Buying a Smart Phone

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Old 07-25-20, 05:07 PM
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Buying a Smart Phone

Hi all- (I think this is the more appropriate forum the question, hope so)

I don’t have a smart phone (I know, you think I must live in a cave somewhere – lol). I hardly use the phone at all (like talking about a 1/2 hour/month) so I just have a simple Verizon Samsung flip-phone with an el-cheapo plan (like $15/month pre-paid plan). That’s been enough for what I need.

But I would like to get a smart phone just for one specific reason: I have Atrial Fibrillation and would like to get that KardiaMobile device that you see advertised on TV a lot, so I can take an EKG periodically (I had a similar but stand-alone device for EKG’s- but that broke and wasn’t very good anyway). But the problem is that the KardiaMobile device only works with a smart phone. So I have a few questions:

(1) I noticed that there are many used smart phones for sale. Is it a bad idea to buy a used phone? I hate to spend all that money on a new smart phone which I would hardly use – except to take EKG’s with the KardiaMobile device and talk about 30 minutes/month.

(2) It looks like the KardiaMobile phone Application also runs on older versions of the iPhone and Android phones. So I guess it would run on phones that are several years old or even older (and I notice used phones are a whole lot cheaper, I guess that’s obvious).

(3) Is Amazon or eBay a good place to buy a used phone – or is that not a good idea.

(4) The Verizon coverage is good at my house, so I would like to stay with Verizon. Verizon also advertizes used phones. Would it be OK to buy a used phone from them? Or is that a bad idea.

This phone stuff seems very confusing to me (as do many other things these days –lol) , but is it correct to say that if you stay with the same provider, but upgrade the phone, then you are really switching to an upgraded plan also at the same time (whether you like it or not – lol)? That’s what it looks like to me. Well now that I think more about it, I guess that makes sense. If you upgrade your phone I guess you would also want a plan which would allow you to use the extra capability- or why bother to upgrade. I guess that makes sense. (seems a shame I only need an upgraded phone)

Anyway, I know I threw out several questions above and rambled a little, but any thoughts at all would be greatly appreciated!
 

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07-26-20, 01:58 PM
Fred_C_Dobbs
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1. I buy a lot of used electronic stuff that has no moving parts, like cell phones, so long as it comes with at least a limited warranty. My theory is that if it'll do what I've bought it for when it arrives, then it probably will continue to work for some time. Been operating that way since I first got into PCs back in the 1980s and that plan has worked for me often enough that I see no reason to divert from it.

The chief problem with used phones is used batteries. Some phones (mostly hi-end) don't have a user-changeable battery, which means the clock is ticking from the time you receive it before the battery fails and the entire phone with it. My previous every-day phone was an HTC, which I bought used. When it was new it was their flagship phone and retailed for ~$600. I bought it three years used for $120 and used it myself for three years before the battery discharge rate became unpredictable. So I got three years of fully-functional service out of it for $40 a year. Now it's my "home phone" and stays in a charging cradle on my desk so battery life never comes into play.

With phones with a user-changeable battery, battery life doesn't become a problem so long as they're manufacturing that particular battery. Li-Ion batteries age whether they're being used or not but they age faster if they're being cycled. So if you buy a used phone with a removable battery of a particular size that no other phone uses (and space is so limited in a cell phone that most use a battery tailored to its exact dimensions), that phone's service life begins to run out once they're no longer making new batteries for it, even if all the other hardware is in perfect working order. After that you're left to buy old stock new batteries which might be new but still are old so they won't have the same service life as freshly-manufactured new.

Bottom line, in terms of return on investment, and so long as you neither need or want technology that is only available in a newer phone but that wasn't available when your's was made, and so long as you shop carefully, used phones IMHO are an excellent value.

2. You need to dig into the specifications for the KardiaMobile application and find out exactly which versions of iOS and/or Android it will run on. I don't know from iOS but the most recent Android version is v.11. Prior to Android 10, all Android versions were named after some sweet treat. Android 9 was "Pie," 8 was Oreo, 7 was Nougat, etc. I mention this because the Android nerds habitually refer to a version by its sweet treat name rather than its version number. So if your KardiaMobile app's documentation states it will run on Android Lollipop or later, you'll have to dig to learn that Lollipop = Android 5 (5.0 or 5.1). Then make sure you buy a phone with a compatible OS on it.

