Review: Buying a contract free, certified used Apple iPhone from Gazelle

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2015
Apple and most third-party vendors charge a hefty sum for a new, out-of-the-box iPhone, especially an unlocked model, but there is an alternative in the form of resale services such as Gazelle, which AppleInsider recently put to the test by ordering an iPhone 6.

Gazelle is an AppleInsider partner and provided us with a promotional code, which allowed a partial discount in order to test their service. We then proceeded to place an order for an iPhone 6 from buy.gazelle.com, the company's relatively new certified used electronics store, which mainly features an assortment of iOS devices.

Gazelle maintains that the "gently used" devices that it sells through the store are carefully selected from its inventory to be of the "highest quality" following a thorough inspection that's backed by a 30-day risk-free return policy. We set out to put these claims to the test.

The ordering process




Ordering is simple enough -- you begin by going to the Gazelle website, clicking on the "Buy Certified" tab, and then going through a series of menus to pick which configuration you're looking for. Checkboxes let you choose a model, capacity, and carrier (or lack thereof), and you can also specify a price range. Of course, not all combinations will work -- you're not going to find a $50, 128 GB unlocked iPhone 6 Plus, for example.

We selected a 64 GB iPhone 6 on AT&T, even though the phone would be used on T-Mobile. It's worth noting that unless your time is that valuable, there's no point to paying for an unlocked model from Gazelle -- it costs extra, and an AT&T model can be easily unlocked after the fact via a web tool, since every iPhone that Gazelle sells is off-contract/contract free.




At this point, the only decisions left before checkout involve picking from available colors -- some might not be in stock -- and the condition you're willing to pay for. A device listed as "like new" should be identical to what you'd get from Apple, but comes at a premium. We went with a "good" model, which carries the risk of there being scuffing or scratches on the sides or back.

Before shipping, taxes, or discounts, our order came out to $619. That's substantially cheaper than the $749 Apple charges for an equivalent unlocked device, albeit brand new. You might be able to find better deals on eBay or Craigslist, but those carry the risk of fraud, and Gazelle performs a 30-point inspection that the company says ensures everything should be functional.

During checkout you can opt to register for a Gazelle account or make a purchase as a guest. The former gets you better tracking information, but isn't strictly necessary.

The phone

Gazelle only ships to U.S. addresses, and moreover excludes P.O. boxes and military bases. They do however promise that "most" orders are delivered within five business days, and that certainly proved true in our case. Our order was placed on a Friday night, and arrived on a Wednesday afternoon. There are also two-day and overnight shipping options for people willing to pay more.




The iPhone we bought came shipped in a non-descript box without any of Apple's original packaging. Instead it was sealed in bubble wrap with a protective sticker over the screen, and further sandwiched in between two foam layers.

One disappointment was that while the device did come with a freshly-wrapped wall adapter and Lightning cable, Apple's EarPods were nowhere to be seen. Gazelle does warn you to that effect if you poke around on their website, and used EarPods might be slightly disgusting even if they were cleaned. Still, it's worth considering that cash savings could be offset if you need earbuds and don't already have a pair.










The phone itself was in surprisingly good shape. There was at worst some very light scuffing on the back, but if so, very minute and hard to distinguish with the eye, much less a camera. It could easily have been mistaken for new. The screen was immaculate, and when we powered the phone on it booted as a fresh device, simply awaiting a SIM card and first-time configuration.

The only other initial downsides were the need to unlock the device and get a new SIM card -- problems of our own making -- and a low battery that we had to charge almost immediately. In the days since the phone's arrival, it's functioned as well as any new hardware.

The verdict

In all, we came away satisfied with both the ordering process and the delivered product. Barring complications, buying from Gazelle can prove to be a good deal for many customers, and a time and hassle saver to boot.

You are, of course, dealing with the caveats of any used iPhone. You'll be paying off-contract prices, and probably have to wait a few months after launch for a current-generation product. Even then the exact configuration you want might be missing. For many people, though, we imagine those would prove to be acceptable sacrifices.

Score: 4.5 out of 5
image

Pros:
  • Relatively easy ordering process.
  • Significantly cheaper than similar models from Apple.
  • iPhone shipped quickly, in excellent condition.
Cons:
  • Contract-free iPhones are still expensive.
  • No bundled EarPods.
  • Device shipped with low battery.
For those interested, AppleInsider on a daily basis maintains an organized, live listing of Gazelle's current certified used iPhone inventory as part of its Price Guides, which can also be seen below.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    The term 'certified' is a bit misleading. These are not Apple certified in any way. Apple does sell refurb units, but does not certify any other channels to do so. Through other sources, there is still the possibility that there are non original parts installed in the device.
  • Reply 2 of 21
    Ah, I don't see any promo code.
  • Reply 3 of 21

    I appreciate Ai doing this...I work a day for $100! :)

     

    I'm in the market for a new iPhone, iPad Mini, MacBook (Gold), ATV, and 27"iMac. If I could save a $100 on each that would be....Hmmmm? Help me with the math. :)

     

     

    Thanks Ai.

