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Buying Guide-phones

Buying Guide-phones

If you need help JUST CALL OR TEXT US: (512) 537-7050

If you Request & Buy through Simple Trade:

A Background-Checked Certified Technician will first:

  • Explain our service
  • Confirm the price (non-negotiable)
  • Schedule delivery



  • Pick-up your device
  • Inspect it
  • Deliver & Activate your phone

– You won’t have to meet a stranger, exchange cash (we accept cash or credit), or worry about lost, stolen or damaged devices.

If you DON’T purchase through Simple Trade follow these buying guidelines:

Never wire funds and never give out personal information: (for example: social security number, bank account number, etc).
Meet at a carrier store (that is: a Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile store, etc.) when buying from an individual or business without a storefront.
Print the ad details page and bring it with you to the sale. Make sure the device matches the ad, for example:

  • Condition (good, like new, etc.)
  • iPhone 5S (vs iPhone 5)
  • 64 GB (vs 16GB)
  • Included accessories (charger, case, etc.)
  • Clean IMEI or MEID (formerly, ESN)

Call your carrier to check the IMEI or MEID and activate the device if you can’t meet at a carrier store.

Test the device BEFORE paying the seller: once your device is activated test it for functionality before paying the seller. You can find a list of components (touchscreen, speakers, etc.) to test here (you may want to print this list).
Do NOT pay the seller inside a carrier store: step outside the store and away from the front doors when paying the seller.

Purchasing Used vs. New

Today, the benefits of purchasing a used phone vs. new are greater than ever. Used phones may cost more upfront vs. new with contract, but are generally much less expensive over time. Savvy consumers can take advantage of less expensive prepaid plans, receive a substantial discount on a monthly plan, or avoid a contract or installment payments.

However, purchasing a used phone can feel like venturing into the wild wild west. Misinformation about ‘unlocked’ phones abounds (read more HERE). You’ve probably heard reports of a friend or co-worker purchasing a phone reported lost, stolen or not paid off – a common problem on Craigslist and even eBay. If you purchase from a used phone retailer (like Gazelle), you still have to look for functionality issues that may be unknown to even a professional seller – battery issues in particular.

You can protect yourself from 99% of issues by following these steps:

1) Decide on a phone. If you love your phone, but it’s damaged, lost or stolen, consider replacing it with the same model or the version immediately preceding or succeeding it. If you need a device today and you’re buying through Craigslist or Facebook, expect to make some compromises on color, storage amount, etc. Further, if you don’t use one of the big four carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile – you’ll have an even tougher time finding what you want.

As a refurbisher & wholesaler I’ve used dozens, repaired thousands and sold tens of thousands of handsets. If you’re having trouble deciding on which phone to go with, here’s my two cents:

  • iPhones are best for users who want advanced features that are intuitive and straight-forward, care about style, and/or are already embedded in the Apple ecosystem (e.g. use an iPad, Mac computer, Apple TV, etc.)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Note handsets are best for users who value technology for technology’s sake (i.e. tons of bells and whistles even if you don’t use them frequently), customization, and high-end hardware specs. The most common complaint about handsets is battery life – the Note Series handsets are among the best despite huge brilliant power-consuming screens. However, they’re often too large for to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand or purse.
  • The Galaxy S III, S4 and S5 provide the high-end specs and customization of the Note series in a more manageable form-factor. Reviewers often give them high marks for battery life, though my experience is that they’re only a little above average.

CALL US AT 512.537.7050 if you need guidance on what device to purchase.

Next, you have to decide where to buy your phone…

2) Choose a vendor. Problems can arise with any vendor, however, you’ll have to take extra precautions if you buy from Craigslist or eBay. The seller comparison chart here gives you an overview of the pros & cons of the most popular platforms for purchasing a used phone:

[table id=1 /]

Bottom line: Gazelle.com is my favorite seller in the chart, but loses points for limited selection and no weekend delivery. If you can wait a couple days for your device and you’re buying an iPhone or Galaxy ‘S’ series device for one of the four major carriers, purchase from Gazelle. For any other device, search Swappa.com or look through ‘Amazon Warehouse Deals’ – the division of Amazon that handles ‘open-box’ items. If you’re buying in-person, just follow the steps in section 3) to make sure you’re protected.