3. IMHO either eBay or Amazon are excellent places to look for a phone, especially a used one. Amazon has an excellent reputation for standing behind what their vendors sell but I find I get better prices -- particularly on used -- on eBay. The trick to eBay is only buying from a vendor who has a rating high enough to give you confidence in what he's selling. You'll have to set the height of your bar in that respect. For a high-volume vendor I like an approval rating of 98% or better but I still check the individual negative ratings to see what's gone wrong in the "bad" transactions. In a lot of the negative reviews I find that the buyer was complaining about something insignificant or had unrealistic explanations of the purchase, so I discount them. And I've got some excellent deals from low-volume dealers who might have had a questionable average rating but found nothing in their negative reviews to give me to believe they weren't a trustworthy source. And as a last resort, most bank credit cards have a measure of buyer protection included in the service.

Just make sure they vendors you're considering will accept returns, watch out for high restocking fees, and read the fine print.

4. Regarding Verizon, I'll skip (most of) the technical mumbo-jumbo and say this. Come the first of January, 2021, Verizon's network is making a dramatic change and switching entirely to something called VOLTE. With VOLTE the voice signal ceases being analog and is strictly digital end-to-end, which they claim will result in a dramatic improvement in call clarity. The problem is that not all of Verizon's old phones support VOLTE. Come the first of January, many old Verizon-branded phones will cease to work on their network. In fact since earlier this year Verizon has refused to accept new business from any customer with a non-VOLTE phone. When my HTC started to get flaky, I tried to re-register the Samsung I had used before that, but they refused it because the Samsung was not VOLTE-capable, even though I had used that exact same device on their network just a couple of years earlier.

If you're buying the phone direct from Verizon, they've stopped selling anything that isn't VOLTE-capable, so you should be golden if you buy from them. But if you're wanting to buy a phone that Verizon will accept off Amazon or eBay or other 3-rd party seller, it gets tricky.

Verizon doesn't build its own phones and what they do is pick a specific model of phone to have have branded as a Verizon phone. So it will have the Verizon logo on the boot-up screens and maybe in some menus but the hardware is still the same as the non-Verizon phones of the same model number. In most cases this exact same model of phone will be available elsewhere but just without the Verizon branding. But the trick can be determining exactly which model it is that Verizon sells.

When my HTC became unreliable I did research and decided I wanted a Motorola Moto G7, which Verizon was selling for $300. I checked on eBay and found the same phone could be bought there, either "open box" (meaning it might have been used as a demonstrator in a store but was never used regularly and might still carry the full original warranty) or brand-spanking new for $50 to $150 less than Verizon's asking price.

But when I started looking at the details of the phones on offer, I found there were several different model numbers listed. All of them were XT1962-something but that something could be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. And I guessed that Verizon was only going to allow me to use one of the six on their network.

I went back and scoured that phone's page on the Verizon website but it just didn't say anything about XT1962. So on a whim I selected the "buy" option to see what information might be available once the phone was in my "shopping cart." And sure enough its SKU showed as XT1962-1. So I went back to eBay looking for listings for XT1962-1 and found one brand-new, still factory sealed in the original box, for $200. Which I bought and lived happily ever after.

So really the only "catch" to buying from other-than Verizon is in determining exactly which model of that phone Verizon is selling. In some cases the eBay vendor will state the phone is Verizon-ready. Provided they state that in the ad, and provided they take returns, then if you get the phone and find out Verizon won't accept it, then it's the vendor's fault and his responsibility to put it right. But I made doubly-sure by confirming the full model number through the SKU listed on Verizon's website. I just checked and the SKU even shows up on the main web page for the random phones I looked at (didn't have to resort to putting it in my shopping cart).
 
  #2  
Old 07-25-20, 05:13 PM
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I also use a flip phone. I carry my laptop and use that for internet access.

You said you have Verizon service. They send me offers every month for free (new) smartphones. The last one was a Samsung A01... retail $150. A free new phone requires a reup for two years.They also sell reconditioned phones. I'd buy one of those before I bought a used phone from an un-known source.
 
