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I want to make sure that the replacement iPhone I am being given is new, not refurbished.

Given the serial number, is there any way to tell if an iPhone is new or has been refurbished?

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This is incredibly subjective. There is absolutely no way to find out if its a new iPhone or not. –  jrg Mar 30 '12 at 21:52
    
Why not ask the person replacing your phone? –  bmike Sep 17 '12 at 23:21
    
@bmike because Apple "geniuses" are stupid and they are liars for the most part. I have been told before that I am getting a brand "new" product, only later to find out it was a refurb. –  antonpug Sep 18 '12 at 16:46
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2 Answers

I don't think you can do it with the serial number, but if you were given a replacement in a box that looked like the original packaging, then it's new. Else it is a refurb — at least, that has been my experience with Apple so far. This thread also supports that:

If the replacement was from a black box (with the iPhone pictured on it), that's a new one. If you need to have your phone replaced in the first 14 days, it should be done as a retail swap. After that, for warranty replacements, you'll be given a refurb (assuming they are available, they take a while to get into the pipeline). Generally, replacement iPhones are packaged in plain white boxes with no accessories. New ones can be packaged like that too, for Genius Bar replacements, but after the phone has been out a while they will mostly be refurb units.

So in short, if you're looking at replacing an iPhone just a few weeks or a couple of months after release, then it's most probably a new stock. If it's been a while since the model released, then it's most probably a refurbished phone.

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There is no reliable way to figure it out.

It is entirely possible (not likely, but possible) that you could be getting a refurbished device, but it is more probable that its a brand-new device.

However, as I stated above, it is entirely possible that someone could have gotten a device less than a week old, returned it and it got a turn around.

Also, what you can do is look at the box when you do get it:

If its in the original packaging (e.g, black box with the iPhone on it), its new.

However, if its a plain white box, its a replacement. Replacements are traditionally packaged without any extras, although I did get earbuds and a sync cable in the one replacement device (iPod touch) I had to get from Apple.

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