Buying Used Mobile Phones in Sri Lanka – A Buyer’s Guide

As you know Sri Lankan mobile phone market is growing at a rapid pace. One reason for this is the wide availability of mobile phones at low cost compared to many other countries as a result of less duties and restrictions on the import of mobile phones. And the other reason is the cut-throat competition among the network operators allowing low tariffs.

Well, although almost all brands of mobile phones on earth are available in Sri Lanka, most of us would not be having the phone we would have dreamed to have due to the affordability factors. So the alternative for this is to buy a used (or second hand)  mobile phone (aha! just got to the point!). However in most cases no second hand phone seller will offer any sort of warranty; and if you meet the seller online then you will never find the fellow again after the sale. So lets talk about buying a used mobile phone from a buyers perspective (well, most of the matters discussed here could be applied when buying a new phone too).


Where to find a used mobile phone?
Well if you are working in an office, most probably would find some other employee who does (or famous of) buying and selling used mobile phones. Or if you just see around for mobile phone vendors you would probably find a shop which sells both brand new and used phones. (this is because most of the shops do trade-in business whereby you give your existing phone along with an extra amount of money for a new phone). Or else you can find a seller on the internet thru our site.
Decide on the Phone you want
We suggest you first decide on the brand and model you want to buy rather than buying what is available. Its a good idea to predetermine what key functions you expect from your next phone (For instance you would be more interested in a good camera as opposed to MP3 music); Google can help you find the phone with the features you like. You can also use our phone comparison tool to compare potential phones and decide on what you exactly need.
Get to know the details of the phone you decided upon.
Once you have selected the phone, you need to be knowledgeable about it. The more you know it, the less possibility there for being ripped off by someone. You can do several things:
Read and understand the phone’s technical specifications 
Best way is to use the use the manufacturer’s official site. Or just Google you can find many other sources.
Read reviews of the phone selected
Use reviews available online; you can check out phone review sites and forums for user reviews; Note whether there are any inherent weaknesses in the phone. (For instance if the phone has a weak battery many users may have complained that the battery dries up quickly) So you must read as many reviews as possible

Get to know the codes available for the phone


Well if you are going to buy a popular brand then there may be secret codes available for checking some important information about the phone (For instance, codes for checking the date of manufacture and talk time)


Check out the price
Well you need to know the prices under several circumstances. One is the brand new price at the authorized dealer in Sri Lanka (For instance, for a Nokia phone, price quoted by Softlogic)
Then the brand new price in the outside Market (we suggest you just go to few shops and check out the price) Normally the price at the authorized dealer is higher than in the outside market. Well sometimes in the outside market there is a price variation based on the country of origin. For instance a Finland made Nokia may be more expensive than the China made Nokia; this is true in the case of used phones too. However  manufacturers never say that the quality varies on the country of origin. So its up to you to decide whether you need to pay more for a European country name.
However in most cases parts are manufactured in European countries and then assembled in Asian countries (possibly due to the availability of cheap labor). Generally we (LankaPhones Team) not pay much attention to the country of origin as long as the phone is not a fake of the brand we presume to buy. (So there is a risk that you may purchase a Chinese clone of a popular brand! We suggest you just read our previous post on Chinese phones to find out more on this)
Finally and most importantly you need have some idea of the average second hand market price for the phone; it may not be easy; you can check out at the shops that sell second hand phones; also check out the classified ad sites.

What factor (should?) determine the second hand market price of a mobile phone?
Well there are quite a few factors; Following seem to be more emphasized
  • Physical condition – whatever said & done, this is the most important factor to consider. You need to put the highest weight on this factor. Check out whether there is any sign of a physical damage to the phone; Check carefully whether there are any scratches on the screen; then check out the features of the phone in the light of the knowledge you gathered previously.


    However testing each and every feature may not be practical. At least test the basic functions such as Switching on & off, Making a call, sending an SMS, taking photo with the Camera, listening to Radio, sending some file thru Bluetooth, listening to some MP3s, changing the SIM & memory chips, using headset, browsing internet etc. If possible try to install some applications (if it is a smartphone you try to install a native OS program and a Java program if Java is said to be in the phone in specifications)


    Make sure you at least play with the phone for half an hour. Also note the battery level at the beginning and recheck after sometime of heavy use (we suggest you keep playing Music Player or Radio for the half an hour) if you notice a drastic decrease in the battery level that may be a sign of a weak battery.

  • Date of manufacture and talk time up to date – You should check these with the use of the codes you got to know before. Make the seller feel you are a mobile phone guru! If the phone is made recently or talk time less then it may be a factor for a higher price; however there is no way to be sure that this information is 100% correct because there are ways to change this information (specially if you are buying a smartphone, its not advisable to have much faith on this information)
  • Country of origin – well this too has become a price deciding factor, if the phone is of European origin it is likely to have a higher price(colonial mentality??); however as we mentioned earlier, manufacturers never say that the quality varies on the country of origin. So its up-to you to decide whether you need to pay more for a European country name.

Other factors to consider:-

  • Robbed, lost or stolen phones – Well if you don’t know the seller, there is a risk that the phone being sold is a stolen or robbed one. If so your new phone dream might end up in Police since now TRC can direct the Operators to find the person who is using a phone with a particular number. You need to be specially  careful when the seller has only the phone (No full accessories set with the box); If there is the box, just compare the serial number (IMEI) mentioned on the box and the phone are the same. However you cant always ask the seller to show the documentary evidence on the ownership; Besides seller would not like to disclose the price he/she bought. It is always better to have some document setting out details of the seller and buyer and the agreement to sell the phone.

  • Locked phones-In most of the foreign countries, popular method of using a phone is enter into contract with the network operator, which will provide the SIM card and the phone; the user then will have to pay the cost of the phone (including a call package) in monthly installments. However the phone is locked to the network he/she contracted with. This means the user cant just pay one installment, get the phone and throw away the SIM and buy a new SIM from another operator and use the phone. However these locked phones are widely available in Sri Lanka and also there are many people who does unlocking with the use of some hacking software. Remember this unlocking may be illegal and may result in legal actions.

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