Demo Phone vs. Original Phone: What Is the Difference?

Here’s the difference between a demo phone and an original phone:

The biggest difference between a demo phone and an original phone is the software installed. 

Demo software is designed to prevent in-store users from accessing parts of the phone that could cause trouble, and they might have a special video display. 

In some cases, demo phones have reduced hardware functionality too.

If you want to learn all about the differences between demo phones and original phones, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading!

Demo Phone vs. Original Phone: The Differences? (+ Facts)

Do Demo Phones and Original Phones Have the Same Hardware?

The answer to this question depends on a few factors. For the most part, demo phones are normal, functioning phones in terms of hardware. 

Demo phones have the same processor, memory, and everything else as any boxed phone of the same model. This is important because having normal hardware is what allows the demo to provide an accurate experience to people trying it out in the store.

That said, there are exceptions. Some demo phones have substantially less powerful hardware. This is done to make the demo phone a lot cheaper. It also reduces the risk of anyone wanting to steal a demo phone.

One somewhat common difference is that demo phones might not have a SIM card slot. Without a SIM card, the phone cannot connect to a carrier network. That’s a great anti-theft feature, but it also means that such a demo phone is not fit for resale.

In fact, any demo phone that has hardware changes made to it should never be sold to a customer. The experience will not be right. It’s why most manufacturers only loan these kinds of demo phones to retailers. It prevents anyone from selling an inferior phone and creating issues with the user experience.

What Are the Major Software Differences Between Demo Phones and Original Phones?

Hardware differences are all over the place. But, if we assume a demo phone has normal hardware installed in it, what makes it a demo phone?

That comes down to software, and this is where you find the bulk of the key differences between these two types of phones. Demo phones almost always have special demo software installed. This software is designed to limit the functionality of the phone for a number of reasons.

An easy example is that you don’t want someone to be able to access illicit websites on a demo phone. So, the software usually has locks in place to prevent that.

The software also typically has special features to help sell the phone. Advertising videos and other special software additions might be at play. In general, a demo phone’s software does not allow full, normal functionality. 

That’s one reason why demo phones might not be for sale. The software would need to be removed before the phone could appropriately be sold to a customer.

Demo Mode

Not all demo modes are the same. Apple provides a specific demo mode for qualifying stores. Meanwhile, Android phones can be all over the place. Stores can even make their own proprietary demo software.

For Apple phones, the demo changes exist at a firmware level. These changes restrict user access, making it hard or impossible to change what apps are on the phone. Many functions are disabled (especially those allowing purchases). Also, the demos feature repeating videos that demonstrate certain aspects of the phone.

Many Android demos phones are also changed at the firmware level. What this means is that carrying out a factory restore on the phone wouldn’t remove the demo software. The firmware controllers exist at a level deeper than operating systems. Firmware is how raw hardware parts communicate with each other and the total system.

What that means is that these demo phones are different at a very deep level. The software can be removed (which will be explained later), but it’s not a simple task. And, unless the demo software is removed, the phone will not function normally.

Special Alarms

Some demo phones also have security software embedded into them. The software will blare an alarm if the phone is removed from its designated area. That makes sense while the phone is still on the floor of a store, but if you were to purchase a demo phone, this software would be disastrous.

Special alarms can be removed, but they are also deeply embedded in the phone’s functionality. You won’t be able to scroll through the settings to find a simple “disable” button for the alarms. It’s important to make sure a demo’s alarms are removed before trying to purchase such a phone.

Restoring Demo Phones

Since most of the demo differences are rooted in software, there should be a way to remove that software and turn a demo into a normal phone. As long as the demo has normal hardware, this holds true.

If a demo is not run through firmware on the phone, then the process is easy. Factory restore the phone. That will erase any demo software, and you’ll have a normal phone that works like any other. It’s that easy.

If there is software at the firmware level, then the process gets harder. You will need to flash the device to remove all of the demo firmware. 

Flashing a device (especially an Apple device) is not as simple as resetting the operating system. You will need to connect the phone to a computer and likely use third-party software to get the job done.

The greater challenge arises in finding the right firmware for your phone. If you can find it and download it, it can be installed onto the phone.

Suffice it to say, any retailer offering to sell you a demo phone should be providing this service as part of the deal. If they cannot flash the demo phone to make it operable, they probably do not have permission from the manufacturer to sell the demo phone in the first place.

There’s a final question that still needs answering. How can you tell if a demo software package is installed in the firmware or not? The easiest test is to try to restore the phone in the phone settings. Most demo software will not allow this. So, if you can restore the phone, that should be sufficient. If you can’t, the phone needs to be flashed.

Do Demo Phones and Original Phones Have the Same Warranty?

The short answer is no. You may find some exceptions to this, but in general, warranties start when the box is opened. Demo phones operate on the floor of stores for months at a time before they might eventually be sold. This cuts into the manufacturer’s warranty period.

On top of that, many phone makers never attach a warranty to a demo phone. The phone is marked for demonstration purposes from the beginning and never comes with a transferable warranty. Some retailers will attach their own warranty to a demo phone, but even that is uncommon.

The main issue is that demo phones undergo wear and tear while fulfilling that role. Some phones are rather heavily abused. Even phones that take minimal damage while on the floor will be much more worn than something sitting in a box on a shelf.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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