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Old 07-25-20, 06:34 PM
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From what I have been reading, you need to make sure the phone supports voltE. Tmobile and att are going to drop support for lesser phones. I would not be surprised if Verizon has similar plans..there is nothing wrong with buying a used phone other than making sure it is compatible with your network. The newer the phone the better off you are for it working longer on your network. I finally upgraded from a galaxy s5 sport to a s20 ultra 5g on sprint last year.
Verizon does require a VoltE phone now.
 
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Old 07-25-20, 07:05 PM
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I have a project at work where we often buy 3-4-year-old iPhones and they really work well. Most recently, I bought a number of iPhone 7s and they work well as long as you're ok not having the newest and shiniest phone. The iPhone 6S and 7 (and up) all support the newest iOS versions (13 and soon to be 14). Sure, they'll be a bit slower, but the cost savings are well worthwhile.

I usually buy them through Amazon so I have an easy return path if anything goes wrong. You can save a few dollars buying through eBay, but it's up to you to vet the seller and trust they send you what they say (and go through PayPal if you need to return).

Lastly, the only real issue with getting an older phone is the battery. Some will be sold with "refreshed" batteries, but most will be fine for a year or two, but might need a battery replacement at some point. It can be a DIY project, or you can have it replaced.

Good luck with moving up in the tech world!
 
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Old 07-25-20, 07:11 PM
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  #6  
Old 07-26-20, 09:37 AM
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Thanks a lot folks for the good information. I knew none of that. Never thought of it. It will help me a lot!
 
  #7  
Old 07-26-20, 01:58 PM
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1. I buy a lot of used electronic stuff that has no moving parts, like cell phones, so long as it comes with at least a limited warranty. My theory is that if it'll do what I've bought it for when it arrives, then it probably will continue to work for some time. Been operating that way since I first got into PCs back in the 1980s and that plan has worked for me often enough that I see no reason to divert from it.

The chief problem with used phones is used batteries. Some phones (mostly hi-end) don't have a user-changeable battery, which means the clock is ticking from the time you receive it before the battery fails and the entire phone with it. My previous every-day phone was an HTC, which I bought used. When it was new it was their flagship phone and retailed for ~$600. I bought it three years used for $120 and used it myself for three years before the battery discharge rate became unpredictable. So I got three years of fully-functional service out of it for $40 a year. Now it's my "home phone" and stays in a charging cradle on my desk so battery life never comes into play.

With phones with a user-changeable battery, battery life doesn't become a problem so long as they're manufacturing that particular battery. Li-Ion batteries age whether they're being used or not but they age faster if they're being cycled. So if you buy a used phone with a removable battery of a particular size that no other phone uses (and space is so limited in a cell phone that most use a battery tailored to its exact dimensions), that phone's service life begins to run out once they're no longer making new batteries for it, even if all the other hardware is in perfect working order. After that you're left to buy old stock new batteries which might be new but still are old so they won't have the same service life as freshly-manufactured new.

Bottom line, in terms of return on investment, and so long as you neither need or want technology that is only available in a newer phone but that wasn't available when your's was made, and so long as you shop carefully, used phones IMHO are an excellent value.

2. You need to dig into the specifications for the KardiaMobile application and find out exactly which versions of iOS and/or Android it will run on. I don't know from iOS but the most recent Android version is v.11. Prior to Android 10, all Android versions were named after some sweet treat. Android 9 was "Pie," 8 was Oreo, 7 was Nougat, etc. I mention this because the Android nerds habitually refer to a version by its sweet treat name rather than its version number. So if your KardiaMobile app's documentation states it will run on Android Lollipop or later, you'll have to dig to learn that Lollipop = Android 5 (5.0 or 5.1). Then make sure you buy a phone with a compatible OS on it.

