What to Consider Before Buying a Refurbished Samsung Galaxy S21

What to Consider Before Buying a Refurbished Samsung Galaxy S21
Samsung now sells refurbished versions of its Galaxy S21 lineup. (Photo: Sam Rutherford / Gizmodo)

For anyone whose pockets aren’t overflowing with the cash needed for a brand new flagship device, Samsung will start selling “re-newed” versions of last year’s Galaxy S21 series at a discount. Yes, they do spell it that way.

These refurbished Galaxy S21 devices are now available for pre-order in the Samsung Certified Re-Newed Store. The store features smartphones for purchase for anyone on a budget who wants flagship-level specifications and doesn’t mind wielding the last generation’s hardware. The models available for pre-order include the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Samsung says its Certified Re-Newed smartphones are “thoroughly inspected and updated to like-new condition” in its factories. Only Samsung-approved parts and batteries are used to fix up the phones. Each model in the program comes with a one-year warranty, which is the same one that extends to brand new Galaxy smartphones.

The base model of the Galaxy S21 with 128GB of storage starts at $US675 ($937) when bought through the Re-Newed program, which is about $US124 ($172) low than the MSRP for a new device. The Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra, also with 128GB of base storage, start at $US850 ($1,180) and $US1000 ($1,388). Samsung is offering a $US100 ($139) credit to anyone who pre-orders before April 21.

Should I Buy a Refurbished Samsung Galaxy?

If all this sounds like a deal, consider a few things before buying a refurbished smartphone. First of all, last year’s Galaxy S21 Ultra is not this year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, which means you’re not getting the redux of the Galaxy Note, complete with a stylus in tow. The certified renewed program does have the Note 10 as part of its lineup, but I would seriously steer clear of a two-year-old device considering how Samsung does software updates. The later you buy a brand new smartphone, the shorter the time you have before software updates run out, even with Samsung’s promise of three generations of software updates and four years of security updates.

You’ll also want to make a price-by-price comparison if you’re choosing between this year’s and last year’s Samsung flagship models. For instance, if you like the look and feel of the S21 Ultra and don’t mind that it doesn’t come bundled with the integrated S Pen, $US1000 ($1,388) is not a bad price for a device with similar camera capabilities as its successor, which starts at $US200 ($278) more with only 8GB of RAM. The S21 Ultra also has 12GB of RAM at the base price, which I always suggest for power users who want longevity. Speaking anecdotally, that extra bit of memory helps immensely in the long term.

As for choosing between the regular Galaxy S21 and S22 lineup, first see how much you can get the price down on the latter with a device trade-in. The S22 features an upgraded camera system from the S21, a longer-lasting battery, and its new look and colorways might be more your aesthetic. The S22 series starts at $US800 ($1,111) and $US1000 ($1,388). Swapping to the Galaxy S22+ by getting rid of an old smartphone could help bring down the cost enough that you wouldn’t have to consider the regular Galaxy S21 for $US850 ($1,180).

The certified renewed program does not include the Galaxy S21 FE, or “Fan Edition,” which is a line that offers premium hardware at a lower-ish pricepoint. As I noted in my review of the device, it’s not worth buying last year’s whittled-down specs, even at $US700 ($972).

The Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra are available for pre-order through the Certified Re-Newed program. They’ll be officially on sale beginning April 22 on Samsung.com and at select retailers starting April 28.