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Are Gray Market Phones Really a Good Investment?

Photo of gray market phones Photo of gray market phones
S-NET Communications, Inc. September 26, 2022

If you are in the market for a VoIP phone service or have already chosen S-NET as your VoIP provider, then most likely you have faced the decision to either buy or rent the phone hardware you are going to need. It’s no secret that we believe you get a better bang for your buck if you rent the hardware from us. But some business owners might consider buying a phone from Ebay, Amazon or another marketplace because they find a good deal. These are what we call “gray market phones.” We know that this choice is an important one for our clients, so we asked our client technology advisors and support team to share their thoughts on the subject. Here are a few Pros and Cons of buying an off-market phone for your business and using it for your VoIP service.

Pros of Off-Market Phones:

  • Possible Cost Savings
  • Easy Set Up

Possible Cost Savings

Buying a gray market phone may save you some money. You should be able to find your preferred phone model – or an older version of it – at an affordable price in online marketplaces. Purchasing these phones may be lower cost and, if everything works as intended, could serve you well for years to come.

Easy Set Up

Many of these phones are possible to set up without an installer, which eliminates another expense.

Cons of Off-Market Phones:

  • No Manufacturer Warranty and Unknown Source
  • Incompatibility with PBX and Firmware Upgrades
  • Lack of Hardware Support

No Manufacturer Warranty and Unknown Source

One of the biggest risks that our CTAs and support team were able to agree on when it comes to gray market phones is the lack of manufacturer’s warranty on the phone hardware. The product that you are purchasing is from an unknown or 3rd party source and the condition that it’s in is a gamble. If the product stops working or you have some accessories that do not work properly, without a manufacturer backed warranty, you will have to go through the hassle of contacting the vendor and going through any step they make you take to get a working product. If they are unable or unwilling to help, any repair or replacement cost will come out of your pocket.

Incompatibility with Your Provider’s PBX and Firmware Upgrades

One of the biggest issues S-NET Support Team has encountered with gray market phones is the inability to upgrade the firmware and the hardware’s incompatibility with our PBX. Some brands are not serviced or supported by S-NET. So you are running the risk of losing money if you purchase incompatible phone hardware. And some compatible phones that may work fine at first could stop working when a firmware upgrade is made to the PBX. That is why we always recommend purchasing them only from reputable vendors like S-NET, and working with your S-NET CTA to ensure that you always get the right model and quality. Just keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that the phone you purchase is going to work with our PBX unless you purchase or rent the hardware directly though us.

Lack of Hardware Support

The biggest con from a purchase like this is of course – our inability to help you solve issues that might arise with your hardware. Since we didn’t provide the product, it is not backed by our warranty or support. If the headphone jack doesn’t work for example, we cannot simply replace it for you. In many cases, you would have to buy another phone.

At the end of the day, it is your choice. We hope our experience and observations help you in your decision-making process.

A True Story: The Smoky Conference Phone

During the 2018 holiday season, one of our customers bought a new conference room phone from us valued at $1,000. When they received it, they figured it would be easy to install, so they decided to do it on their own. They plugged it in and after a minute or two…the phone started to smoke!

They called S-NET support, and we figured out that the old Polycom conference phone they were replacing required a special adaptor that allowed more electrical output. Unaware that the new phone was not compatible with the adaptor, our client simply plugged it in the same way their old phone was installed. We kid you not, this seemingly small mistake actually burned down their new phone circuits!

Our team tried to help salvage the brand new phone but unfortunately it was no longer in a working condition. Luckily, our client had purchased it from us and we were able to exchange it free of charge. We made sure to send an installer out to help set it up correctly this time. If they had purchased this phone from the gray market, they would have been out another $1,000!

We were able to help and assist them quickly and efficiently, and that is what we strive for at S-NET.

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