(Updated August 28, 2023)
Short and sweet: I'm not a fan of purchasing a brand new phone every one to two years, especially from my cell phone service provider. They make it easy, but often that can turn into paying more than you need to, IMO.
For years now, I have been purchasing refurbished phones for myself and my family and I have had a great experience with it. Buying refurbished is kind of like getting the best of both worlds: you can pick what's still a relative new phone for a lower price, plus it has been run through enough testing and quality control steps to verify that it's still in great shape.
I have two recommended places that I have purchased from and had great results. And let me make it clear: I have only bought 2 new phones in the last seven to eight years and I buy phones for five people, including myself (which is why I need to save some money!). I don't have an exact count of how many refurbished phones I have purchased, but it is more than a dozen. And only one time has a phone come that didn't work correctly, but when I contacted the company I purchased from they immediately let me return it and order a replacement.
(Note: This post contains my affiliate links, which means that I may make a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. This does not affect the price you pay, and I have only included links to the two vendors I have actually used and had a good experience with.)
One thing to note: if you have FOREVER Storage, you don't need a huge amount of storage space on your phone! I have 128 G in storage on my phone and only use about half of it. Once your photos are uploaded to FOREVER, they don't have to live on your phone and take up space! They are always available on your phone through the FOREVER app without the need to store them on your phone. I LOVE that!
Gazelle is the first company I ever purchased a refurbished phone from. They began purchasing used phones in 2007-2008 and opened their online store to begin reselling to the public in 2014. They are now one of the most reputable sources for refurbished iPhones and Android phones, as well as Macbooks and iPads.
To view Gazelle's available phones, make sure to select BUY on the home page, and then select the type of phone from the top of the page (Samsung, Google Pixel or iPhone are in the main menu at the top, but you can sometimes find others). Make sure to select your carrier if possible so that your transition to the new phone will be smooth. You can technically select an unlocked phone (meaning it can be used with any carrier) but my understanding is that some carriers make the transition to an unlocked phone more difficult.
One thing to note with Gazelle: they are well known now for the quality of their refurbished phones and that has made it difficult in recent years to find the phone you might want in stock. I commonly go to look and the phones I would choose are marked as Sold Out.
Just looking at the list today, I would probably opt for a Samsung Galaxy 21 or 22 model like these:
Due to difficulties in finding the phones I've wanted from Gazelle more recently, I've shopped refurbished phones on Amazon. I've purchased 2-3 refurbished phones from Amazon, but I've also purchased multiple other refurbished electronics from Amazon over the years and I've never had an issue.
All products sold as “renewed” on Amazon come with a 90-day guarantee and have been professionally inspected, tested, and cleaned by Amazon-qualified suppliers. Not just anyone can sell as renewed on Amazon.
If I were going to purchase one today, here are a few I would try: (the links below are all to Renewed phones on Amazon)
Samsung Galaxy S22 – Unlocked (Renewed)
If you're an iPhone fan you can certainly also find renewed iPhones here. I am just not well-versed in iPhones, so these are a few I found, but you may know more than I do what the best options are.
As I mentioned above, if you own FOREVER Storage you don't have to purchase a phone with more storage capacity because once your photos are uploaded to FOREVER, they don't have to live on your phone to be accessed easily on your phone. And once they are in your FOREVER Storage you don't have to worry about losing them if something happens to your phone unexpectedly. Once they are uploaded to Forever, whatever happens on your phone won't affect the photos you've uploaded. (That's not typically the case with iPhoto/iCloud! In most cases, deleting from your phone will delete from those places as well because it's a sync, not a backup. It depends on your situation, but be careful!)
So, investing in more FOREVER Storage might be more cost-effective than having to purchase a bigger phone every year or two in order to make sure that you don't lose photos.
Once you receive your renewed/refurbished phone, it's usually just as easy as removing the SIM card from your old phone and dropping it into the new one. In one instance, my daughter's SIM card had to be upgraded because it was old, but all we had to do was drop by our cell carrier's store for the quick replacement. I can't add full instructions for that here because it varies depending on what phone you have and what phone you are upgrading to, but there are oodles of helpful YouTube videos available that you can find to help you transfer your SIM card and get the phone activated.
I hope this is at least somewhat helpful. Do your research, check the reviews and find something with a great camera! All of those phones I listed above have great cameras. Let me know if you have questions about anything I've added here and I'd be happy to help!