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updated 4/9/2013 9:20:36 AM ET 2013-04-09T13:20:36

With four kids, ages 15 and up, in our house, finding a replacement phone when one breaks is a pretty common requirement. But the problem isn't locating ia friend with an old phone — it's getting the phone to work.

Nearly 40 percent of people keep their old phones, and another 14 percent give them away to a family member or friend, according to a new survey released this week from BuyVia, a mobile app for buying electronics. The other people sold, donated or recycled their old phones, which would leave them empty-handed if their new phone broke or if a needy friend came calling.

To save yourself frustration, keep in mind these three tips when looking for a replacement phone. (You may have only a few months before you're eligible for an upgrade, but few can tolerate being without a phone for more than a day or two.)

1. Same provider

Your best bet is finding a phone that used the same provider as your old phone. If you're a Verizon customer, for example, find a friend with a Verizon phone. Most carriers will give you a new SIM card for free, so that you will have the same number.

2. SIM card won't have your data

However, unless you've backed up all the content from your now-broken phone, you'll lose photos, videos and apps; an iPhone SIM card only records your identifying number and carrier information.

AT&T and T-Mobile customers are the only ones who can trade phones. But it's not a simple matter of sticking in a new SIM card. This is where my son ran into trouble.

3. Unlocked or no dice

After receiving a new SIM card from AT&T, the T-Mobile phone requested an  unlock code , which he didn't have. This code is provided only to T-Mobile customers with accounts in good standing, which means that if you're going to use a friend's T-Mobile phone, ask the owner to request the code. (If you're buying a phone off eBay or some other website, make sure that you are buying an unlocked phone.) [See also: Jailbreak, Root or Unlock, What's the Difference? ]

You can purchase unlock codes can be purchased online for under $10, but they have a questionable legal status. As of Jan. 26, 2013, the phone's owner has to request permission from the carrier to unlock a phone; otherwise it's illegal.

The hassle of finding a replacement phone only makes the choice of a carrier more important (choose the one that most of your friends use) and the option of a prepaid service more attractive.

Follow Leslie Meredith  @lesliemeredith. Follow us  @TechNewsDaily, on  Facebook  or on  Google+  .

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