Can you buy an iPhone on eBay? Yes, you can. However, there are important things to watch out for if you want to buy iPhones on eBay. With eBay it is always caveat emptor - buyer beware. This is true when you are looking to purchase iPhones on eBay as well. If you take measures to be sure that you know what you are buying, then you can get a really great deal on an iPhone. However, if you are not careful, you will be disappointed and possibly out of a lot of money. This is what you need to be aware of when buying iPhones on eBay.
First, know what you are buying and if you are not sure ask the seller before you bid. Some things to look out for are conflicting information between the title and the extended description. For example there was a listing for an unlocked 16 GB iPhone. That is what the title said. In the description is stated very clearly that this phone is locked but then went on to say that they are using it with T-Mobile, so it is clearly unlocked. The best way to resolve issues like this is to send the seller an email and ask for clarification. Save this email and the response you get so that if you are the winning bidder you have recourse if the iPhone is not as described.
Know the difference between unlocked and locked. Unlocked means that the firmware has been hacked and now you can insert any chip that will work on ST&T or T-Mobile's networks. If you use T-Mobile you will lose the visual voice mail, which is an AT&T exclusive feature. In the US the iPhone will work only on cell phone networks AT&T and T-Mobile. This has nothing to do with the chip and everything to do with the wiring. The iPhone will only work on the radio frequencies that AT&T and T-Mobile provide. The terms "unlocked" and "new, unopened box" are incompatible. You have to open up the box and hack into the firmware in order to unlock the iPhone. Apple does not ship unlocked iPhones. In order to hack into the iPhone you must open the box, and hook the iPhone up to a computer. This is hardly unopened. Locked means that the firmware that Apple shipped the phone with is intact and untouched. These phones will only activate and work on the AT&T network. However, a locked phone has no issues or troubles with any firmware upgrades whereas an unlocked phone must be careful when updating to be sure they do not re-lock the iPhone.
Another thing to look out for when buying iPhones on eBay is to know if the phone is refurbished, new, or used. A refurbished iPhone is one that Apple (hopefully) has taken from not working properly to a like new state. This is a great way to get an inexpensive iPhone. However, an ethical seller will clearly state that this is a refurbished item. Les scrupulous sellers may not disclose this. If unsure, ask. New and used are self-explanatory.
Be alerted to the fact that there are phones that are similar in appearance to the iPhone but they are not iPhones. On eBay, you will see phones called A88, iPhone, PDA, cell phone... These are not Apple iPhones, they are iPhone look alike. Make sure that the manufacturer of any iPhone you purchase is Apple and not CECT.
Finally make sure that you are aware of the sellers return policies and only pay through PayPal using a credit card or pay directly with a credit card. Never pay with cash, checks, Western Union, wire transfers or money orders. This way if you are sold a fraudulent item, you have recourse through your credit card company or PayPal. Buyers who do not take credit cards or PayPal are questionable so once again remember caveat emptor, buyer beware.
eBay tries to make their venue a safe place to purchase items. An educated consumer stands the best chance of getting a good deal. Before you buy iPhones on eBay do a little research to be sure you are getting exactly what you are looking for.