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Buying a used Android phone? Use PocketESN first

Thinking of buying a used Android phone to avoid retail prices and carrier contracts? Check out this before you do.

Some phones may have extra mileage you're not interested in.

Buying used Android phones can save you a bunch of money, but there are a few things you should check out before forking over your hard-earned cash. Things like water damage, cracks in the phone's body or screen, and of course actual functionality of the device are the obvious things to check -- but what about being blacklisted from a carrier?

That's right, a phone can become blacklisted off a network because it was stolen, or its previous owner neglected to pay a bill or 10. So how can you protect yourself in this case? Luckily, if you're buying a phone for a CDMA carrier, there's a way to look up the ESN (electronic serial number) to see the status of the device on their network.

Step 1: To find the ESN on a device, you can simply look under the battery or in the About Phone area of the Settings menu. Sometimes the ESN will even be printed on the box, but this isn't the best option since boxes and devices can be swapped easily.

Now that you have your ESN, you could go scouring the Internet for the places to check it, or... you could just use the lightweight PocketESN app to do the work for you.

Step 2: Grab a copy of PocketESN.

There are free and Pro ($5.99) versions available. The free version will allow you to only check the ESN of the device that the app is installed on -- and only one time. However, the Pro version will let you check other phones as many times as you like!

Note: You will need Internet service on the phone you're buying (Wi-Fi is fine) if you're using the free version of the app.

Enter the ESN into the text box. Cunning Logic

Step 3: Key in or scan the ESN of the device you'd like to check out, and then select the appropriate carrier. If you're checking the phone that the app is installed on, just press the My ESN button to insert it into the text area.

Pick the carrier this phone is set up for. Cunning Logic

Once the ESN is checked, the result window will pop-up telling you if the ESN is clean. Hopefully, you'll see something like this:

The ESN is clean, but that does not guarantee that this phone has never fallen into a toilet. Cunning Logic

And if not, run the other way from this sale.

The app isn't fancy, but it definitely does what it says. When spending 6 bucks on an app can save you from wasting hundreds, it seems like a smart choice.

What do you look for when buying a used phone? Or do you avoid buying used phones entirely, and why?