What is a restored iPhone?
A restored iPhone is a used iPhone that has been thoroughly tested, repaired, and restored to like-new condition. The restoration process involves completely wiping the iPhone of any previous data and settings and reinstalling the latest version of iOS. This restores the iPhone to its factory settings.
Restored iPhones differ from refurbished phones in a few key ways. Refurbished phones are typically older models that have been lightly tested and cleaned. Restored iPhones undergo much more extensive testing and repairs to get them into like-new condition. Every part is inspected, defective parts are replaced, and the software is completely reinstalled (1).
The restoration process ensures any issues with the used iPhone are fixed, so it functions just like a brand new iPhone. This makes restored iPhones more reliable and longer-lasting than refurbished phones.
Pros of buying a restored iPhone
One of the biggest advantages of buying a restored iPhone is the cost savings compared to buying a brand new model. According to Consumer Reports, restored iPhones can cost hundreds less than a new phone with similar specs and functionality. This makes restored iPhones an affordable option for those who want an iPhone on a budget.
Functionally, a properly restored iPhone should operate just like a new phone. As MakeUseOf notes, Apple’s restoration process returns the iPhone to factory settings, replaces any worn out parts, installs new battery and outer shell, and conducts full testing and inspection. So in terms of performance and reliability, a restored iPhone is virtually indistinguishable from new.
There are also environmental benefits to buying a restored iPhone rather than new. Apple states that restored devices use high-quality parts that are recycled and reused whenever possible. This reduces the environmental impact compared to manufacturing an entirely new iPhone. Restored phones support a circular production model that lessens Apple’s carbon footprint.
Cons of buying a restored iPhone
One of the biggest downsides of purchasing a restored iPhone is that it often does not come with a warranty. Unlike buying a new iPhone that is covered by Apple’s standard 1-year limited warranty, restored iPhones typically only have a 90-day warranty from the third-party seller or refurbisher. This leaves you unprotected if any defects or issues arise outside of that short window (Consumer Reports).
Since restored iPhones were used and returned before being fixed up for resale, there is always a chance of lingering hardware or software problems. For example, issues like intermittent touchscreen responsiveness, weak WiFi/Bluetooth connections, faster battery drain, and various glitches could occur that went undetected (MacPaw). These may not be covered if the 90-day warranty has expired.
With a restored iPhone, you are also stuck with whatever iOS version it came with. This limits your ability to customize the phone with the latest iOS features. And over time, an older iOS that does not receive ongoing updates could present security risks or cause app incompatibility issues.
What to look for when buying
When purchasing a restored iPhone, it’s important to thoroughly inspect the device’s condition and ensure the seller is reputable. Pay close attention to the seller’s condition rating for the device, looking for descriptions like “Good,” “Very Good,” or “Like New.” Avoid devices listed as “Fair” or “Poor” condition. According to Apple, inspect the iPhone for scratches, dents, and other signs of damage on the screen, sides, buttons, ports, and rear casing  . Refurbished devices from Apple or major carriers undergo extensive repairs, so their condition ratings are generally reliable.
It’s also wise to buy from sellers with a strong reputation for quality refurbished devices and good return policies, in case issues arise down the road. Checking seller reviews can help identify which sellers thoroughly test devices and stand behind their products. Many reputable sellers offer at least a 30-90 day money back guarantee. Additionally, buying refurbished devices with a valid warranty will provide peace of mind. 
Buying from well-known sites like Amazon Renewed, eBay Certified Refurbished, or directly from phone carriers can help avoid scams and unreliable sellers. Their programs require specific testing, inspection, cleaning, and repair processes to ensure the phones function properly.  In summary, take time to carefully assess the device’s condition and the seller’s reputation before purchasing a restored iPhone.
Where to Buy Restored iPhones
There are several places where you can buy restored iPhones, including online marketplaces, third-party repair shops, and carrier stores. Some of the most popular places to find restored iPhones for sale include:
Online marketplaces like eBay, Swappa, and Amazon make it easy to find restored and refurbished iPhones from various sellers. These online marketplaces offer buyer protection and allow you to compare prices and options from multiple sellers.
Third-party repair shops like uBreakiFix and independent phone repair stores often carry restored iPhones using high-quality parts. Going to a reputable repair shop allows you to see the restored phone in person before buying.
How restored iPhones compare to new and used
When it comes to cost, restored iPhones can offer significant savings over buying a brand new iPhone model. A restored iPhone from a reputable source can cost anywhere from 40-70% less than a brand new iPhone of the same model. For example, a restored iPhone 12 could cost $400-500 while a brand new iPhone 12 direct from Apple is $799. The savings on a high-end model like the iPhone 14 Pro Max can be even more substantial.