     

    Best.

     

    Chris

  • Reply 4 of 21
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 924member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post

     

    I appreciate Ai doing this...I work a day for $100! :)I'm in the market for a new iPhone, iPad Mini, MacBook (Gold), ATV, and 27"iMac. If I could save a $100 on each that would be....Hmmmm? Help me with the math. :)


    An Apple TV for $100 off means that someone would give you $31 and the ATV for free. And free shipping.

     

    If this were a truly independent review AI would have gone full incognito and purchased the phone without tipping off Gazelle with that promo code. Purchasing it with an essentially anonymous account and obtaining a refund after the review would have been more appropriate. Who in the world is selling off their 6's and 6 pluses?

  • Reply 5 of 21
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 924member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     

     

    probably defective phones


    They are listed on Gazelle's site as "certified good" or "certified like new." They also come with a 30 day refund guarantee if you are not satisfied. Very few of the phones should be defective. Gazelle's physical inspections and basic functionality tests would weed out most of the trashed phones.

  • Reply 6 of 21
    I agree, this should have been done as a 'blind test'. As it is, there is a long list (ad?) of Gazelle available phones right after the article. The only way that a place like Gazelle makes sense is if you want an earlier version of the iPhone. Otherwise, you are also losing the warranty (and the possibility of adding AppleCare). Ad, if you want to save a few bucks and still have that, you can always go with Apple-refurbs (typically offered by the service providers), which are truly certified (full warranty, AppleCare eligible, all pieces, etc.).
  • Reply 7 of 21
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,334member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     

     

    probably defective phones




    Couldn't be... If the phone were defective they'd return them to Apple.

  • Reply 8 of 21

    The warranty is on the phone itself (and not with the person who purchases it), correct? If so, wouldn't any iPhone 6 or 6+ still be under warranty (less than a year old)?

  • Reply 9 of 21
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheUnfetteredMind View Post

     

    The warranty is on the phone itself (and not with the person who purchases it), correct? If so, wouldn't any iPhone 6 or 6+ still be under warranty (less than a year old)?




    not if it was damaged internally for example, water damaged. So Gazelle offers some kind of warranty that the phone will be properly operational.

  • Reply 10 of 21
    reydnreydn Posts: 73member
    Just a humble reader here (no affiliation to AI or Gazelle). I recently purchased an iPhone 5S from Gazelle. I did it for the additional savings over even refurbished units.

    My experience was all very positive. My last iPhone (4S) was used, though from a different seller, and I had an idea of what to expect. Shipping was quick, the phone was listed in 'good condition' but you could've fooled me - couldn't find a scuff or scratch on it (maybe I'm not looking hard enough). Phone works great. The only downside, in my opinion, to a used iPhone is the decreased battery life. Most days I'm lucky to leave the office with 20% - but this is an issue I'm willing to deal with and is worth a couple Ben Franks (usually resolved by keeping an extra charging cable at the office).

    I'm a numbers nerd, and graphed the used prices for all iPhone models. I noticed that the drops in price from even numbered models to 'S' models are steeper than those from 'S' to even number models. Just an observation.
  • Reply 11 of 21
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,985member
    The term 'certified' is a bit misleading. These are not Apple certified in any way. Apple does sell refurb units, but does not certify any other channels to do so. Through other sources, there is still the possibility that there are non original parts installed in the device.

    They don't claim it's 'Apple certified', so what's misleading about it?
  • Reply 12 of 21
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 924member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheUnfetteredMind View Post

     

    The warranty is on the phone itself (and not with the person who purchases it), correct? If so, wouldn't any iPhone 6 or 6+ still be under warranty (less than a year old)?


    As far as I understand the warranty is transferable to the new owner, but in my experience Apple has been requiring the invoice or proof of purchase for the original buy if you didn't get it directly from Apple. A purchase from Gazelle or any other seller of used devices usually won't come with that proof. I hope that someone can tell me the opposite for a phone that cannot possibly be a year old yet.

  • Reply 13 of 21
    Hey I can really buy a at&t and unlock it? I saw somewhere that gazelle can not see if the phone is still on some contract payment and then if the person stops paying it, they can block the IMEI again. Is that true? Thanks for the help!
  • Reply 14 of 21
    Hey I can really buy a at&t and unlock it? I saw somewhere that gazelle can not see if the phone is still on some contract payment and then if the person stops paying it, they can block the IMEI again. Is that true? Thanks for the help!
  • Reply 15 of 21

    Hey I can really buy a at&t and unlock it? I saw somewhere that gazelle can not see if the phone is still on some contract payment and then if the person stops paying it, they can block the IMEI again. Is that true? Thanks for the help!

