What corners can you cut to save on smartphones?

Posted at 7:38 AM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-29 07:38:48-04

Buying a phone is long longer an inexpensive task. New phones are essentially compact computers, but they're at more risk given how we use them. Consumer Reports is taking a closer look at whether buying a "used" phone is a true value, and whether insuring a smartphone is worth the cost.


Need a new smartphone but don’t want to spend a lot? Have you ever considered a used phone? Also known as “refurbished” phones, they can be a great alternative. But before you tackle the used phone market, Consumer Reports has some advice.

Consumer Reports says buying one directly from the manufacturer is a reliable option. Companies like Apple and Samsung promise pre-owned phones go through a stringent refurbishment process, are fully inspected to meet company standards, replace any damage with quality parts and offer 12-month warranties like they do their new phones. That will ensure that it’s not just cleaned up but restored to its original condition, with original parts. Big retailers like Amazon and Best Buy also sell refurbished phones but usually with only 90-day warranties.  

Consumer Reports also says its important to ask about the return policy. Typically, using the phone for at least a month is a good amount of time to help you notice any defects.


In a recent survey, Consumer Reports found that over the last two years, half of the folks they surveyed had at least one major incident with a phone in their household, and if there are kids in the house, that goes up to 81%. Without coverage, the average cost to repair a cracked screen for an Apple iPhone 8 is $145. A Samsung Galaxy S8+, $277.

Apple and Samsung sell their own protection plans. Apple Care + for an iPhone 8 costs $129, and $199 for the iPhone X. Samsung Premium Care is $11.99 a month.
Coverage plans from Apple and Samsung don’t cover loss or theft. They’re basically extended warranties, not insurance. So they cover things like cracked screens, mechanical failures.

Or you could consider getting insurance through your provider. All four major carriers cover repairs, along with loss and theft, depending on the type of plan you select and your device.
But is cell-phone insurance really necessary? The important thing is to know thyself. You need to take a step back and ask yourself: am I the kind of person who tends to lose things, do I have teenagers who who tend to lose or break things.

CR’s rule of thumb: if you feel like within a two year period you're likely to have two or more incidents occur to your phone, you may want to get insurance.

CR also found that cracked screens are by far the most common repair need. 30% of survey respondents said someone in their household had cracked their smartphone screen in the past two years.