The word “refurbished” might seem a little troublesome at first when describing a smartphone, but it doesn’t have to be. A refurbished phone could be almost indistinguishable from a brand new handset out of the box.
Even in all the years I’ve covered tech as a journalist, I admit to holding a degree of skepticism for refurbished gadgets. So far, I’ve been proven wrong each time. I had a MacBook Pro that was refurbished and it lasted me three years without a problem. Even the person I sold it to still uses it and it works fine. Same with an Apple TV and a BlackBerry I once had my hands on years ago.
Curiosity was a big reason why I opted to do this review. How well would a refurbished Samsung Galaxy S6 perform? Using a familiar device as a test case proved to be a good entry point to find out how other refurbished mobile devices might perform under the same program.
JP Mobiles services the phones, which are then sold through Best Buy. I’ve noted two key advantages in going this route.
First, it’s an outright price that doesn’t involve contracts, and the price is lower than it would be for a brand new unit. Second, every refurbished phone is sold unlocked, so it doesn’t matter which carrier you happen to be with.
The next logical question is what refurbishing entails. Devices are restored to like new condition, though the phone has little to no cosmetic damage to begin with. The box the phone comes in doesn’t specify what components, if any, have been replaced or repaired, or if it was just a quality control process where the previous data was cleaned and erased.
It comes packaged with essential accessories, like the charger, USB cable and earbuds, if applicable. These were the three accessories that came in the box with the Galaxy S6, and they were all original Samsung pieces, not no-name replacements.
Every refurbished phone from JP Mobiles comes with an extended warranty of at least 90 days or longer.
A refurb test
Let’s put this in some context. Here we have a phone—the Galaxy S6—that first came to market two years ago. Despite that, it is still widely available, and carriers continue to sell it themselves. And as of this review, a software update to Android 7.0 Nougat is coming, so the device is certainly not obsolete.
Given my familiarity with the S6 from the past, having reviewed it when it first launched, plus my experience with Samsung’s phones since, I knew what to look for in trying this out.
The phone’s physical condition was pristine. I have doubts that any hardware was swapped out, like the battery, for instance, so my assumption is that the device was a return that was securely wiped clean of any data from before. Either way, I showed it to friends without telling them its origin. Not one could tell it was a refurbished device.
Treating it like any other phone, I downloaded the apps I use most and ran a few tests. While I would have preferred it was running on Nougat instead of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, I didn’t encounter any hiccups in using it heavily. I streamed music from it for hours, played games during commutes, watched video and integrated it into smart home setups I have.
It performed as well as I would have expected a new Galaxy S6 to do. How it would run long-term, I’m not sure, but that’s a question that looms over any handset, new, used or refurbished. Updating to Nougat should be an improvement, but in one major case, it won’t matter, either way.
Google has rolled out its more advanced Assistant voice platform to all Android devices running on Nougat or Marshmallow. It’s available now, and I got it to work on the Galaxy S6. Previously, Assistant was only available on the Pixel phones, so this move streamlines things a lot. Assistant is considerably better than Google Now, and ultimately replaces it once installed.
Expectations for the refurbished S6
It’s interesting how psychology comes into effect when the word “refurbished” is attached to it. I scrutinized this Galaxy S6 as much, if not more, than when I did the first time I tested it. The main difference was that the model I reviewed two years ago was running on Android 5.0.1 Lollipop. The software improvements in Marshmallow, plus the tweaks Nougat offers should bode well for this phone. I just don’t know how the battery will hold up over time.
I didn’t encounter any serious blips or bugs in playing with this device. Wireless charging worked like a charm on the Mophie charging pads I used. The Quick Charge from the included Samsung charger worked like normal. I had no connectivity issues with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Assuming this was a benchmark for what a refurbished handset should be, it’s a pretty good bar, in my opinion.
The only caveat is that there’s no way to know for sure. Any refurbished device can be described as a roll of the dice, but I’ve seen brand new units fail too. The Galaxy Note 7 being perhaps the most egregious example. The flip side is a shorter warranty, and that can lead to some angst too.
I would go the refurb route to save a little on the upfront cost and ensure I don’t have to pay extra to unlock it because I’m a strong proponent of buying a smartphone outright and unlocked to avoid contracts.
Even though people most try to protect their phones with a case, I’m skeptical that they keep them in mint condition over time. A refurbished phone that has been returned and looks as good as this Galaxy S6 clearly hasn’t been out in the wild for too long. We’re talking about a handset with glass on both sides, and there wasn’t even a scratch or blemish on it. Its consistent performance only gave me more confidence.
Check out the latest refurbished smartphones currently available now.