Is it worth importing an iPhone 7?

Alex Kidman 16 September 2016

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If you can’t score an iPhone 7 from Apple or its carrier partners, is it worth looking at directly importing one?

While Apple hasn’t issued a press release touting sales numbers, which it’s done for every previous iPhone generation, leading many to suspect there are issues with production of enough phones to meet demand, there’s little doubting that, as with previous generations the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are hits.

One way to avoid the usual sales queues, and sometimes save yourself a tidy sum in the process is to import a phone from overseas. Direct importers ship phones from markets where they’re sold at lower prices than in Australia, add their own small markup and can often deliver significant bargains to Australian consumers.

Apple's pricing on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus sits firmly in the premium space, so it's not hard to see why folks might seek out a bargain. Here’s what you’ll pay for an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus in Australia at launch:

ApplePrice
iPhone 7 (32GB)$1,079
iPhone 7 (128GB)$1,229
iPhone 7 Plus (32GB)$1,269
iPhone 7 (256GB)$1,379
iPhone 7 Plus (128GB)$1,419
iPhone 7 Plus (256GB)$1,569

Importing a phone is entirely legal, although you should be aware that there can in some cases be warranty coverage issues with phones purchased this way. That being said, Apple’s warranty for phones is generally global, so once you’ve got your iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus in hand, you should be fine for support with normal phone issues. Break your iPhone and you’re most likely not covered by warranty anyway.

However, at launch, none of the usual direct importers are offering either the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus for order. Searches for "iPhone 7" at DWI or Kogan simply redirect to accessories suitable for the iPhone 6s/Plus, most of which should fit an iPhone 7, but there's not that much fun to be had with an empty phone case.

Expansys is listing the full range of iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models, but simply with a pre-order button and no indication of the price that you’re likely to pay for phones once they have them. It is feasible that we'll see some slightly cheaper iPhones this way, as there's a slight uptick in pricing in the local market. While most imported phones are typically European or Hong Kong models, by way of comparison, there's a difference of around $120 between the US and Australian pricing, even taking GST into account.

The practical upshot of this is that if you’re hunting for an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, your best current bets would remain Apple itself or its carrier partners, as while it’s inevitable that the direct import market will sell iPhone 7 models eventually, there’s no real sign of when that might be.

Couldn't I import one myself?

It's certainly feasible that you could do so, but you'd need to be careful on a couple of fronts. While Apple typically only produces a few different frequency range models of its iPhone ranges, so most phones are compatible worldwide, there are variants that may have issues on local frequency bands depending on your telco.

Apple advises that there are three different models of the iPhone 7 (A1660, A1778, A1779) and likewise three of the iPhone 7 Plus (A1661, A1784, A1785). The models that Australia sells locally appear to be the A1660 and A1661 variants, so for maximum compatibility, you should opt for those models. If whoever you're buying it from can't identify those details easily, you should back out of any deal, as you're likely dealing with someone not trading honestly.

Even outside of those hurdles, make sure you do your sums carefully. That's because there's no iPhone 7 model worth less than $1000 locally, which means on top of whatever you might pay for shipping, you'd also be up for import duties on your phone, which could well wipe out any cost savings once you've actually got your iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus.

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