Earlier this week, eBay rolled out the latest expansion to its Certified Refurbished Program. Growing the cast of retailers and listings even further from last November’s refresh, we’re taking a hands-on look at just what to expect by buying a refurbished iPhone 12 from eBay. Detailing the unboxing experience, cosmetic conditions, and more, head below for a closer look.

Hands-on with eBay’s refurbished iPhone experience

Following its original refresh last fall, eBay went back to update its Certified Refurbished Program once again earlier in the week. In what is yet another expansion of its major changes from November, there are now even more brands getting in on the added savings of eBay’s like-new condition listings.

With those updates in mind and the recent addition of Apple bringing the iPhone 12 series to its own refurbished storefront, we thought it would be the perfect time to see what eBay had to deliver on the front. It’s no surprise that deeper refurbished savings can be had by ditching the first-party shopping experience. But just what are you looking at exactly? Let’s dive in.

By far the biggest perk that eBay offers on its Certified Refurbished Program is taking the guess work out of buying from a trusted seller. Every listing that carries the eBay Refurbished badge comes backed with the peace of mind that you’re buying from one of its Top Rated partners. There’s also the added perk of eBay’s Money Back Guarantee to go alongside the 1-year warranties.

You can read all about the recent policy changes from eBay on its storefront in our previous coverage, which details the four different conditions that the program now offers. Though as a quick recap, there are now Excellent, Very Good, and Good conditions joining the original Certified Refurbished listings that we went hands-on with last year.

As for the actual experience, we’re taking a look at what you can expect by buying an iPhone 12 from the eBay refurbished program.

Unboxing the refurbished iPhone 12 from eBay

The biggest aspect of eBay doing things a bit different with its new refurbished tiers is the unboxing experience. This is something that threw me for a loop compared to my first time getting one of the brand’s Certified Refurbished products, but just because it is different doesn’t mean it’s a drop in the quality you’re actually getting.

eBay was kind enough to send over two different condition iPhone 12 mini models – each of them comes in a plain cardboard box and covered in bubble wrap. It’s far from the same like-new experience as you’ll find from the brand’s own eBay storefronts, but the actual products really do speak for themselves.

The biggest thing to be wary of is the included chargers. These stray from official offerings you’d expect when shopping directly from Apple, though I do suppose that it is nice to receive an actual USB-A wall adapter in the box considering that a new iPhone 12 series handset lacks that outright. This is ultimately more of a critique than anything close to a dealbreaker, but is worth mentioning that this is one area that falls short of exceptions.

Getting the refurbished iPhone 12 in-hand

The average packaging and third-party experiences may not deliver the best experience so far, but the condition of the iPhone 12 mini models that I received is really what matters. I was sent over both an Excellent condition version as well as one of the Very Good condition units. Both of these are new to the eBay refurbished storefront as of November last year and are what allows the retailer to be stocking iPhones in the first place.

Excellent condition iPhone 12 on the left, Very Good model on the right

So how do they stack up and compare? Let’s start with the Excellent condition model. As part of the reformed program, eBay themselves describe this status of these refurbished products to be like-new and back that with a 1-year warranty. As for what I actually received, the results are in-line with those expectations. The glossy black colorway of the refurbished iPhone 12 mini I received proved to be the perfect canvas to see any potential scratches, as damage tends to be a bit more apparent for this style over the other models in the lineup.

That being said, the like-new promise was right on what I unboxed from eBay. By my eye, there were only some extremely tiny micro abrasions that don’t even show up on camera. Those very minor blemishes are about as close as you’ll find to a like-new model, so we’re off to a good start. The screen is free of any scratches and the aluminum housing around the side of the phone is in near-perfect condition, as well.

A small ding in the Very Good condition iPhone 12

As for the Very Good condition model, things were ultimately a step down as expected from eBay’s Certified Refurbished store branding. For this condition, eBay notes that you’re looking at minimal wear overall as well as that same 1-year in-house warranty. In practice, the model shipped to me wasn’t far off. There are a few dents along the casing that are more noticeable than the small scratch on the Excellent condition counterpart.

The thing I was most surprised with on both of the units was the condition of the front and back glass. Noticeable micro-abrasions, let alone full-blown scratches, are some of the more common things to look out for on refurbished gear. So it’s certainly worth highlighting that both handsets that were shipped my way came out pretty clean.

100% battery capacities on both iPhone 12 mini units

Internal wear is also just as important as the external condition of the devices and eBay has surprised me yet again on this front. The biggest sign of wear on an iPhone like this is the battery, and much like the scratch tests, eBay has passed with flying colors. Both of the models I received came with batteries reporting 100% capacity by Apple’s own internal tool. I’ve been using them over the past week or so, too, just to get a few more charging cycles on each device, with no changes so far.

So the bottom line here is that while the certified refurbished iPhone 12 units from eBay may not be completely flawless, each one passes the test in my book. Inside and out you’re getting a reliable device that does actually live up to the marketing. There are certainly compromises between each condition, but differences amongst the Excellent and Very Good conditions seem worth the added savings.

Just how good of a value are you getting from eBay?

Passing the test in condition category, the real value in going with a certified refurbished iPhone 12 from the eBay program is the price. The inspiration for this entire review was Apple adding the iPhone 12 series handsets to its own refurbished storefront. You can get all of the details on what the official renewed condition delivers, but the big difference with eBay is that all four versions of the handset are available.

Originally launching at $699, iPhone 12 mini has remained absent from Apple’s official refurbished program. eBay’s program on the other hand has some pretty notable values on the previous-generation handset amongst the other models in the iPhone 12 lineup.

Starting with the Excellent condition listings, you’ll pay as little as $430 for a completely unlocked unit. Those who will be activating on a specific carrier can drop prices even further. As for Very Good models, unlocked units are trending in the $390 price range.

Then there’s of course the added savings that pop up from time to time in eBay’s coupon sales. The regular pricing is already pretty competitive as far as the refurbished market goes, but being able to take another 15% off or more really makes the value hard to beat.

All in all, there may be compromises from going with an iPhone 12 mini from the eBay Certified Refurbished store, but many will find the added savings more than offset any drawbacks. Those same savings also carry over to the iPhone 12/Pro/Max models, which you can dive into right here.

9to5Toys’ Take

With this being my second time going hands-on with any of eBay’s refurbished listings, my biggest takeaway is just how consistent the program continues to be. We’ve been sharing discounts from the retailer for well over a year at this point and have received messages from readers sharing much of the same finding as I have in both this review and the original one.

On the actual iPhone 12 front, the final verdict for buying a refurbished model from eBay and its Refurbished program is pretty solid. There are certainly compromises to consider, like the lackluster charging accessories, but the extra cash is going to be hard to beat. The conditions really do speak for themselves, though the extra savings should definitely be spent on picking up some official accessories. It is the biggest shortcoming of going with an eBay refurbished model. But hardly enough to actually ruin the experience.

One of the biggest use cases of the program that comes to mind for me is going to be getting family members who don’t need the latest and greatest in on the iPhone action. Though anyone who wants to save some cash on previous-generation Apple gear, or other smartphones on the Android side of things, will certainly want to consider going with eBay.

So all-in-all, I am quite impressed with the experience. My first impressions with eBay and its refurbished program were already enough to inspire the confidence to buy renewed in the past, but getting a second look at what the experience offers certainly reinforces that it isn’t a fluke.


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