How do I know if my iPhone is refurbished?


by Alex Gustman

Updated: June 3, 2021

Apple’s policy provides for a complete replacement of the iPhone smartphone in the event of certain defects that cannot be fixed in the service center. In particular, if the breakdown is caused by a defect or by the fault of the manufacturer. The defective phone is taken away, repaired, and then sold as a “refurbished” one.

Often, the previous owners or unauthorized service centers and workshops are engaged in refurbishing the phone. Therefore, this article will teach you how to identify previously used and refurbished iPhone smartphones.

What is a refurbished iPhone?

The term “refurbished” refers to various electronics that have been repaired or have undergone the removal of a particular defect. Moreover, such electronics can be refurbished in a completely new state when the defect is detected at the time of sale or before the start of sale, as well as after a certain time of use. For example, there are stripes on the screen, the device does not turn on or stops charging. If it is not possible to repair the device, the buyer receives a new device, and the defective one is withdrawn for refurbishment.

Defective smartphones are usually refurbished in specialized workshops of the manufacturer in situ or sent to the factory. After the defect is corrected, the device is flashed, packaged and put up for re-sale, but at a reduced price. Buying such a device is a lottery, as it is easy to buy a previously unused smartphone with a discount or a phone that has worked for a certain time before the recovery process.

Should I be afraid of a refurbished iPhone?

An iPhone refurbished by the manufacturer receives a year of warranty service. The device is also tested before sale to eliminate defects. Therefore, such a device can be useful to users who do not have the funds for a new model. In addition, the phone refurbished by the manufacturer is better than the previously used device by another user.

Another thing is that some users buy iPhones refurbished by the manufacturer, and then resell them under the guise of a new one with an additional mark-up. Things are much worse when the refurbishment process was handled by the previous owner or an unauthorized workshop. In this case, we can only guess what was repaired in the phone, with the participation of which components and spare parts, and how such repairs will affect the performance in the future. In addition, models refurbished by third parties are not guaranteed. Therefore, in the event of a breakdown, all the difficulties with the refurbishment will fall on the shoulders of the new owner.

How to identify a refurbished iPhone?

The factory refurbishment of the iPhone is indicated by several visible differences. In the case of non-factory refurbishment, it is needed to carefully look at the details. Dubious sellers from various trading platforms try to “slip” the refurbished device. At a personal meeting, the evening time of the day is usually assigned, so that in poor lighting, the buyer has less opportunity to see the substandard device.

In addition, a dubious seller will interfere in every possible way with the study of the smartphone, as well as distract and persuade in various ways, as soon as possible to buy a phone. Therefore, if you plan to buy a new device, you should not consider buying an iPhone with your hands, it is better to contact a large retail network or a well-known store.


The new iPhone models are packed in a light cardboard box with a picture of the corresponding phone. The models refurbished by the manufacturer are delivered in light boxes without a picture of the phone, but only with an indication of the model. Phones refurbished by third parties are usually put in the original box, which may have some scuffs and wear, or a normal light box.

Scope of supply

New or refurbished smartphones come with sealed accessories: AirPods, sync cable, power adapter, reference documentation, and warranty card. Moreover, in the iPhone 7 model and subsequent versions, the manufacturer abandoned the 3.5-mm headphone jack, so the headset in such models comes only with a lightning plug. Therefore, the non-availability or differences of accessories should be perceived with caution.

You should also be wary if the accessories are unpacked or have a used appearance – the availability of scuffs, scratches, dust or dirt.


iPhones refurbished by the manufacturer contain on the packaging the abbreviation RFB, which means “Refurbished”. The corresponding mark is also available in the batch number on the package and in the model name in the system properties.

By the way, the marking of the batch/model will explain in detail the origin of the phone. The model/batch number starts with one of the four Latin letters — M, N, F, P, as well as the number 3:

  • M – New smartphone, sample code MN942LL/A.
  • N – Phone is issued for replacement under warranty, example code NTAH2LL/A.
  • F – Factory reset smartphone, sample code FE43RK/A.
  • P – Personalized smartphone with an engraving on the case.
  • 3 – Exhibition sample.

To view the model number in the phone properties, follow these steps:

Open system settings.

system settings

Next, select the “General”.

About this device

Then select “About this device”.

Model number.

In the new window, look for the line with the name “Model number”.

IMEI number or serial number

The IMEI number or serial number will help you check the device status and activation. The corresponding information is indicated on the box, on the smartphone case or on the tray for installing the SIM card, as well as in the settings section “About this device”.

Knowing the serial number, it is enough to go to the official website of the manufacturer, enter the data and get information about the availability of the warranty. If the smartphone is not refurbished by the manufacturer and has been activated for a long time, technical support and maintenance are not provided. If the smartphone has not been activated, the site will display information about the need to activate the iPhone.

With caution, you should approach the purchase if the seller refuses to provide a photo with a serial number, citing various reasons and possible consequences. It is better to avoid such sellers. It is also easy to determine other useful information, such as color, by IMEI.

If you are offered a model in gray, and when checking the IMEI model in gold or another color, then they are trying to sell you a Chinese refurbished device. The sale of such devices is common because of a pleasant discount, up to 50 %. The quality of such phones is influenced by the capabilities of the Chinese seller. Therefore, the market comes across both fairly high-quality assembled devices, and those with serious defects.

Activation Status

The smartphone is considered activated the first time you turn it on, which cannot be hidden by resetting the settings. If the seller included a smartphone, then such a device can be considered used or refurbished. The status of the new phone is saved only until the first time you turn it on.

Even if the seller will assure that no one used the phone, the device was turned on once to check the performance, or the phone is still under warranty, it is undesirable to buy such a phone. And if the seller is telling the truth, it is impossible to believe the authenticity of the words without a detailed analysis in a couple of minutes of inspection.

Warranty Service

For new and refurbished smartphones, the manufacturer has a 12-month warranty. The warranty service status is checked on the official website. If other terms are specified during the sale or the warranty is not provided, then you should refrain from buying.

Also, the smartphone purchased officially in Russia has an extended warranty of 2 years, in accordance with the laws “On Consumer Protection”.


When buying, you should definitely visually inspect the phone. The availability of dust, scratches, fingerprints and other traces of use are not allowed. Carefully check the mounting bolts on the base of the smartphone. If you detect the slightest traces of use/opening, the purchase of the phone should be excluded. Since it is easy to get an open phone under the guise of a new and not activated phone, some of the original components have been replaced with cheap analogues.


The article describes in detail how to determine the difference between a restored iPhone or not. Due to the popularity of the brand and the popular demand, users often resell the iPhone. And the high cost forces you to look for affordable offers, risking running into a smartphone that has been repaired, often in an artisanal way, previously used. Therefore, you should approach the purchase with caution, study the offer in detail, as well as ask the seller about the origin of the phone and the reason for the sale.

And in order to eliminate the risk and not to get an unnecessary headache, it is better to buy a phone in trusted stores and retail chains, where a new device and a fiscal receipt will be issued when selling.

And what ways to identify a refurbished iPhone do you know? Share your experience in the comments below the article.

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About the author 

Alex Gustman

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