Blog home


New Year, Old Phone. Best refurbished phones.



9 minute read

We’re now well and truly in 2020. If your New Year’s resolution been going well, why not treat yourself with a new smartphone? If you’re in the know, it could be cheaper than you expect!

While many people only consider new phones, a growing number are going refurbished instead, saving money and preventing e-waste from clogging up our landfills. Buying from giffgaff, you’re sure to get a good deal on a well-loved and carefully refurbished smartphone.

Here are ten of our absolute favourite second-hand smartphones, including some great recent releases that challenge new 2020 models in speed and looks, plus cheaper entry-level and mid-range examples that are friendlier to your wallet. Whichever you choose, you’ll keep extra cash in your pocket, allowing you to upgrade again sooner or put that money to good use somewhere else. Let’s get right into it!

1. Samsung Galaxy S7 (from £139)

Samsung Galaxy S7
Image credit: Samsung

This has got to be the deal of a century - a Samsung Galaxy S flagship handset from a few years back, now costing less than even a budget model from 2020! Despite coming out three years ago, the phone’s bleeding-edge specs at the time mean that it’s still powerful enough to hack it in the most modern games and apps today. The design is a little dated by today’s standards, with a 2560x1440 screen flanked by small bezels top and bottom, but that does mean you don’t have to deal with any interruptions to the screen itself, like the pinhole camera of the Galaxy S10 or the notch of the iPhone X. Other features include a Micro SD card slot, waterproofing and a convenient front-facing fingerprint sensor - all good stuff. Finally, the Galaxy S7 can actually be upgraded to Android 8.0 Oreo, so you have access to some of the platform’s more modern apps and features - something you definitely can’t say of all 2017 vintage smartphones. While newer Galaxy S smartphones are of course more powerful with more modern designs and better cameras, the Galaxy S7 at less than £140 is a hell of a bargain.

2. iPhone XS (from £609)

iPhone XS
Image credit: Apple

The iPhone XS came out in late 2018, so we’re just starting to see refurbished models in like new condition. This phone is fast, thanks to its A12 Bionic chipset, and comes with the same notched design that debuted with the original iPhone X. While this is the smaller of 2018’s iPhones, you still get a big 5.9-inch OLED screen, faster Face ID and IP68 water and dust resistance, making this phone a pleasure to use. iOS 13.3.1, the most recent version of Apple’s mobile operating system, is available, so you won’t be missing out when it comes to apps and features. Finally, the camera is always a highlight on the iPhone, and you won’t be disappointed with the one on the iPhone XS. You get a stellar dual-camera system that delivers significantly better photos than the iPhone X, especially in low-light or high-contrast scenes. Overall, it’s an excellent iPhone that should remain competitive with modern Apple smartphones for years to come - at a significantly reduced price.

3. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (from £399)

Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Image credit: Samsung

The Note 9 is just one generation behind the current Note 10 and includes some design elements and features that you won’t find on the newer model. The Note 9 is also much cheaper when you buy refurbished, making it a great choice for anyone that wants a lot of smartphone for not a lot of money. The Note 9 is the last Note to come with bezels top and bottom rather than a camera cutout within the display, so if you prefer the old way of doing things this is a solid choice. More importantly, the Note 9 comes with a headphone jack and a Micro SD card slot, features that were inexplicably removed on the Note 10. The older phone also has a higher resolution screen - 1440 x 2960 for the Note 9 versus 1080 x 2280 on the Note 10. While the Note 9 is missing the Note 10’s third rear camera and its sub-surface fingerprint scanner, the earlier Note is arguably the better phone - and at £309, it’s significantly cheaper too!

4. iPhone 8 (from £309)

iPhone 8
Image credit: Apple

If you’re a fan of the classic iPhone design, then a refurbished iPhone 8 is an excellent choice. This model is the last to ship with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the front rather than the Face ID of later models, plus those chunky bezels top and bottom that give you plenty of room to grip your phone. The iPhone 8 is also available in a wide range of colours, making it a great choice if you like to show off your individuality with a carefully-chosen shade that coordinates with your case and other accessories. The iPhone 8 can still be updated to iOS 13.3 and should still be supported for a number of years, making it a more future-proof solution than the iPhone 7 and other classic iPhone models. All in all, the iPhone 8 is a great choice if you like that familiar design and don’t want to switch to Face ID, but still want the most powerful iPhone with these design characteristics.

