I purchased my first iPhone for use as a daily device in February 2016. It was a 128GB Space Grey iPhone 6 S Plus, second-hand, from someone who had purchased it from and used it on Verizon. This was great, because until some time in 2018, Verizon had kept their phones carrier-unlocked starting some years earlier.
Eighteen months on, and not terribly interested in the iPhone 7, the 8 was now a big step up. The X, as tempting as it looked, was just a bit too much different for me to look at it seriously. What I mostly wanted from a replacement phone was exactly the device I had in my hand already, just better. The 9 Plus was that.
I shopped locally for used/new devices on some classifieds and fished for fresh devices. This was also tempered by the fact that I could just go to T-Mobile or Apple and buy the phone outright. The price difference was minimal, but the risk wasn’t. I’ve been diligent in buying used phones, though not going as far as IMEI checks. There’s just a _feeling_ you get sometimes which makes you avoid things…
So, when a Space Grey 64GB iPhone 8 Plus, new in box, on T-Mobile popped up for $600, I had the hook in my mouth. This was $200 bucks off the MSRP, not taking sales tax into consideration. It also had two-years of AppleCare+ to boot. It looked too good to be true, but the seller sounded very reasonable and wasn’t being cagey, but neither was I asking the questions I should have.
Deal done, I swapped my SIM card in and got to using the phone. it was everything I’d wanted, with no surprises, and all was well. Figuring that my luck was just good, and that the device’s past wouldn’t catch up to it, I thought little more of it than to tell it as a story.
The story didn’t end there.
In late March 2018, after owning the 8 Plus for six months, I glanced at my phone one evening and saw the “No Service” message displayed next to my WiFi signal. Curious, I poked around, restarted the phone, and it showed the same message. The following day I didn’t look much at the device, but did get a phone call successfully, which was unusual in retrospect. Another day in, and I figured I’d call T-Mobile to find out what was going on.
The very helpful representative walked me most of the way through resolving this, which he was confident amounted to a security issue. In finalizing the steps to unlock the device, which had, according to the T-Mobile site, been reported “Lost or Stolen”, he hesitated. This was something different, and I mentioned that I thought I’d been the third party in the scenario where insurance fraud was concerned. The phone, as it sat, was now useless on any carrier in North America, and T-Mobile could not do anything about it permanently. Any unlock would be re-locked quickly. Oops.
Six months in my phone was now a 5.5″ 64GB iPod Touch with a REALLY nice camera setup. This was annoying, but I was quickly self-deprecating and admitted that it was silly and stupid of me to buy the device in that situation, knowing that the risks were high.
The representative noted my long tenure at T-Mobile, offered a generous amount of credit for signing up to get a new, working device, and eventually worked with me to pick up a new iPhone X less than 10 miles from my house. This was a pretty painless process, and even though I was at fault, everyone was very willing to work with me. A good deal is sometimes too hard to pass up, and the hook is seated very firmly in the cheek.
New iPhone X in hand, now I needed to decide what to do with the 8 Plus. i could keep it as a browsing device, with a great camera, or for parts if I did decide the X wasn’t for me (still undecided). I mostly wanted to ignore it for a few days, and try to get used to the smaller X screen, then return to it when I settled on what i was going to do.
A few days later, I typed “iPhone 8 Plus b” into eBay and found a whole list of phones with bad IMEI and ESN numbers for sale, and many sold. The prices were good, really good. More of the population of the planet is covered by wireless carriers that do not care about whether a device was paid for in the United States than those who do. Interesting.
I took a deep breath, listed the device after taking some comprehensive photos, found a reasonable price and listed it. The next morning I had an offer, then another, and another. These offers were good, and very close to the asking price. Maybe I should have sold it for more?
Either way, I will end up with a reasonable amount of money from the device which I could not use, even after PayPal and eBay take their slices (not insubstantial). All told, I actually did really well.
I’m undecided on whether I’ll keep the X or wait to trade it for an 8 Plus. The X has so many changes to what an iPhone has been for the past 4-5 years that it’s incredible, while holding it, to consider how damned good it is. It’s great, and I like everything, save for it’s size.
In the end, I was able to turn an unfortunate situation into what amounts now to a nearly-free iPhone 8 Plus for 6 months. Sure, there were some minefields to traverse on eBay and with T-Mobile, but those are places I’m comfortable going in to.
Got a phone with a bad IMEI/ESN? Find out what it’s worth on eBay and sell it. Most of the world doesn’t care, and if you’re clever and diligent, you can send it on it’s way and move on.