How to tell if an iPhone is brand new or refurbished, using the model number

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If you want to be sure whether the iPhone you are buying is a brand new or refurbished unit, here is how to find out.

How to tell if an iPhone is brand new or refurbished

This article will be of special interest to individuals who want to buy their Apple iPhone through unofficial channels. This can include buying from online platforms like eBay, or from independent retailers and the like. You want to be sure whether what you are buying is brand new or refurbished, seeing as there are people who pass off refurbished units as brand new.

One way to do this is by checking the iPhone’s model number. Why? Apple uses the model number to identify the different categories of iPhone units. Those categories are – brand new retail unit, replacement unit, refurbished unit, and personalised unit.

Differences between brand new and refurbished iPhones

While refurbished iPhones can be a great option if you are looking for a good deal, there are some traits that you should be aware of. Here are the major differences between brand new iPhones and refurbished iPhones.


The packaging of a new iPhone has never been opened and the phone itself never been used. It comes with all original packaging and accessories. Refurbished iPhones, on the other hand, are pre-owned devices that have been returned for one reason or the other, been professionally inspected, tested, and restored to their original factory settings. They may have minor cosmetic blemishes but are in good working condition.

Features and Updates:

If an iPhone is brand new, it comes with the latest iOS version and is compatible with all the latest apps. Refurbished iPhones, on the other hand, may not have the latest iOS version installed or may lack compatibility with certain apps, depending on how old they are.


Typically, brand new iPhones cost more than refurbished units. This makes the latter a budget-friendly option.

    Understanding iPhone Model Number

    I mentioned earlier, that the model number is a valid way to know the status of an iPhone. The model number of an iPhone follows a specific format x-yyyy-za/b.

    It begins with a variable first letter indicating the source of the device (e.g., refurbished, retail, replacement, or personalized).

    This is followed by four characters (usually digits).

    The third and last section is made up of one or two characters representing the region of the device’s origin.

    Example: if your model number is “MWLR2LL/A,” the first letter is “M,” and the last section (“LL/A”) specifies the region.

    The determining factor for the status of the device is the first letter of the model number, and so we shall limit ourselves to that in this guide. The first letter in an iPhone’s model number letters provide valuable information about the history and status of the iPhone. There are four of them: M, N, F, and P, and I explain what each represents on the section below.

    Check the Model Number to tell if an iPhone is refurbished or brand new

    Here are the meanings behind the iPhone model numbers with these letters:

    1. M: Indicates a brand new retail unit. If your iPhone has an “M” in its model number, it means it is fresh from the factory and hasn’t been refurbished or replaced.
    2. N: Represents a replacement unit for a faulty phone. If you receive an Apple replacement phone due to a service request, it will have an “N” in its model number.
    3. F: Refers to a refurbished device. These iPhones have undergone a refurbishing process and are sold as certified refurbished units. The refurbishment can be done by Apple or by a carrier.
    4. P: Signifies a personalized (engraved) unit. If your iPhone was customized with engraving, it will have a “P” in its model number.

    Now that you know how to identify whether an iPhone is a brand new retail unit or a refurbished unit, using the model number, the next question is, “Where can you find the iPhone’s model number?”

    How to find an iPhone’s model number

    How to find an iPhone's model number

    To find an iPhone’s model number, follow these steps:

    1. Settings: Open the “Settings” app on your iPhone.
    2. General: Scroll down and tap on “General.”
    3. About: Tap on “About.”
    4. Model Number: To the right of Model Number, you’ll find the part number. To find the model number, tap the part number.

    If you check your iPhone’s.odel number and it starts with the letter M, the unit is brand new from Apple. However, if the model number starts with an F, that is a refurbished unit.

    That covers everything you need to know to find out whether an iPhone is brand new or refurbished or any other status.

    Avatar of Mister Mobility

    By Mister Mobility

    I have been tech blogging since 2003, I have owned and reviewed hundreds of smartphones since my first in 2001.

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