When scouring Craigslist or eBay for a good deal on a used smartphone, a lot of people avoid listings that say “bad ESN.” In the simplest of terms, this means that the phone is banned from being activated with a carrier, so it wouldn’t be able to make calls or send and receive text messages. It also wouldn’t be able to get any kind of 3G or 4G data access.
However, for those looking for a mobile device just to play games, listen to music or surf the web over Wi-Fi, buying a smartphone with a bad ESN actually isn’t a bad way to go.
Every smartphone has its own unique ESN (Electronic Serial Number) and it works just like any other serial number for any product, except that an ESN is embedded into a chip inside the phone and can be deactivated at any time – sort of like a kill switch. When a phone is either reported stolen or the owner doesn’t pay his phone bill, the carrier can ban that phone’s ESN so that it’s unusable on the network.
A device with a bad ESN is pretty much considered useless in some ways. That’s why you can usually find great deals on smartphones with bad ESNs on eBay or Craigslist.
However, for those just wanting an iPod Touch-like device for super cheap, buying a used smartphone that has a bad ESN is the perfect way to go. Just like an iPod Touch, you can still download and install different apps and games, listen to music, surf the web over Wi-Fi, get turn-by-turn navigation using an offline maps app, and even take photos and video. I actually recently snatched an HTC EVO 4G in great condition with a bad ESN for $50. That’s a not a bad price for all the things it can still do. Plus, I can just grab a 32GB microSD card and load it up with all sorts of music, movies, and games.
Image Credit: Miki Yoshihito