There are many iPhones, from the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs to iPhone 4 which are on sales or auction at eBay, online stores or local stores, and the seller may claim to be a new phone, which in effect it’s a refurbished (reconditioned) iPhone, which Apple regards as “new” nonetheless. Refurbished iPhone is giving to Apple customers who claim warranty for faulty, defective, spoilt, DOA (dead on arrival) or scratched iPhone as replacement, and consumers can purchase refurbished iPhone as lower price from Apple or AT&T and Verizon when available for sales.

While refurbished iPhone is as good as new iPhone, some people may not like to get a reconditioned iPhone, which has been used by somebody else before, although the returned iPhone may still be an undamaged, fully functional condition and even brand new condition, where the reason for return can be as simple as phone returned for refund, box damaged, simple cosmetic damaged, exchanged over incompatibility or overstocking, and is not necessarily due to defects.

However, refurbished iPhone on retail through Apple Store or its authorized resellers are generally has a shorter warranty period, which normally runs for 3 months. The exception is refurbished iPhone that is given as replacement for iPhone sent in for warranty claim, where it will follow original iPhone warranty expiry date. The warranty of iPhone can be checked at

To find out if an iPhone is a new or refurbished set, the information “may be” able to retrieve by decoding iPhone serial number (not IMEI number).

Most of the refurbished iPhone will have serial number which starts with 5K. If you have a phone which its serial number starts with 5K, it’s highly likely that it’s a refurbished mobile phone. The first two digits of iPhone indicates its factory code.

Tip: To check the iPhone’s serial number, open Settings app, and go to General -> About.

Brand new iPhone with never return to Apple will have serial number starts with a variety of characters, with the exception of 5K. However, even if the smartphone’s serial number is not starting with 5K, it does not mean that it can’t be a reconditioned iPhone. As a result, the second clue to tell if the iPhone is refurbished is by through the box. Refurbished iPhone normally comes in white or black box which simply stated Apple Certified.

In addition, another indicator for an exchange set of iPhone is by looking at model number. The model number of exchanged iPhone normally ends with LL, original set ends with other characters, such as ZA, CA, BA, XA and etc for iPhone 4 and 3Gs.

Now that the secret to determine a refurbished iPhone is out, can you insist on a brand new iPhone as replacement if your relatively new iPhone spoilt? Chance is low though, as according to the Apple’s terms of iPhone limited warranty, if a hardware defect arises and a valid claim is received within the Warranty Period, at its option and to the extent permitted by law, Apple will either:

  1. repair the hardware defect at no charge, using new parts or refurbished parts that are equivalent to new in performance and reliability,
  2. exchange the product with a product that is new or refurbished that is equivalent to new in performance and reliability and is at least functionally equivalent to the original product, or
  3. refund the purchase price of the product.

If your luck is good, you may get a replacement iPhone with serial number which is not starting with 5K. These replacement iPhones, though not in official iPhone box, “may be” brand new phones used for replacement purposes, especially in the initial launch period where there is not many returned phone for refurbishing or reconditioning.