Does Importing An iPhone From The US Now Make Sense?

Does Importing An iPhone From The US Now Make Sense?

Australians have long had the option of buying an iPhone direct from Apple without it being locked to a carrier, but that’s only just become a possibility in the US. Given that the US prices are, as ever, much lower than in Australia, is it worth importing an iPhone from the States? The answer: maybe, but it will be quite a bit of hassle.

The 16GB iPhone 4 costs $US649 from Apple in the States, which translates to around $610 Australian. The 32GB model costs $US749, which is just over $700. In Australia, the list prices for those devices are $859 and $999, so there’s a significant difference, even when you allow for the extra sales tax that will apply in most US states, and the need to ship the device to Australia.

However, the reality isn’t that simple. Apple won’t let you order the phone directly from its site and have it shipped to an Australian address. So if you want to acquire a US phone, you’ll need to go through eBay or use some kind of freight forwarding service. In both cases, you’ll end up paying an additional fee as well as shipping, which could reduce the cost benefit.

You’ll also get a phone with a US-specific charger, which means you’ll need to buy a separate one if you don’t already have an Apple charger around. Add that to the postage and the profit from your forwarding option or eBay seller (unless you persuade a US friend to acquire one for you), and the difference won’t be as marked as the initial comparison would suggest. (Plus you won’t have much protection under Australian consumer law since you didn’t buy the device in Australia.)

My conclusion? If you’re going to be in the US anyway and can go to a store yourself, then buying an unlocked iPhone might make sense. But I’m not sure it would be worth the drama and delays otherwise. Would you be tempted?


  • If you’re going to order one and get it shipped internationally via a third party, you might as well order two and resell one locally.

    You won’t get the full local price, but you should make enough of a profit on the second one to cover the postage of the first.

  • what you’re all failing to realise is that US prices do not include sales tax which varies depending on the state you’re in, and ranges from 5%-15%. even if you use priceusa, you still have to pay the extra.
    For me, I find that it’s much cheaper to buy from Hong Kong’s range of Apple resellers (also other electronics goods). The prices in Hong Kong are pretty much the same as prices in the US, and are tax free.
    Of course, it makes it easier that I have a few friends in HK I can ask to send me stuff if I don’t have a trip coming up.

    • I’m fairly sure PriceUSA has agents in sales tax free states, which means the purchases are sales tax free. You don’t even have to pay sales tax if you buy online in many states.

      For example, in California you are not charged sales tax when you buy online, but you are supposed to declare all such purchases at tax time and pay the tax then (of course, not many people actually do this).

      • Just noticed this on PriceUSA’s web site:

        What USA shops charge USA sales tax?
        My US partners all live in Oregon which does not have state sales tax so all orders placed via my service are USA sales tax free.

        I’ve never bought a thing from them but I hear good things online. If people know of a reason to not use them please post.

  • There are at least 5 US States that don’t apply sales tax (Oregon, Delaware, Hawaii etc.), Price USA deliberately set up in Oregon to circumvent this.
    The main problem here is the lack of international warranty. It’s well known that Apple Stores in Oz will turn your claim away if you have bought the item overseas. Unless you have bought the extra Apple Care warranty. That seems to work.
    For my money I’d buy it outright from HK. Much easier to get back there if there’s a fault.
    Plus there’s an official APple Store opening there this year

  • I just traded in a UK 3gs under the out of warranty exchange no problems at all.
    So if you are confident in the item lasting the warranty period you are in the same boat as if you bought the item here.

  • I have 2 flight attendants in my family – it’s super handy.
    The best way to get cheap stuff from the US? Make friends with international flight attendants (or become one yourself – I’m thinking about it). No international shipping to pay, and no super-long wait. And you can usually make a claim at duty-free as long as you don’t open the packaging! 🙂

  • Apple warranty works if you live in a country that officially sells that Apple product. I have an iPhone from Singapore that was fixed by Apple in Australia under warranty. Same with iPad from another country.

    @lauren – I have an unofficial flight attendant network going really well!

  • going to pick up an iPod touch myself- I’m doing my own HLO (hand luggage only) this year (lighter than a lugging a laptop) and the price difference is incredible, with the Aussie dollar being worth more than the USD. It’s the equivalent of a night’s accommodation, or so. I was going to purchase it before I left so I would have it all set up, but the hassle I’ll have setting it up on the road won’t dampen my enthusiasm for the savings.

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