Tablet for sale

Before parting with any Android device, review this hardware and software checklist

With the ever-growing Android market, more and more people are buying and selling Android phones and tablets every day. Some people — like myself — depend on the value of their used devices to purchase the latest and greatest. But before shipping that phone or tablet off to its new owner, it is vital to make sure everything important has been removed.

The top concern for many folks in this position is that of privacy protection. Personal information like phone numbers, emails, and compromising pictures are things nobody wants falling into the wrong hands. It's also a good idea not to send any "extras" along with the device, like any one of the cards (microSD, SIM, etc.) that could be hiding in various nooks and crannies of any Android phone or tablet.

Of course, before removing any hardware or erasing any data, you'll want to backup the important things to keep or transfer to another device. Whether it be applications, music, or family photos, it needs to be correctly copied over to removable storage on the device itself or to a personal computer.

Let's get started.

Hardware

There are many different Android devices out there, each with a different hardware layout. This article would be much too long to include specific instructions for every phone and tablet, however it shouldn't be hard to spot the following if you look carefully enough.

Remove your SIM card

SIM card

Most phones and many tablets use one of these to access a cellular network for voice, text, and data -- it will need to be transferred to your new device (unless you got a new SIM card or switched carriers). Devices that don't use a SIM card are non-LTE CDMA devices (older hardware on Sprint and Verizon) and WiFi-only tablets.

If your device has a removable back, chances are the SIM card is visible once the back cover and/or battery are removed. Devices without removable back panels should have a SIM card slot somewhere along the device's outside edge — a special tool that came with the device may be needed to pop the SIM card out. (Alternatively a fine needle or paperclip pay do the trick.)

Remove your SD card (if the phone has one)

SD card

This is something you definitely do not want to accidentally leave in a device before giving it away. Larger capacity microSD cards can cost upwards of $50. While not as common today, many older phones had SD card slots. Examples of newer devices that have them are the Samsung Galaxy S4 and many tablets. Like the SIM card slot, the SD card slot is usually behind the removable back plate or somewhere along the device's edge. The slot may be spring loaded, so try pushing before pulling.

Accessories

Bumper case

These items are commonly sold or given away with a device, however in the case of selling the accessories separately or using them for a second device in your possession, they should not be overlooked.

If your device has a removable battery (many newer phones and most tablets do not), make sure no aftermarket/extended battery is in the device. It should be easy to tell the original battery since it probably has the original equipment manufacturer's name on it. (If in doubt, try Googling the part number printed on the battery.)

Was your device's case part of the sale? If not, and you want it, take it off -- especially if it's one of those expensive battery cases. While this would seem like a no-brainer, some cases -- like the official Nexus 4 bumper -- are easily missed.

Since most screen protectors are not reusable, and even the ones that are are probably scratched, used protectors are of little value. If the screen protector currently on your device is in bad shape, however, do the courteous thing and remove it for the next owner.

Software

Data handling is probably the most important thing when selling or giving away a device. Not only do you not want to lose all those family photos and your Bieber song collection, but you don't want the next owner to have access to your Google accounts, data, and media. 

Back up personal data

OSX Desktop

Most folks' biggest concern when backing up data is saving their photos and videos. If your device has an SD card, it may be as easy as removing the card and connecting it to a computer (or first copying to the SD card, then onto a computer). If the multimedia is stored on internal memory, you'll need to connect the device to a computer via USB cable. Once connected, you'll be able to drag and drop any files you want to keep (including photos and videos) onto your computer. 

Nexus devices and many tablets tablet store photos and videos in a folder called "DCIM." If you use both the camera app that came with your device and a 3rd party camera app (e.g. Shot Control), be careful -- there may be a separate photo/video folder for the 3rd party camera app.

The other common concern when backing up is transferring apps and their data to another device. Those with rooted devices probably already have a backup app like Titanium Backup installed. For the rest of us, Koush's Carbon Backup should do the trick.

Remember that as long as your contacts, email, etc. are linked to your Google account, they are already backed up in the cloud and will restore themselves automatically once you sign in on another device. If they aren't linked, make sure to use a carrier service or a 3rd party app to back anything you need up.

Wipe data (factory reset)

Wipe data

Once you're absolutely, positively, 100% sure you have everything you need backed up, you can wipe your device squeaky clean. There are a couple ways to do this. You can boot into recovery and use the factory reset/wipe data command, or go the more user-friendly route and go to Settings > Backup & reset > Factory data reset (if you don't have menu options exactly like this, you should have something very similar). This will erase everything on your device. If you're presented with checkboxes asking if you want to wipe external or internal storage, be sure to check these too.

When the device restarts, it should boot into some kind of welcome screen -- just like when it was booted up out of the box. After the reset, you can reboot to check and make sure everything is gone, if you so choose. If you're leaving an SD card in the device for the next owner, be sure to delete all its contents too. A factory reset does not always wipe removable SD cards.

