Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been waiting for the LG G4 since the early teasers and have just seen that it won’t be in Australia until mid-July. Or I can order a grey import today for about $200 cheaper. Assuming I buy from a reputable vendor and do my research to get the model that supports Australian LTE bands, what are the disadvantages of a grey import phone? Or are they basically the same? Sincerely, Homophones
There’s a couple of disadvantages to a properly researched grey import phone, although depending on your perspective they might not be particularly problematic.
You’ve already hit the most prominent nail on the head in terms of LTE bands, because different phone SKUs internationally do support different LTE bands. Our guide to the bands used by Australian carriers breaks down what you need to know.
Most smartphone manufacturers will talk endlessly about vague “optimisations” made for the Australian networks. It’s true that the mobile carriers do test handsets quite exhaustively — Gizmodo toured Telstra’s facility a few years back — but I’ve yet to see anyone do a head-to-head test to show whether the optimisations for local networks make a significant difference at the end-user point.
It’s feasible that they could be a little slower, or act to somewhat congest networks, but there’s a world of difference between feasibility and actual impact.
Then there’s the warranty aspect. If you’re buying from an Australian business you’re still more closely covered by Australian consumer law in terms of repairs or replacements within “reasonable” guidelines, but that doesn’t mean that LG would be obliged to provide you with repairs.
You’d have to go back to the the company you purchased it from, and this may involve shipping your phone back overseas for repair, which could be time consuming. This varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, however, with some being perfectly happy to provide repair services within Australia.
Finally, there’s the issue of pre-installed software. Just as Telstra, Optus and Vodafone love installing their own apps onto their specific handsets, along with specific splash screens, it’s possible that you’ll end up with apps specific to the carrier where your handset originated, and without root access, you may not be able to change or remove them.
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