Refurbished smartphones: six iPhones on the grill

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Driven by the smartphone sector, refurbished products are on the rise. iPhones are among the most popular devices on online platforms. But what experience should we expect? We ordered and tested six iPhone 11 Pros to find out.

Refurbished iPhone 11 Pro

Our six refurbished iPhone 11 Pro. © The Digital

After the theory, place to practice. We have concocted a file for you detailing the operation of refurbished experts, specialized for a very large part in mobile telephony. The most popular smartphones on these platforms are unsurprisingly the iPhone, expensive smartphones when they come out, and whose price is not subject to discounts or promotions. Strengths of survey published on Digitalwe too have tried to buy refurbished smartphones from some of the main specialists on the market and checked whether or not the products received lived up to our expectations.

Methodology

Our choice was directed towards one of the stars of refurbished, the iPhone 11 Pro. When it was released in 2019, this model cost at least €1,159 in its 64 GB version. We of course refer you to its test published at the time to (re) discover its entire performance.

After a survey of our readers, we have selected six merchants with varied operations and we recommend that you read our file to understand all the subtleties. The brands are Recommerce, YesYes and Certideal, all three of which refurbish their devices themselves; but also BackMarcket and Amazon, which use third-party refurbishers, and CDiscount, which offers both services. We therefore ordered from this sample – which constitutes only a small part of the very many merchants present online – an iPhone 11 Pro 64 GB. higher, but for the level just below, which generally promises the best value for money. Only Amazon, selling at the time of our purchase only iPhone 11 Pro in “Excellent” condition, forced us to bend the rule. We have also taken care to choose, in the case of marketplaces (the marketplaces), French sellers or closer to France.

Origin Platform type State Price
Apple (reference / New (used for 2 years) 1159 €
YesYes Reconditioner Good condition 559 €
CDiscount Marketplace Very good state 527,99 €
BackMarket Marketplace Very good state 500 €
certified Reconditioner Very good state 493 €
Amazon Marketplace Excellent condition 489 €
Retrade Reconditioner Very good state 549,90 €

These six iPhone 11 Pro, theoretically identical or almost identical, were individually subjected to the same battery of tests on criteria that can be considered critical. We therefore assessed:

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

You guessed it, iPhone 11 Pro tested in 2022 do not run the same version of iOS as the model tested when it was released (iOS 13), but they are based on iOS 15.3. We therefore used, for reference, the iPhone 11 Pro tested by our editorial staff in 2019, also updated to iOS 15.3. This terminal, in very good condition, has nevertheless been used and notably displays a battery at 92% of its capacity. We were therefore entitled to hope that, in the field of autonomy, refurbished terminals would be capable of a roughly equivalent service.

Refurbished iPhone 11 Pro

Our six refurbished iPhone 11 Pro. © The Digital

First of all, let’s remember that the elements noted about our refurbished smartphones are valid for these specific models. Since every refurbished unit has a different past, its refurbishment will necessarily vary. In short, our observations make it possible to get a general idea of ​​what can be expected from a refurbished smartphone, but not to “rate” each refurbisher individually; this is even less the case for marketplaces, which for their part call upon multiple reconditioners. Impossible to rate them all!

Tested by our labs

screen

Refurbished smartphones pose several questions, starting with the display. The screen of the iPhone 11 Pro, based on Oled technology, and displaying 1125 x 2436 pixels on a diagonal of 5.8 inches, was excellent.
Good surprise during our various tests: we found more or less the same results on our reference model and on refurbished smartphones. All display a maximum brightness between 740 and around 800 cd/m²; their Delta E, signaling possible colorimetric drifts, is very low (between 1.1 and 1.3); their color temperature is finally almost perfect, at 6721 K on our reference iPhone, and between 6226 K and 6898 K for the purchased models.

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

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Only one model (YesYes), for which a notification informed us as soon as it was turned on that its panel had been replaced by a third-party brand model, stands out: its color temperature is colder (7319 K) and its Delta E rises to 1 ,8. It nevertheless remains very good, a Delta E of less than 3 resulting in drifts invisible to the naked eye. Note that despite the absence of notification on smartphones from other refurbishers, nothing allows us to confirm for sure that the screens of our other iPhone 11 Pro are all original or signed Apple.