  • Reply 16 of 21

    Hey I can really buy a at&t and unlock it? I saw somewhere that gazelle can not see if the phone is still on some contract payment and then if the person stops paying it, they can block the IMEI again. Is that true? Thanks for the help!

  • Reply 17 of 21
    pcm7pcm7 Posts: 1member
    I took the advice from this article and bought an iPhone 6 tied to AT&T with the plan of unlocking it and using it abroad. It seems that you cannot unlock the phone without the original SIM card, which Gazelle does not send you.
    Can you just buy a new SIM card without a contract and use that to unlock it?
  • Reply 18 of 21
    pcm7 wrote: »
    I took the advice from this article and bought an iPhone 6 tied to AT&T with the plan of unlocking it and using it abroad. It seems that you cannot unlock the phone without the original SIM card, which Gazelle does not send you.
    Can you just buy a new SIM card without a contract and use that to unlock it?

    As of this posting, ATT will unlock your Gazelle Certified Pre-Owned Phone because I just purchased a Certified Used
    iPhone 6 64GB AT&T. Please be note, I am a current ATT Customer and the process and requirements maybe a little different for Non -ATT Customers.

    For current ATT customers only, the web tool (Consumer Device Unlock Portal) will deny your request because the iPhone is still in the pervious owner's name because they did not request it to be unlocked before selling it to Gazelle. Therefore, you will have contact ATT Customer service
    M - Su 7am - 10pm local time
    800.331.0500

    To speak to Technical Support, so they can do a manual iPhone unlocking case so your iPhone can be unlocked. Please make sure you, you tell them you would like to open an unlocking case to unlock your phone, but make sure to keep the receipt handy in case the ATT unlocking team ask for it. That's what I had to do to get my Gazelle ATT iPhone unlocked. Do not go to retail store because they will no help you and they are more than likely "clueless" on the unlocking process anyway because they mostly deal with sells only.

    Non-AT&T Mobility Customers:

    Note: AT&T cannot unlock devices from other wireless carriers.

    General Requirements for All Unlock Requests:

    The device must be designed for use on, and locked to, the AT&T wireless network. (For help see Device Unlock Support )
    It must not be reported lost or stolen.
    It’s not associated with fraudulent activity.
    All the device’s service commitments and installment plans are completed, and all early termination fees are paid in full.
    The device is not currently active on a different AT&T customer’s account.
    If you performed an early upgrade, you must wait the 14-day buyer’s remorse period before you can request to unlock your previous device.

    REMINDER: Your device does not need to have been used on the AT&T network for any length of time to be eligible for unlock as a Non-AT&T customer. General requirements for all requests apply.

    If I were a Non-AT&T Mobility Customer, I would just purchase a Gazelle Certified unlocked iPhone because the price difference is marginal for an ATT iPhone. I hope my reply shaded some light on this article.
  • Reply 19 of 21
    The author suggests that one of the 'cons' of Gazelle is that the battery arrived in a low charge state.   Apparently they are unaware of the new regulations regarding the transporting of lithium batteries? Shipping fully charged batteries can increase the likelihood of a problem.

    "What is the “state of charge” or SOC? This term refers to the percentage of the electrical stored capacity in a rechargeable cell or battery (e.g. lithium ion cells or batteries) that is available for use. A fully charged lithium ion battery has a 100% state of charge (SOC). Research has demonstrated that for lithium ion batteries, reduced SOC may provide an additional level of safety during transport and reduce the likelihood of a thermal event. Effective 1 April 2016, all lithium ion batteries shipped by air without equipment must not exceed 30% SOC."  - UPS Media
  • Reply 20 of 21
    I read appleinsider's 2 April 2015 review of purchasing a use IPhone.  Holly mackerel!  The second sense stopped me dead in my tracks:  "Gazelle is an AppleInsider partner and provided us with a promotional code, which allowed a partial discount in order to test their service."

    What ever review was done is now completely useless, as AppleInsider tipped off Gazelle that they were being reviewed.  To keep from poisoning their sample, Gazelle must disguise itself as just another buyer with no damn discount.  They they will get the same sort of iPhone the rest of us get, not one special prepared to engender a great review, which AppleInsider dutifully provided.  No big surprise there.   

    Perhaps someone at Gazelle should have taken a course in statistics and leaned about sampling.  Appleinsider has the potential to be very useful, but must think about what it is doing.
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