Why do people buy broken iPhones

Buy a defective iPhone, repair it cheaply - a good idea?

Stephan Wiesend

iPhone with minor damage is often very cheap on Ebay, in theory you could save a lot of money there.

EnlargeReports of bricked iPhone 6 after supposedly harmless damage unsettled
© Fotolia.com, JK Photos

If you have ever replaced a battery in an old iPhone and upgraded your Macs yourself, you might ask yourself: Isn't it possible to get a new iPhone cheaply this way? There are thousands of iPhones on Ebay that are sold as defective. Thanks to Chinese direct importers, spare parts for older models are also surprisingly cheap, iFixit explains every repair step-by-step. Surely you can save hundreds of euros there?

Our result: No way! A search on Ebay yields 1,255 defective iPhones in Germany alone, but there are hardly any interesting bargains among them. For most of them, a repair just doesn't make economic sense if you look at the description a little more closely. So you should know that repairing completely harmless small defects on the iPhone can take hours.

Defective battery is not considered damage

One of the biggest criticisms of the iPhone was and is the built-in battery. However, you can get an installation kit from Amazon for 20 euros and countless repair services can carry out the exchange within just under thirty minutes.

With an iPhone or iPad, for example, a defective or barely viable battery is no reason for a high discount in the tough Ebay reality, the discount is usually only small. Obviously, the “swarm intelligence” works excellently on eBay when it comes to pricing. After all, an iPhone is known, valuable and sought after. This ensures high demand and high prices, especially at auctions. At best, via the “Buy it now” option, you may occasionally find providers who rate the value too low.

With other defects, however, it quickly becomes confusing.

"A new battery and a new display were recently installed."

The above description does not appear that seldom on Ebay. Apparently the seller replaced the battery and display, but the iPhone is still defective. We suspect: The provider also had the idea of ​​repairing a defective iPhone cheaply. And not every hobbyist is as honest as this seller: "The cell phone belonged to my nephew, who damaged it when he replaced the battery." After all, attempts to repair it often make it worse.

One of the most common iPhone damages is a broken display. The display is covered by a glass plate that breaks quickly if it falls. A simple damage can be easily repaired with an exchange display. With the iPhone, however, this assumes that only the display has to be replaced and that the frame and other parts of the iPhone are not damaged. In addition, you cannot be sure that only the display glass is really damaged. The case may be bent and should also be replaced; good product photos from the provider could help here. But maybe the previous owner damaged the mainboard while trying to repair it. And then you not only wasted money on the defective iPhone, but also on the replacement part. Replacing the glass is also not entirely harmless. The repair can literally be “eye-catching”. Safety glasses are therefore mandatory.

EnlargeAccording to iFixit, changing the back cover is one of the most complex repairs ever.

Starting with the iPhone 5s, you also have to be careful not to damage the cable to the home button. Only the original TouchID sensor can guarantee the TouchID function.

"Has fallen in water for a short time!"

Stay away from devices with water damage, the consequences cannot be foreseen here. Water damage can be completely harmless, but of course iPhones with water damage that no longer work are sold. And then the mainboard and maybe many other components are defective - that is, a total write-off. In contrast to other defective devices, these iPhones may not even be suitable as spare parts dispensers. You shouldn't be fooled by such well-intentioned advice as "This shouldn't be a problem for a hobbyist".

iCloud lock

For 80 euros you get a completely intact iPhone 5S with an iCloud lock. This lock can only be released by the old owner. This can happen after the company is liquidated, for example, or the owner at the time simply forgot about it before the sale. In earlier years you could have the devices activated by Apple, for understandable reasons not anymore today. Too often there was still personal data on these devices, Apple asks for the original invoice. It is not possible to activate it yourself, even if dubious providers offer this via a so-called Doulci server. In view of the user comments, we dare to doubt whether this will work reliably. As a spare part donor, these iCloud devices are not uninteresting.

EnlargeYou can get an iPhone with iCloud lock for 40 euros ...

The iCloud lock is a detail that you should always pay attention to: fair sellers already mention the iCloud lock in the title of the offer, with others you quickly overlook this detail: "The iPhone is sold as defective because the display is defective (that Glass is okay) and because the device has not been logged out of the iCloud. "The defective display is then the smaller problem ...

Difference between software and hardware damage

Maybe only one installation failed and, as an experienced iOS connoisseur, you could simply reset the iPhone? This, too, is very likely a myth. If an installation fails repeatedly, hardware damage is very likely. By the way, there are some typical error messages that indicate hardware damage, including the error messages with the numbers 1, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 56, 1002, 1004, 1011, 1012, 1014, 1667, 1669. You should refrain from buying them.

You can quickly change the back cover

Before buying the super cheap iPhone, you should find out about the repair costs. “The power button needs to be repaired” sounds harmless, but according to iFixit it is one of the most difficult repairs. A lot has to be installed and removed.

Replacing a damaged case back is even more complicated. A new housing shell costs only 15 euros, but to replace it you have to dismantle the entire iPhone and reassemble it again without accidents. iFixit sets aside two to three hours for this - and it takes longer without practice. Finally, you need 73 steps for disassembly and another 73 for reassembly! Whereby, according to the comments, some steps are missing.

Repairing the volume buttons on the iPhone 5s is also extremely cumbersome.

EnlargeReplacing the volume control is not for gross motor skills.


Even experienced hobbyists should be very careful with defective iPhones. The descriptions are often insufficient and the real damage cannot be foreseen. At least on Ebay, you can rarely find real bargains - the iPhone is simply too popular and Ebay too well-known for that.