and you really don’t get the sense that the iPhone was once someone else’s at any point while using it. Refurbished iPhones from Apple also come with the standard one-year warranty, and there’s a 14-day return period.
With that said, we wouldn’t outright recommend getting any refurbished iPhone you see in Apple’s refurbished store just because it’s available at a discounted price. At the time of writing, you can get a refurbished 64GB iPhone XS for $639, which is a terrible deal, for example. For that money, we’d instead recommend getting the 64GB iPhone 11 for $600. Not only is it cheaper, the iPhone 11 is a newer phone with a faster processor and better cameras.
The discounts for refurbished iPhones aren’t exactly epic. The $150 discount we got for the refurbished iPhone 11 Pro is what we’d expect for a new unit of an older model. But going refurbished is the only way to get last year’s iPhone 11 Pro series. Still, it really is in perfect condition, and a discount is a discount. You can make that discount go further by trading in your old phone with Apple.
The big caveat about getting a refurbished iPhone from Apple is that stock is limited, and the best deal, like the iPhone 11, will always run out fast. You have to check frequently or watch out for headlines that tell you when the model you’re looking for is back in stock.
Where to buy a refurbished iPhone
Apple’s refurbished store is the only place we’ve tried for refurbished iPhones so far, but we plan on testing out refurbished iPhones from other popular retailers that sell refurbished iPhones, like Backmarket and Amazon.
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Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.