A used cell phone might be the perfect connection
Want to equip the whole family
with cell phones without going into debt?
With a little digging, you can find great deals on
used cell phones with voice mail, caller ID and call waiting, all
without the things you don't want: monthly bills, credit checks,
lengthy contracts, age restrictions, activation fees and complicated
Cellular providers such as AT&T Wireless, Cingular
and U.S. Cellular, as well as resellers such as TracFone, frequently
run online specials on refurbished phones as a way to boost sales,
particularly of prepaid calling plans.
Granted, your used mobile phone won't have all the
up-to-the-nanosecond bells and whistles of the latest camera phones
and gaming models. But for basic calling, voice mail and even text
messaging, your used unit will be indistinguishable from the top
of the line. Only you will know that you paid little or no money
Case in point: TracFone offers a reconditioned Nokia
5125 cell phone and 100 prepaid anytime, anywhere minutes for $29.99
at its online store. Since that's the normal retail price of 100
TracFone minutes, you in effect get the Nokia handset for free.
"It's a value, especially if it's an emergency
phone," says TracFone's Sherri Pfefer. "Take families
traveling in the summer: You go to a big amusement park and everybody
splits up. For $30, you can give the other group a phone and be
in constant communication with them and not have to worry. There's
no monthly bill, no contract, no worry. You can activate the phone
to whatever state you're going to, as long as the technologies match."
Although your refurbished TracFone comes with a 30-day
warranty instead of the usual one-year coverage, Pfefer says there's
little risk involved.
"A majority of our refurbs are returns from customers
back to the retailers that then get sent here," she says. "The
majority of our phones have never been used; they were the wrong
technology, they got them as a gift, things like that."
If you're not averse to signing on for a monthly plan,
AT&T Wireless recently offered a refurbished Siemens C56 for
$29.99 as part of its GoPhone plan. Cingular and U.S. Cellular also
have made reconditioned cell phones available through their retail
Used cellular phones may be little more than a curiosity here in
the United States, but there is an unquenchable market for our castoffs
in developing countries where landline phones are prohibitively
expensive, according to Chuck Newman, CEO of ReCellular Inc. of
Dexter, Mich., the nation's oldest and largest cell phone refurbishing
"Price becomes a very attractive feature for
anybody trying, often for the first time in their life, to have
access to basic telephony," says Newman. "Certainly for
the phones we are selling, this is more often than not their only
ReCellular takes discarded handsets from charitable
collection drives, retailer returns and trade-ins, refurbishes them,
and sells them to buyers around the world. The discards they receive
run the gamut from antique to tricked-out.
"The typical phone that we receive is maybe 18
months old. The newer ones, we tend to remanufacture and sell here
in the U.S. and the older ones go overseas to be used for basic
voice telephony," he says. "About 70 percent of our products
end up overseas somewhere: South America, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan,
This year, ReCellular will recycle over 4 million
handsets and return $10 million to the charities that collect them.
"For us, change is good," Newman says. "The
shorter the period of time that someone owns a phone before they
change it, the better it is for us. Unlike conventional manufacturers,
our sales are not limited by the number of units we can sell; it's
the number of units we can buy. The market is pretty much insatiable
relative to the number of phones that we can get our hands on."
That's because, until recently, most U.S. cellular
phones operated on either TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) or
CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology, while the rest
of the world's cell phones were GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).