I recently upgraded my (almost) five year old iPhone SE to a second hand iPhone 8.

The iPhone SE is probably only the second time I’ve had a phone shortly after release. The first time was a Sony K700i because I remember seeing adverts for it on telly whilst I had it my hand.

I considered getting a new battery for the SE, but lockdown has made it harder to get a quick replacement and I need a phone (almost constantly) for on-call. Also, the likelihood of A9 devices not being supported in the next iOS release meant I’d really left the battery replacement too late to be worthwhile and so I might as well upgrade to something else; This time round I will keep an eye on battery cycles and replace earlier. It’s impressive the SE still worked with the original battery: I could just about do runs of a couple of hours in length with GPS and bluetooth. But in general I did have to charge it many, many times a day.

I wanted a second hand phone for environmental reasons (and I quite like being a techolag); I seriously considered a Fairphone for a bit, but I’m too tied into the Apple ecosystem now.

I didn’t see the point in spending more than (or near to) £400 though seeing as how the new SE sells for that. So this led to looking at iPhone 7s and 8s; I did toy with the idea of seeing if I could pick up a used iPhone XR with a good battery for under that amount, but decided it’s just too big a phone for me. I did a little spreadsheet (because I’m sad) doing a cost per month for various options, accounting for expected supported lifetime of the device and number of battery replacements. For what it’s worth, an iPhone 8 at this price is better value than the new SE even given the longer supported lifetime of the SE.

The only two places I’d consider getting a secondhand device from are Mresell and iOutlet:

  1. Mresell take photos of the actual device you are buying and quote battery cycles (the only place that seems to do this!). Their pricing seems to be a bit all over the place, I think because they actually ship from the EU and so have been bitten by brexshit issues.
  2. iOutlet are like every other reseller where it’s a lucky dip, but with the big exception that you can get a new battery fitted for a modest price - at least on the iPhone 7s and 8s anyway.

I’d been saving up three months and could have waited longer, but was impatient so went for a grade B iPhone 8 from iOutlet for £149 and then a new battery for £25. The screen has been replaced which on the plus side means no scratches at all, but on the down side there is no true tone, contrast seems a little bit off (really dark images don’t display great at lower brightness) and I’ve noticed one bright spot near the bottom of the screen), but for price I cannot complain. It seems like a crazily good deal to me. It’s just the corners (bottom mainly) that are a bit scuffed. All the glass is good. And 3d touch works well.

Hardware wise, the iPhone 12 mini is the ideal for me. Maybe in a couple of years time? Not because of Face ID or it’s size though, but because I used to stand my SE on it’s edge all the time for yoga videos. Can’t do that with an iPhone 8.

I thought that Face ID would be handy when out running, but you still end up using fingers ultimately. Also Touch ID is handy for masks. The Touch ID sensor on this is a LOT better than on my SE.

Size wise I used to run with my SE in the tiny pocket in my leggings (yes, sorry, lycra). Then I stopped running with my phone and just used my watch, but then my daughter (!) got me some Powerbeats for Christmas and my wife got me a fetching pink bumbag so I’ve been taking my phone with me again in that (which is a good/bad idea anyway because of on-call)… and so size ain’t as important any more.

As far as the iPhone 8 goes the camera bump is much less annoying than I thought it would be, even on flat table. Interestingly I think the iPhone 8 has confirmed what I suspected: everything since the A9 processor seems to just be gravy. The A11 is almost twice as fast. Do I notice the difference? Not at all.

[EDIT: 2022-07-23] Discovered a significant downside: If you opt to have the battery replaced they a) use shit batteries that last only about a year before they’ve degraded significantly (i.e. you’ll be under 80% health way before 500 cycles) and b) glue them in without release tabs so they can’t be replaced. So my plan to keep this phone going for a couple of years is not going to happen. This is just what happens when you try to do the right thing.