Photo of an iPhone with an uncertain lineage
Benj Edwards / How-To Geek
To check if your iPhone was refurbished, open the Settings app and go to General > About. If the mode number starts with F, then your iPhone was refurbished by Apple or a carrier.

After buying a used iPhone, you might wonder about its history. When first sold, did it leave Apple as a brand new device or one that had been previously refurbished? Luckily, there’s an easy way to tell. Here’s how.

Find Your iPhone’s Model Number

Open the Settings app and navigate to General > About.

Launch settings and tap About

Once you tap on About, you’ll be presented with a list of important information about the iPhone, including the device’s name, its software version, and a model number.

Find your iPhone model number

Pay careful attention to the model number, because this will reveal the origin of the iPhone.

  • If the model number starts with M, it was purchased new from Apple.
  • If the model number starts with F, it was refurbished by Apple or a carrier.
  • If the model number starts with P, it was sold as a personalized iPhone with an engraving.
  • If the model number starts with N, Apple provided it as a replacement device for a malfunctioning iPhone.

If you find that your phone was refurbished, it is not necessarily cause for alarm. Apple puts its Certified Refurbished products through a rigorous process that makes them like-new. They clean each unit thoroughly, replace any broken parts if necessary, and change the battery and the outer shell.

In general, Apple Certified Refurbished products look and operate like brand new iPhones, but for legal reasons, Apple cannot sell them as new. Apple typically offers these refurbished products at a sizable discount, so they can be a great deal.

Carriers such as AT&T and Verizon also refurbish iPhones and sell them at a discount. Unlike Apple, they may not change out the battery or provide a new 1-year warranty on the phone. (You can check the warranty status on your iPhone by visiting Apple’s warranty site and entering the device’s serial number.)

Third-Party Refurbished Devices

If your phone was previously refurbished by an independent repair operation that isn’t authorized by Apple, the model number would not necessarily reflect that. Few third-party vendors have the stringent standards for refurbishment as Apple does, so it is best to avoid third-party refurbished devices if possible.

While knowing the Apple-based origins of your iPhone won’t make much difference in how it functions—that depends more on how previous owners treated it—it’s always good to be more informed, and this quick tip does the job.

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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