Can a Used Cell Phone Be Reactivated?

by Amanda Holden

Activating a used cell phone can seem like an attractive idea, and sometimes it turns out as pleasant as it seems. However, an individual can't reactivate just any cell phone he finds. Some phones work only on specific networks, some may suffer from a lack of digital signal support, while others may have flaws or damage that make them unusable. Some cell phones can indeed undergo reactivation; it's just a matter of knowing which models to avoid.

Analog and Digital Phones

In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission required that all cell phone carriers phase out old analog cell phone signals in favor of newer, digital signals. Earmarked for use by emergency personnel and governmental operations, the public can no longer use analog signals. Some older models of cell phones only operate on analog signals, making them unusable under the new digital system. A user cannot reactivate an old analog phone, but if the phone uses digital signals, she can still activate it if the phone meets other criteria.

Network-Specific Phones

Manufacturers create certain phone models for use on specific cell phone networks. For example, a user must subscribe to AT&T or Verizon to use an iPhone. The phone does not legally support use on other phone networks. Many other phones, especially Web- and app-capable smartphones, only support specific networks. Before attempting to purchase and activate a used cell phone, ensure that your carrier of choice supports a specific phone model.


A higher breed of cell phones, smartphones seem more like miniature computers than cell phones. Capable of browsing the Internet and supporting various programs and games, called apps, smartphones require an additional fee and can't typically support use as a generic cell phone without the added features. To reactivate a used smartphone, an individual should check for phone compatibility with his carrier and the associated fees to ensure he's willing to pay the extra cost.

Successful Reactivation of a Cell Phone

Many used cell phones support multiple carriers and reactive with little issue. In this scenario, a user should ensure she's getting a cell phone in good condition and free of damage. If purchasing a used cell phone, the buyer should beware of potential problems. Some types of damage may not be obvious at first glance, such as water damage or issues due to repeated dropping or internal damage. Damaged cell phones may not reactivate or may present problems in the future.

About the Author

Amanda Holden has more than 17 years of professional writing experience. She is trained in computer programming and computer repair, and currently holds a Bachelor of Science in physics and geology with a minor in computer science. She is pursuing her PhD at a major university. Holden writes for various websites on subjects such as computer science, technical specifications, education, science and math.

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