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I bought a used Samsung Galaxy S9 for $315 -- and I liked it

Here's why I'm (mostly) sold on BackMarket's refurbished phones. Plus: One free game, two chances to win great prizes and a Cheapskate Mystery Box update!


This is Back Market's lowest-grade S9, but save for a few barely visible dings and scratches, it's good as new.

Rick Broida/CNET

Cheeps, I'm bad at keeping secrets, so I'm going to jump the gun a bit and announce that the 2019 Cheapskate Mystery Box is coming soon! Last year we sold all 250 boxes (in about six minutes) and raised over $12,000 for charity. This year we're planning to offer 1,000 boxes, hopefully via some kind of lottery system so everyone has a fair chance to get one.

I can't say more just yet, but I'll tell you we've already got some great partners lined up. (If you're a vendor and you'd like to participate, by all means get in touch.) Stay tuned!

At the risk of overwhelming you with phone deals (see yesterday's post about the $130 Coolpad Legacy phablet), I have to share good stuff when it crosses my desk. This right here: pretty good stuff.

For a limited time, and while supplies last, phone reseller Back Market has the refurbished unlocked Samsung Galaxy S9 (64GB) for $315. (That's for the "Stallone" condition, which I'll talk more about below. If you see a different price, it's possible Back Market has run out of that particular supply.) 

As you may recall from way back in 2018, the S9 started at $720 new, and the last time I ran a deal, just around six months ago, it was $500. Right now, Amazon has it starting at $472. (Take a note: Flagship phones are crazy expensive only when they're new. Be patient and you can save a ton.) Read CNET's Galaxy S9 review if you want to know more about the phone itself.

Back Market offers a variety of refurbished phones, all guaranteed to be in perfect working condition, all backed with a six-month warranty. That's notable. The vast majority of phone refurbishers (including Amazon) give you only three months of coverage.

As noted, I opted for Back Market's Stallone grade, the lowest of its five tiers. Sure, I wanted the absolute lowest price (though the top tier, Shiny, can be had for as little as $381), but mostly I was curious: How banged up would it really be? And would I care? I've purchased used cars with dings and imperfections, but they drove just fine.

Back Market describes the Stallone condition thusly: "Visible scratches, and maybe even some dents on the exterior. For smartphones and tablets: the screen may have small scratches that are invisible when the device is on."

That wasn't my experience. My S9 has a screen that's absolutely perfect; indistinguishable from new. Now, the Coral Blue backside has two small scuffs along the bottom edge and three very light scratches, one of them fairly long. But guess what? I carry my phone in a case, so the condition of the backside is of almost zero importance.

There's also a super-tiny ding in the lower-left corner, one I actually hadn't even noticed until I snapped the close-up photo (above). But, again: case!

Everything else seems to work perfectly, including the buttons, cameras and so on. Overall, it's hard to tell this isn't a brand-new phone.

OK, two caveats. First, your mileage absolutely, positively may vary. Every refurbished phone is a little different -- Back Market resells different stock from different sources -- and there's no guarantee the Stallone-grade S9 you get will be this good (or this price, even).

Second, when buying any refurbished phone, the battery is always a concern (unless it comes direct from the manufacturer, in which case it may have a new battery). How used is it, and how much life is left in it?

There's no easy answer to that question, and it's arguably the chief reason to choose new over refurbished. That said, how hard is it to lay the phone on a Qi charger when you're at your desk during the day? And keep a mobile charger close at hand when you're not?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on buying refurbished or used phones versus new ones.

Now playing: Watch this: Galaxy S9 mostly aces our real-world tests

Bonus deal: Get the adorable platform game Guacamelee! for free

Game time! If you like humorous Mexican-culture-inspired platform games -- and who doesn't? -- then hop over to Humble and get Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (Win) for free. Regular price: $15.

Your only requirement: Subscribe to the Humble newsletter. If you're already a subscriber, there's nothing else to do; just click through and grab the game. (You can always unsubscribe later if you like.)

Either way, you'll get a license to redeem on Steam (which, of course, requires a Steam account and the Steam client software). Have fun!

Giveaway! Win the ultimate 4K cord-cutting bundle

Serious cord-cutting requires serious gear, like network-attached storage to house all your live-TV recordings and a streaming box that can deliver 4K goodness to your new TV.

Want to win all that and more? Hop on over to ZDNet and enter for your shot at the ultimate cord-cutting giveaway. One lucky winner will score a Synology NAS system, two 8TB hard drives to go in it, a lifetime Premium Plex Pass, an Apple TV 4K, a $25 CBS All Access gift card and a $100 gift card for HBO, Hulu or Netflix.

Four runners-up will each get the Apple TV and the two gift cards. You've got nine days to get your entry (or entries) in. Good luck!

Giveaway No. 2: Win a Game of Thrones prize pack!

Look, I know we're all having some strong feelings about Daenerys Targaryen right now, but that shouldn't stop you from entering CNET's Game of Thrones swag giveaway -- which, cough, consists entirely of Mother of Dragons stuff. So embrace your inner Mad Queen and enter before May 20.

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!