If you've rooted and ROM'd your device, it would be a good idea to go back to the place where you got the tools to do so and find a guide to completely restore your device to its factory state. For Nexus devices, this includes flashing a factory image and relocking the bootloader. If you have no idea what any of this means, this probably doesn't apply to you — unless you let someone else monkey with your phone or tablet. If you need to do this and forgot how, there are lots of helpful guides and information in your device's specific forum.

The bottom line

While the above are all simple things, they are very important things -- which is why we're mentioning them here. The used Android market is very large and important to people who don't want to or can't afford $600+ for a brand new device. While I'd like to give Android users -- especially those savvy enough to read Android Central -- the benefit of the doubt, it's better to remove what you need or don't want the next user to have, before it gets into their hands. That way we can spent more time on the fun things, and less on worrying about whether or not the people that got our private data are dishonest.

 

Reader comments

What to do before giving away or selling your Android phone or tablet

32 Comments

If I've unlocked my device and no do a factory reset on it will it then lock it to a certain network? I'm hoping not...

No. Doesn't matter if you change the ROM, perform a factory reset, etc.
Once you unlock a phone, it is unlocked forever....

Back in the day, with a Galaxy Captivate; I had used a code to unlock the SIM. After a reset I did have to key in the code again. That phone went thru 3 more resets but it never again asked for the code again. From what I hear it's very unlikely it will lock the SIM after a reset.

You have no clue what you're talking about. I could unlock and relock a Nexus device 1000 times in a day and you would never know it. It is most definitely NOT unlocked forever.

Not necessarily. I'd bought a used, unlocked AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II, from a reseller. A T-Mobile SIM card worked fine in it. Phone was not rooted. Recently the phone broke (bad power button), and I had Samsung repair it. But the returned phone has been reset - and is now *locked to AT&T again*. It considers the T-Mobile SIM card to be invalid and demands an unlock code.

AT&T won't deal with me - I'm not their customer and don't know who the original customer had been. Samsung and T-Mobile say they can't help either. I'm asking the mobile reseller for their help, but we'll see.

I have to think that's what was meant here; on a Galaxy S3 the factory reset does not wipe the SD card, I know that for sure.

"If the screen protector currently on your device is in bad shape, however, do the courteous thing and remove it for the next owner."

Why wouldn't you leave it on and let the next owner decide if they want it or not?

You usually have to check a box in security to wipe a external SD Card. I have not had a device since the OG DROID that ever did that. The droid didn't either. Personally I would never send a used SD Card on to a new owner. But that's just me.

Posted via Android Central App

I always make sure to format the entire device when it comes to devices like the Galaxy S2. Even doing a factory reset will leave photos and such on the device.

Format the device, then do the factory reset.

I will add that if you have an older CDMA device (Sprint, Verizon, US Celluler, etc.) you should still check for the presence of a SIM card and take it off if you find it. Some non-LTE "world phones" from these carriers still use a SIM card for international roaming and even if you haven't traveled internationally, it might still have been provisioned with your phone number and other account data.

If your worried about some criminal master mind just do the factory reset than fill that bad boy with the same picture over and over again. Either with computer or application. Copy, paste, select all and repeat until full. I recommend computer because copying large amounts of data with apps can be a little force close marathon. Than sell or give it away with said picture intact just for laughs.

The only problem with that is the wear leveling algorithm that flash memory uses will try to ensure that the same blocks aren't overwritten repeatedly, as flash memory blocks deteriorate as the number of writes increases.

I once got a used device with tons of porn on it. Was the best day ever.

Posted from my Nexus 4 via Android Central App

The article does not mention that the backup for non rooted devices requires the $4.99 premium version to work via dropbox or box. I have a Galaxy Nexus no SD card slot. Why require me to connect phone to a computer IF I can't store my backup there? I just received a replacement device and just let wanted to bring some game data over.

Posted via Android Central App

I have a new tablet, name not shown. I completed a factory reset following the on screen instructions. It came back to life with the time showing and the basic three commands, bottom left hand corner. I have pressed the red circle in the center of the screen as instructed.I now have a cross which moves from corner to corner, clockwise and the into the middle. Then the same thing happens what ever I press. Help please.

I believe I have answered my own question. I dragged the cross around the screen( clockwise) with finger pressure and into the middle. After about three goes the red/white circle re-appeared and the android has come back to life. It is a pity that such detail is not included in any instructions.

Ya you definitely want to erase your data before selling anything. I just sold my iPhone 5 to Buymax at www.mybuymax.com and I accidentally left my data on. They were nice enough to let me know that everything they get is wiped no matter if its already been pre-wiped.

My husband died and I want to give the tablet to his brother so he can read the books that were downloaded. If I do the reset suggested, I assume the books would be lost but I would like personal info off the tablet so what would be suggested for that?

Hi, just stumbled upon this site, I am not computer savvy so this was very helpful. I am getting rid of a Samsung Ellipis 7 and want to make sure its cleared out. I have done the factory reset. Is there anyway to clear a SIM card?