3) Follow these steps when making your purchase:
No matter where you purchase your phone, you should perform a full functionality test of your device. Just follow the steps listed HERE, noting that you can’t know the battery
Buying Online. Make sure you know the seller’s return policy (we briefly cover each seller’s policy in our in-depth comparison of top sellers HERE).

Buying from a retail store. Buying from a store in-person: Yelp and Google reviews. Return policy. Warranty coverage and length. Still, inspect and activate in-store.

Buying in-person. Any seller who won’t meet at the carrier store is probably selling junk. Never just put your SIM card into a phone, make a call or two and assume the phone is clean. With a new SIM card, a blacklisted phone will generally work for a few minutes or more before getting cut off. Moreover, if you wait to pay until the phone is activated in your carrier’s activation program (i.e. by a store rep), then you’ll know the phone isn’t reported lost/stolen. Often, you can test most of the functionality of the device while you’re waiting to speak to a rep. by following these steps.

Just follow the first two rules when buying in-person and you’ll avoid 99% of issues:

  1. Meet the seller at your carrier’s store (e.g. at the Verizon store)
  2. Activate the phone before paying
  3. Make a test call
  4. Perform a functionality test
  5. Read the carrier-specific and manufacturer-specific notes for buying in-person listed below…



Unlocked: Purchasing an ‘unlocked’ device is potentially venturing down the rabbit hole. Theoretically, you can use unlocked T-Mobile devices with AT&T and vice-versa. It’s virtually impossible to use an unlocked device with Verizon or Sprint unless the device was originally manufactured for the respective carrier.

Even when you can use an unlocked phone from another carrier, it’s not always best. It’s always best to purchase an AT&T device if you plan on using it with AT&T.

Devices listed as ‘unlocked’ on Amazon stand a better chance.

Carrier Specific Considerations:

Verizon: It’s crucial to activate the device before paying. ‘Unlocked’ devices won’t work on VZ’s network unless the phone was originally designed for Verizon and has a clean IMEI. However, once the device is activated on your account the likelihood of your device being reported lost/stolen or blacklisted for non-payment is virtually nil.

If you cannot meet the seller at a Verizon store, at the very least, call Verizon customer service at 800.922.0204 (keep pressing ‘#’ then ‘1’ to reach an operator). You can also enter the IMEI here – if the IMEI is ‘clean’ the model number will pop-up with a message asking if you’d like to activate the device; if there’s something wrong, you’ll get another message either telling you to call customer service or that the device is reported lost or stolen.

Sprint: It’s even more important that you activate a Sprint device on your account before paying. If you call Sprint customer service to check the IMEI of a device, there’s a high probability you’ll receive bad information. Like Verizon, however, once the device is activated on your account the likelihood of your device being reported lost/stolen or blacklisted for non-payment is virtually nil.

AT&T: You can, however, use unlocked T-Mobile devices with AT&T and vice-versa. While it’s possible to
It’s always best to purchase an AT&T device if you plan on using it with AT&T.
With AT&T, it’s not enough to activate your phone in a sto

T-Mobile: With T-Mobile you have to go one step further , EIP or payment plan…check status here

TracFone (Straight Talk/Net10/et al.): Straight Talk, ironically, is the most confusing prepaid provider concerning purchasing used phones. It, along with NET10, has four ‘flavors’ of service designed to piggyback either Verizon, Sprint, AT&T or T-Mobile. If you’re going to use a carrier branded (that is, a manufactured for Verizon, AT&T, etc.) phone with Straight Talk instead of a Straight Talk phone:

  1. Determine the carrier Straight Talk is piggybacking with your SIM card and service
  2. Meet the seller at Wal-Mart and inspect the phone
  3. Activate the device
  4. Make a test call to the carrier for which the device was originally manufactured to verify the IMEI is clean
  5. Then pay the seller