5. iPhone XR (from £499)

iPhone XR
Image credit: Apple

The iPhone XR was the best value iPhone when it debuted in 2018, including the fast A12 Bionic chipset and improved rear camera of the iPhone XS while costing far less. Now that refurbished models are available, its value for money has improved yet again. The XR is also known for its excellent battery life, wide range of colour options and full compatibility with iOS 13.3, the most recent version. The only sacrifices you’re really making when choosing the XR over the XS are these: the screen is LCD, not OLED, so colours are a little less saturated and blacks are rendered as a dark grey rather than true black. You’re also missing out on the second telephoto lens added to the iPhone XS, which gives you an option for shooting distant subjects. Still, given that most photography is done with the primary lens and Apple’s LCD screens are still excellent, these minor drawbacks don’t stop the iPhone XR from being an awesome value choice.

6. Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (from £199)

Sony XZ2 Compact
Image credit: Sony

A rare compact smartphone with high-end specs, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is a unique offering in the modern smartphone marketplace. The phone uses Sony’s familiar boxy design language with a brushed metal frame, providing an honest and durable feel, but it comes with modern internals including a Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage and a 19-megapixel rear camera. While the design is less obviously modern than many of its peers, the XZ2 does at least include a taller 18:9 aspect ratio display, at 1080x2160, with support for HDR. The camera is interesting too, thanks to its ability to shoot 960fps slow motion video at 1080p. It’s also a great stills camera, falling behind only the giants of Apple, Google and Huawei. All in all, a great choice if you prefer a smaller handset that doesn’t sacrifice on horsepower.

See on the giffgaff marketplace

7. iPhone SE (from £89)

iPhone SE
Image credit: Apple

OK, now this one is really a blast from the past. The iPhone SE is the last iPhone to ship with the familiar four-inch design that typified iPhones up to the iPhone 5, making for a uniquely compact form factor that works perfectly for those with smaller hands or just don’t need large screens. While the design is traditional, the internals here are surprisingly decent, with the same upgraded A9 processor and 12-megapixel camera that appeared in the iPhone 6S, two generations after the previous 4-inch iPhone. The SE is available in a range of colours and with anything from 16GB to 128GB of storage; we recommend choosing the largest storage option available in the colour of your choice to ensure that you don’t run out of room for your apps and photos.

8. Huawei P30 Pro (from £549)

Huawei P30 Pro
Image credit: Huawei

The Huawei P30 Pro is a top-notch Android phone that offers a compelling alternative to Samsung’s offerings. The P30 Pro’s greatest feature is its camera setup, which includes an unparalled 5x optical zoom that goes far beyond what’s possible on other smartphones. It’s not weak elsewhere either, with a powerful Kirin 980 processor, fast sub-surface fingerprint sensor, beautiful 6.5-inch notched display and IP68 water and dust resistance. While the software isn’t to everyone’s liking, this recently released smartphone is one of the finest options available on the giffgaff refurb store!

9. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus (from £669)

Samsung S10 Plus
Image credit: Samsung

The Galaxy S10 Plus is Samsung’s most recent Galaxy S flagship phone, offering a modern design with a super-tall screen with no camera notch - instead, the two front facing cameras poke through a pinhole cutout in the upper right of the screen to make for a more seamless look. On the back, you get three cameras including an ultra-wide camera that’s brilliant for capturing big groups or beautiful landscapes. There are plenty of advanced features hidden inside too, like a sub-surface fingerprint reader, reverse wirelesss charging (so you can charge other phones or accessories wirelessly) and Wi-Fi 6 support. If you want a constellation of modern features at a rather approachable price, this refurbished S10 Plus is an awesome choice.

10. iPhone XS Max (from £799)

iPhone XS Max
Image credit: Apple

Let’s finish with a banger. The iPhone XS Max is one of the best iPhones ever made, thanks to its beautiful 6.5-inch OLED screen which supports Dolby Vision HDR. Whether you’re watching a quick YouTube clip or a long Netflix movie, you’re going to love the colour reproduction and sharpness of this display, ably backed by some of the best speakers ever to grace an iPhone. The camera situation is also impressive, with dual rear cameras that can take fantastic shots. If you want a big screen iPhone experience, this is an excellent choice.

Wrapping up

So, there we have it - ten top-notch refurbished options for your to consider. We hope this article was helpful! If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know by tweeting @wsjudd. Thanks for reading and we’ll catch you on the next one!

Written by wsjudd

Will is a gadget fanatic, working from cafes and gadget-infused mega-hovels to turn caffeine into technology articles. Follow him on Twitter @wsjudd and check out his newly redesigned tech review site!