Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shopping for a new, used cell phone on Craig’s List

I've written my tales of woe relating to my disenchantment with AT&T.   In view of this one would wonder about my decision to move forward with purchasing a used (new to me) cell phone on Craig’s List.  I had been unhappy with my cell phone for quite some time.  It is extremely slow, frequently flashes low memory warnings, has an outdated version of Android that cannot be updated (many apps fail to download, citing an advisement that they are not compatible with my old version of Android) and my near vision has deteriorated to the point where I cannot easily read the screen.  Before my recent fall out with AT&T, I had stopped into an AT&T retail store and learned that I could purchase any AT&T phone or an unlocked GSM phone and they would be happy to provide a sim and transfer my existing plan to the new phone.  Similarly, the most likely plan that I may transition to at the end of my GoPhone service is Consumer Cellular and they use AT&T and also allow you to bring your AT&T or unlocked GSM.  Finally, whatever used phone I would purchase would have some value and I could re-sell it.  Thus, I felt I didn't have too much too loose by buying a used cell phone.

As stated in a prior post regarding Craig’s List, my first move was to get the lay of the land by watching what was being posted and what seemed to be selling and for what price.  Additionally, I also visited Mr. Dealz and other local retailers to get a feel for what the device actually felt like in my hand.  Mr. Dealz merits specific note because others at AT&T had suggested this store and I found them to be very helpful.  I would definitely recommending them out for any electronic needs in the Albany or Schenectady area.  The right size cell phone is a very personal decision.  For visibility I love those Mega and Samsung Notes, but when I really thought about practicality neither of these devices would fit in my pocket plus are extremely expensive so these devices were quickly ruled out.  After getting some initial prospects, I did some general Google searches to read some user reviews as well as to explore common issues in regards to buying used cell phones.  My greatest concern in regards to purchasing a used cell phone was the possibility of getting a phone that was not able to be activated.  This could be due to the phone being reported as stolen or due to delinquent old accounts whereby one of the major service providers has identified the phone as one they will not allow on the network.  There are online sites that assist buyers in checking ESN or IMEI numbers.  I wasn't fully comfortable with this option so in my search I would also check the seller’s willingness to meet at an AT&T retail store (which is the route that I went when I made my purchase).

I also set a budget.  My budget was around $150 with a preference to stay closer to $100.  My research seemed to point to several options.  A Samsung AT&T Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate was listed for $40 on Craig’s list and after doing the research, this looked like it would have been a great option considering my very light use of the cell phone.  Unfortunately, this listing arose during my research stage and no other listings appeared for this model.  Thus, I moved on to options that had more regular postings for used devices.

As a heavy Google user, I would have loved to score an unlocked Nexus 4 or 5.  Unfortunately, while these devices occasionally appeared on Craig’s List, the few times that they did, they appeared with a rather high price and the legitimate postings did not last long so my chances of success did not appear good.

During my search, a Nokia 520 appeared very briefly on Craig’s List for $30 (it was removed within a couple of hours).  The AT&T store had pointed out this device, but I was a bit skeptical about jumping into a Windows phone.  After reading the on-line reviews I have reconsidered.  This option may be a great choice for light cell phone users as the price is very appealing and the phone includes decent hardware for the price.  (One thing noteworthy that is missing is the front facing camera, so “selfies” would be more challenging).   This phone is available for around $50 new on Amazon so this may also appeal to those who do not want to assume the risk and ordeal of searching for a used device.

The iPhone 4s was a strong possibility.  The familiarity, simplicity and quality of Apple was a given.  I definitely would want a device that includes Siri (see also my iPad 2 to 4 post) and this was the only Siri enabled used device where offerings fell within my budget.  There were some negatives to this option.  I enjoy playing music from my current cell phone and an 8mg sized iPhone would not work well for my needs here.  (Note, iPhones are not expandable – you cannot “add” memory so what you buy is what you get).  I was also somewhat concerned about the screen size due to my eyesight.  Lastly, although not a big consideration, the 4s still uses 3g so this phone would not be able to take advantage of AT&Ts faster 4g build out.  Currently, most of the iPhone 4s listed on Craig’s List tended to range from a low of around $140 to around $250.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 was the device that stuck with me most consistently.  It received very good reviews from users.  I was able to “feel” it in my hand and I like the feel – the screen was generous so that I could see even with my bad eyes (about 4.8” compared to about 3.5” for the 4s and 4.5” for the 5s).  I had spotted a used S3 for sale at Mr. Dealz for $199 and it was not there the following week so that established a baseline price.  In Craig’s List I would consistently spot sale postings with a price range similar to that of the iPhone 4s which suggested I may be able to find one within budget.

As it turned out, I was successful.  I had spotted an AT&T S3 initially advertised at $175 then on Sunday, I notice the ad was updated to $150.  Being the bargain hunter that I am, I emailed an offer of $125 and advised that I could meet at an AT&T retail store that same day with the cash (hoping that the prompt cash would appeal to the seller and the AT&T retail store would seem to be fair mutual meeting arrangement).  As it turned out, I heard from the seller promptly and the seller related that he recently began employment with AT&T.  We arranged to meet at an AT&T store that was reasonably close for both of us.  The store transferred my GoPhone account without issue.  In the midst of the transaction, the seller inquired as to whether I would be interested in purchasing a case (new in package) for $5.  I hadn't thought of this separate transaction, but the AT&T representative strongly recommended a case and remarked, “I was going to try to sell you one…”  The quality of this case was clearly better than I would find in a $5 Below store and seemed to be the sensible thing to do so I went for it as I considered getting the phone for $125 to be a great deal.