Functionally, a properly restored iPhone should operate nearly identically to a brand new iPhone model. Important components like the battery, screen, logic board, rear camera, and more are typically replaced with new OEM Apple parts during the restoration process. The iOS software is wiped clean and updated to the newest version too. You can expect smooth performance and long battery life similar to a new phone.
One advantage of a new iPhone is the ability to customize it with engravings or choose your storage size. With a restored iPhone, you are limited to the model configurations available. However, the savings often outweigh this limitation for most buyers.
In comparison to a used or refurbished phone not from Apple, a restored iPhone also offers some key benefits. The restoration process is standardized by Apple with replacement components tested and designed specifically for iPhones. Further, restored iPhones come with a 1-year Apple warranty providing peace of mind.
Restore Process Explained
When an iPhone is restored by a professional refurbishing company, it goes through an intensive process to get it into like-new condition. Here are the key steps in the iPhone restore process:
Cleaning – The iPhone is thoroughly cleaned inside and out to remove any dirt, debris or cosmetic defects. This includes cleaning the charging port, headphone jack, speakers, camera lenses, buttons and exterior housing. Any scratched or scuffed areas are buffed out.
Part Replacement – During inspection, any defective or worn out parts are replaced with new OEM Apple parts. This may include a new battery, screen, buttons, SIM card tray or other components. Only authentic Apple parts are used.
Software Updates – The phone’s software is updated to the latest iOS version and reset to factory settings. This erases any user data and gives the phone a fresh start. All settings, apps and the operating system get fully updated.
Overall, this multi-step restoration process aims to make the iPhone look and function like new again, even if it’s a model that’s several years old. The process brings old iPhones up to current standards.
Testing and Inspection
Reputable sellers of restored iPhones have rigorous quality control processes to ensure the phones meet high standards before being sold. When an iPhone is received for restoration, trained technicians put it through a comprehensive diagnostic test using advanced software and hardware tools. This allows them to verify all aspects of the device are functioning properly, including the logic board, battery, cameras, microphone, speakers, buttons, ports, sensors, and touch screen.
According to Apple support, some key tests technicians perform include:1
- Testing the rear and front-facing cameras by taking photos in different lighting conditions
- Checking the touchscreen sensitivity and responsiveness
- Inspecting physical condition for any defects or damage
- Verifying Bluetooth, WiFi, cellular connectivity, and GPS
- Confirming battery health and charge capacity
Parts that don’t pass testing are replaced to meet factory specifications. The software is also updated to the latest iOS version. Once restoration is complete, the iPhone undergoes final quality assurance testing to confirm flawless performance before being approved for resale.
Buying from a seller that provides evidence of thorough restoration processes and testing helps ensure you receive a like-new device you can trust.
How long restored iPhones last
The lifespan and performance of a restored iPhone over time depends on a few key factors, most notably the age of the device when it was refurbished. According to Back Market, restored iPhones that are less than 4 years old can typically last another 2-3 years before noticing a significant drop in speed and battery life (source).
As Carole C noted on LinkedIn, restored iPhones that are refurbished when they’re less than 4 years old usually have a usable lifespan of 2-3 more years before performance starts to decline (source). So the total lifespan of a restored iPhone is approximately 5-7 years from its original manufacture date.
The age of the device when it’s refurbished is key – the newer the iPhone, the longer it will likely last after being restored. Well-restored iPhones that are resold soon after the original purchase can last nearly as long as new iPhones purchased directly from Apple.
Alternatives to consider
If you want to save money on an iPhone but are unsure about buying a fully restored model, there are some other options to consider:
Refurbished iPhones from Apple come with a one-year limited warranty and are inspected, tested, cleaned, and repackaged by Apple technicians (1). While still expensive compared to third-party restored iPhones, Apple’s refurbished models are around 15-25% cheaper than brand new.
Buying a used iPhone from sites like eBay, Swappa or Decluttr will get you a lower price than a refurbished model. However, used phones aren’t professionally inspected and come with shorter 90-day warranties. Be sure to verify the IMEI, battery health, and functionality before purchasing (2).
Carrier installment plans allow you to pay off the phone over 24-36 months. This spreads the cost over time, though doesn’t save money compared to buying the phone outright. You’re also committing to that carrier during the payment term.
While restored, refurbished and used iPhones provide cheaper alternatives to new models, it’s wise to weigh factors like warranty coverage, access to support, and overall peace of mind. Purchasing from a trusted source can help mitigate risks.