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Apple and Samsung lead the market for refurbished phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Vs Iphone 12 Pro
(Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The market for refurbished smartphones grew 15% from 2020 to 2021.
  • Apple leads when it comes to secondary devices, while Samsung continues to close the gap.
  • Prices of refurbished phones has increased as 4G retains its value.
  • The U.S. trails other regions when it comes to purchasing refurbished or pre-owned smartphones.

Earth Day 2022 is coming up, which means it's time to take a look at our sustainability efforts over the past year and figure out ways we can further contribute. Purchasing refurbished phones is one way to go green as it helps reduce e-waste. A new report shows that the global market for refurbished smartphones grew in 2021 by 15% compared to 2020.

According to Counterpoint Research, refurbished phone volumes increased more than new smartphone shipments in 2021, which could highlight the increased cost of new flagship phones in recent years, particularly the best Android phones from OEMs like Samsung. The report notes that Apple leads the market for refurbished smartphones while Samsung continues to close the gap thanks to its efforts to sell more popular devices to its Certified Re-Newed Store. Apple also has a similar Certified Refurbished program that fully tests phones so they perform "like new," and the company recently revealed that 20% of the materials used to build its 2021 products were recycled.

Factors for growth in refurbished phones

(Image credit: Counterpoint Research)

Trade-ins were one of the fastest-growing sources for pre-owned smartphones. Jeff Fieldhack, research director at Counterpoint Research, notes how this correlates with the increase in new flagship sales. "The US and EU secondary markets bounced back in 2021," says Fieldhack. "In the US, new Apple and Samsung flagship sales increased, which in turn increased the volumes of collected devices at carriers and other collection channels. On the consumption side, amid increasing insurance attach rates, the use of CPO (certified pre-owned) devices as insurance replacements increased during 2021."

Fieldhack notes that preowned devices are becoming more appealing thanks to their increased durability. For instance, Samsung's Certified Re-Newed Store rebuilds phones with new batteries and other parts, thoroughly inspecting them to make them work like new. They also come with the same 1-year warranty as any new Galaxy smartphone.

That said, even as consumers look to pre-owned devices to avoid the higher costs of new flagships, refurbished phones are also seeing an increase in cost. "ASPs (average selling prices) of refurbished smartphones increased marginally as 4G devices still retained value," says Counterpoint Research Senior Analyst Glen Cardoza. This is likely the case for newer 5G smartphones as well, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which can be purchased for $1000 from Samsung's Certified Re-Newed Store before trade-ins and other deals.

Interestingly, Counterpoint Research finds that when it comes to buying pre-owned and refurbished devices, China has a clear lead over everyone else, with the U.S. trailing behind Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and India.

Global refurbished smartphone market by region 2020 vs 2021

(Image credit: Counterpoint Research)

Even so, there are plenty of other ways for users to go green. Both Samsung and Google have partnered with iFixit in order to provide genuine smartphone parts to consumers, allowing owners to hold onto their devices for longer while ensuring proper recycling of old parts.

There are also plenty of ways to recycle and donate your old Android phone, so you can ensure it gets put to good use by someone who may need it.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra $1000 $550 at Samsung (opens in new tab)

Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra may be a year old, but it still offers great specs, a fantastic design, an extremely versatile camera array, and S Pen support. Plus, picking it up refurbished means you get the same warranty as a new Galaxy phone.

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.