Is it worth doing renovations like Swappie or Back Market?

The packaging looks nothing. It’s a bit of a disappointment. New Apple hardware is properly presented. But this phone isn’t from the manufacturer, it’s from Swappie. A chipped white cardboard box is not pretty but functional in a bubble wrap envelope.

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The Finnish company Swappie is an important brand in the renovation market. The start-up specializes in iPhones and rents a test device for inspection. The iPhone 13 is supposedly not new, it is supposed to look “very good”, but it cannot be distinguished from a new product. The battery not only has over 80% promised, but it works like new. The operating time does not differ noticeably from the new device. Even after a week of testing, a refurbished iPhone behaves like a new device.

Our Swappie test device looks even better than the supplier we describe.

Swappie: not new, not new

Such experiences are not uncommon. At least Maurizio Hein, Country Manager Germany at Swappie, can insist on an “excellent rating” on platforms such as Trustpilot and Trusted Shops. The company also sells in Germany since 2020, it is growing rapidly and it depends on good ratings. Only iPhones are sold.

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Hein refers to the 52-step reprocessing process that every cell phone goes through in the company’s own workshop. Hein describes the focus on Apple as a strength: it allows the company to focus on one technology, combine expertise, and work cost-effectively.

Swappie cell phones don’t come cheap. The almost new iPhone from the test order costs 879 euros – instead of 1019 euros for a new device with the same functions from Apple. Cell phones are even cheaper in Swappie if they don’t look “very good” but only “good” – but not every iPhone is available in all conditions.

Experienced seller: the reverse market

More and more suppliers have been operating in the renewed market for many years. But aside from Apple hardware, prices are noticeably lowered, but not in the basement. One of the best known and experienced suppliers is Back Market. There are top models such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G for around 500 euros – with hardware that costs over 100 euros more as new.

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Back Market was founded in 2014, sells in Germany since 2016 and in addition to iPhones also has “more than 180 product categories” with “tablets, laptops, wearables, accessories, game consoles, Airpods and household appliances” like Martin Hügli , CEO for Germany, explains. His company does not renovate any devices itself, but cooperates with approximately 1,500 conservators, sets quality standards and gives an additional guarantee.

claim the right to repair

Hügli pushes aside the idea of ​​competing with suppliers such as Swappie. His priority is another mission: “To be the engine of the circular economy”. Back Market has emerged from a circle of activists demanding the right to repair. Consumption should be more sustainable. Hügli would like suppliers to produce cell phones that are easy to repair.

Unfortunately, this has been an exception so far. “A wide range of high-quality and inexpensive repair options” is the focus of the movement. This includes not only a solid remanufactured electronics market, but also genuine spare parts at fair prices to allow repairs by workshops and private individuals.

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The Swappies also see themselves as benefactors: they believe that “sustainability and quality don’t have to be expensive,” says Maurizio Hein. If you look at the entire life cycle of a cell phone, the “CO” emissions of a cell phone drop by a third when used for a year longer, he calculates.

What should you watch out for the equipment you are using?

As a rule, also consumer protection does not raise objections. Ann-Katrin Fornika of the Lower Saxony e. V. consumer center knows that there is a very common problem with counterfeit mobile phone shops, but mostly new goods. So far, it has not found any common problems with refurbished appliances. If you carefully check that the seller is reputable before buying, you have nothing to worry about when purchasing a refurbished device.

However, there are a few things to note. Fornika knows that if a device fails to meet expectations, consumers have a 14-day right of withdrawal, as with all internet transactions. Cancellation by registered mail and clear photos of the advertised goods are important in the event of discrepancies – but the market after renovation is no different from other online stores.

Accurate information on the state of the mobile phone

Device status information has so far varied from provider to provider. “It is usually divided into different categories and each store contains different information,” explains Fornika. Unfortunately, so far there have been no legal requirements that would make the situation between suppliers comparable. For example, the Back Market classifies cell phones as “good”, “very good” and “excellent” while Swappie classifies them as “fair”, “very good” and “as new”.

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And while the “very good” condition of the Back Market allows only “minor scratches”, the Swappie may also have “clearly visible signs of use” – which our test device does not show at all. If you want accurate information about the condition of a device before purchasing it, Fornika has a slightly troublesome but simple tip: ask directly in the store.

The renovated market is interesting for price and environmental conscious people. He’s not back to normal yet. This is exactly what Swappie manager Hein wants: “to make buying a refurbished smartphone as normal as buying a used car.” Until then, a few standards are probably still missing. But the industry is on the right track.

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