Autonomy

Refurbished smartphones raise several questions, starting with that of autonomy. First of all, it should be noted that on the same test protocol, i.e. setting the screen of all devices to 200 cd/m² and streaming video content on Netflix, over Wi-Fi , the reference iPhone 11 Pro under iOS 15, despite the state of its battery, has greatly gained in autonomy: we measured 19 h 29 min of video, against 14 h 28 min when it was released, probably due to software developments.

Autonomy of refurbished iPhone 11 Pro

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

We subjected our refurbished iPhones to the same regime. Overall, you’ll see some consistency in the results, which is pretty reassuring. Only two of our devices concede a marked difference (CDiscount and Amazon), and to a lesser extent, that of YesYes. These data are 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 indicator is here to remember: at less than 80% of its initial capacity, the battery of an iPhone is no longer considered “optimal” by Apple.

IT'S

The battery status of our refurbished iPhone 11 Pro (with an official Apple battery; otherwise, the data is not available). © The Digital

See the graph above: the results are random to say the least. Some flirt with the 80% limit, while others have been used little enough for their batteries to retain their full capacity. A data most often correlated to the autonomy finally measured by us. One note: Battery status is not available for any of our refurbished smartphones (YesYes). And for good reason: as indicated by the alert displayed on the smartphone as soon as it starts, its battery has been replaced by an unofficial accumulator. However, the reconditioner indicates on the information plate that accompanies his smartphone that its capacity reaches 3028 mAh out of the 3046 mAh of official Apple batteries, or 99.4% of the original capacity. We have to believe that this new battery, or almost, is not as efficient as an Apple model, since the autonomy of the device is among the lowest in our sample…

Photography

One of our fears was the quality of the shots obtained with a refurbished smartphone. Difficult to know for the end user – unless you disassemble your device! — if the sensor or the accompanying optics have been replaced. This does not seem to be the case with our iPhone 11 Pro test, the results of which we observed at wide-angle, always comparing them with our Apple device updated to iOS 15.3.

In fact, we found, on our daytime shots, some slight variations in exposure and colorimetry. But fortunately, in terms of sharpness, the results are homogeneous, and very comparable to those of our reference model. This observation also applies to our nocturnal photographs.

  • iPhone 11 Pro benchmark – day | © The Digital

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  • iPhone 11 Pro benchmark – night | © The Digital

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Should we be afraid of refurbished smartphones?

The DGCCDF (repression of fraud) was recently moved that reconditioners and specialized platforms most often lack precision in describing the condition of the products they sell. Our experience, however partial, confirms this.

Because in reality, several trends emerge from our tests. First, the physical appearance of smartphones received is generally very good. Five of the six devices received were scratch-free, and ultimately it was Amazon’s highest-grade one that showed some noticeable marks — minor ones, though. We had no unpleasant surprises on the issue of displays. Are they original or have they been replaced by approved spare parts? Impossible to say, except in the case of the YesYes model, whose screen (new) is not certified, and turns out to be of lower quality than an official panel. However, in its case as in that of its competitors, there is nothing to know before the purchase whether or not the smartphones are equipped with official elements; Apple being far-sighted, however, you are informed of the integration of a third-party screen or battery through a notification. Remember, again, that this smartphone is only one of the products sold by the refurbisher, and that you can receive a device with original components when you order.

Refurbished iPhone 11 Pro

A notification indicates the integration of third-party components to refurbished iPhones. © The Digital

On the battery side, the results are more mixed. Some devices have almost new batteries, ensuring autonomy comparable to that of an iPhone with unchanged parts. Others, on the other hand, play the minimum service, barely exceeding the 80% load capacity recommended by Apple.

Which brings us to the next piece of advice: do not 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 is very close to 80%, it’s a safe bet that you will soon have to replace your battery. Finally, if a notification informs you of the replacement of one of the components of your device, it is possible that its performance will be degraded: the withdrawal clauses and return deadlines are there to allow you to change your mind. But as we reminded you in our previous file: the choice of refurbished is probably less easy than that of new smartphones. However, it is possible to do excellent business there while contributing, as much as possible, to limiting waste and overproduction.

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