3. IMHO either eBay or Amazon are excellent places to look for a phone, especially a used one. Amazon has an excellent reputation for standing behind what their vendors sell but I find I get better prices -- particularly on used -- on eBay. The trick to eBay is only buying from a vendor who has a rating high enough to give you confidence in what he's selling. You'll have to set the height of your bar in that respect. For a high-volume vendor I like an approval rating of 98% or better but I still check the individual negative ratings to see what's gone wrong in the "bad" transactions. In a lot of the negative reviews I find that the buyer was complaining about something insignificant or had unrealistic explanations of the purchase, so I discount them. And I've got some excellent deals from low-volume dealers who might have had a questionable average rating but found nothing in their negative reviews to give me to believe they weren't a trustworthy source. And as a last resort, most bank credit cards have a measure of buyer protection included in the service.

Just make sure they vendors you're considering will accept returns, watch out for high restocking fees, and read the fine print.

4. Regarding Verizon, I'll skip (most of) the technical mumbo-jumbo and say this. Come the first of January, 2021, Verizon's network is making a dramatic change and switching entirely to something called VOLTE. With VOLTE the voice signal ceases being analog and is strictly digital end-to-end, which they claim will result in a dramatic improvement in call clarity. The problem is that not all of Verizon's old phones support VOLTE. Come the first of January, many old Verizon-branded phones will cease to work on their network. In fact since earlier this year Verizon has refused to accept new business from any customer with a non-VOLTE phone. When my HTC started to get flaky, I tried to re-register the Samsung I had used before that, but they refused it because the Samsung was not VOLTE-capable, even though I had used that exact same device on their network just a couple of years earlier.

If you're buying the phone direct from Verizon, they've stopped selling anything that isn't VOLTE-capable, so you should be golden if you buy from them. But if you're wanting to buy a phone that Verizon will accept off Amazon or eBay or other 3-rd party seller, it gets tricky.

Verizon doesn't build its own phones and what they do is pick a specific model of phone to have have branded as a Verizon phone. So it will have the Verizon logo on the boot-up screens and maybe in some menus but the hardware is still the same as the non-Verizon phones of the same model number. In most cases this exact same model of phone will be available elsewhere but just without the Verizon branding. But the trick can be determining exactly which model it is that Verizon sells.

When my HTC became unreliable I did research and decided I wanted a Motorola Moto G7, which Verizon was selling for $300. I checked on eBay and found the same phone could be bought there, either "open box" (meaning it might have been used as a demonstrator in a store but was never used regularly and might still carry the full original warranty) or brand-spanking new for $50 to $150 less than Verizon's asking price.

But when I started looking at the details of the phones on offer, I found there were several different model numbers listed. All of them were XT1962-something but that something could be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. And I guessed that Verizon was only going to allow me to use one of the six on their network.

I went back and scoured that phone's page on the Verizon website but it just didn't say anything about XT1962. So on a whim I selected the "buy" option to see what information might be available once the phone was in my "shopping cart." And sure enough its SKU showed as XT1962-1. So I went back to eBay looking for listings for XT1962-1 and found one brand-new, still factory sealed in the original box, for $200. Which I bought and lived happily ever after.

So really the only "catch" to buying from other-than Verizon is in determining exactly which model of that phone Verizon is selling. In some cases the eBay vendor will state the phone is Verizon-ready. Provided they state that in the ad, and provided they take returns, then if you get the phone and find out Verizon won't accept it, then it's the vendor's fault and his responsibility to put it right. But I made doubly-sure by confirming the full model number through the SKU listed on Verizon's website. I just checked and the SKU even shows up on the main web page for the random phones I looked at (didn't have to resort to putting it in my shopping cart).
 
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  #8  
Old 07-27-20, 08:40 AM
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Fred –

Thanks a lot for all of that great information. I don’t have any questions, very clear. Really appreciate all of that. I think I’m in a good position to go further now with the task.

Thanks again!
 
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Old 07-27-20, 08:18 PM
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@ Fred ....... excellent job in the detailed Verizon information. Thank you.
 
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Old 07-28-20, 05:54 AM
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I would add that when you deal with Verizon, do so at a company store. Just because there is a big VERIZON logo sign on the storefront does not mean you are dealing directly with Verizon. If you see "authorized retailer" or "Premium retailer", you are dealing with a third party. Had a bad experience many years ago when I made that mistake and now I will only deal directly with Verizon.
 
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Old 07-28-20, 06:41 AM
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Ahhh – I wouldn’t have thought to check that. Good information. Thanks a lot!.
 
 

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