Im­port­ing a smart­phone


SMART­PHONES ARE IN­CRED­I­BLY use­ful de­vices, but the prices for a high-end flag­ship model can be rather high. In con­trast, many Chi­nese com­pa­nies have a range of pre­mium-spec mod­els that are a frac­tion of price of buy­ing a lo­cally-sold brand. In other cases, it’s pos­si­ble to save hun­dreds of dol­lars on big name brand by pur­chas­ing it in­ter­na­tion­ally. But it’s not as sim­ple as just or­der­ing a nice look­ing smart­phone, with a tan­gled web of dif­fer­ent specs, fre­quen­cies, war­ranties, charg­ers and more to work through. To help ex­plain and guide you through the process, we’ve put to­gether a how-to on im­port­ing a phone. A lot of the same advice can ap­ply to other tech, such as lap­tops as tablets, too.


If you don’t al­ready have a model in mind, then the ar­ray of op­tions can be pretty daunt­ing. While there are plenty of of­ten very cheap, no-name brands, it’s gen­er­ally best to stick to a few larger Chi­nese com­pa­nies. That’s not to say that the mys­tery phone on eBay is not a good deal — you just need to put in a whole lot more re­search be­fore buy­ing. No mat­ter which phone you choose, try and find some hands-on re­views. Video re­views are ideal, as it gives a bet­ter idea of the le­git­i­macy of the per­son ac­tu­ally writ­ing the re­view. Be wary of re­views on re­tailer web­sites, and try to find more de­tailed feed­back in fo­rums or on Red­dit.

Plenty of Chi­nese com­pa­nies of­fer quite pre­mium de­vices for af­ford­able prices. A great brand to start with is Xiaomi ( — a Chi­nese com­pany that is ac­tu­ally the fourth largest smart­phone maker in the world. Other qual­ity brands (some of which sell of­fi­cially in Aus­tralia as well) in­clude OnePlus (, Huawei (, Honor ( hi­, ZTE (, Meizu ( and Oppo ( Web­sites such as and ozbar­

au are also ex­cel­lent re­sources for find­ing the best deals and smart­phone mod­els.


Coun­tries around the world use dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies for mo­biles, so a de­vice meant for the Chi­nese mar­ket may not work cor­rectly in Aus­tralia. Even lo­cally, dif­fer­ent car­ri­ers use a range of dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies for 3G and 4G net­works. Sup­port­ing the right fre­quen­cies is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for get­ting the most out of the lat­est 4G tech­nolo­gies. We’ve in­cluded a ta­ble, but for more info, head to Whirlpool and check out their net­work fre­quency guide (­bile_­phone_fre­quen­cies). To check, en­sure your smart­phone choice has all the same fre­quen­cies listed for your Aus­tralian ser­vice provider. While it does not cover every phone, willmy­ and

fre­quen­cy­ are good re­sources. The other side of the equa­tion is fig­ur­ing out what fre­quen­cies the phone you are pur­chas­ing sup­ports. Bet­ter sell­ers will in­clude the full list, but keep in mind that it is not al­ways ac­cu­rate. Look for the spe­cific model num­ber and search that on Google. The web­sites gs­ and phon­ are solid (but not in­fal­li­ble) re­sources in this re­gard.


It’s of­ten pos­si­ble to save a de­cent chunk of money by buy­ing the same smart­phone sold

in Aus­tralia, but from an in­ter­na­tional source. It is very im­por­tant to check the spec­i­fi­ca­tions, though, as mod­els sold in other coun­tries can have dif­fer­ent spec lev­els, and use dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies, de­spite hav­ing the same name or model num­ber. It’s not al­ways a bad thing, though, as some in­ter­na­tional ver­sions of smart­phones come equipped with ex­tra fea­tures, such as dual SIM sup­port, SD card read­ers or more RAM. For a phone to be sold in Aus­tralia (even from over­seas), it must com­ply with Aus­tralian war­ranty laws. The good news is that means it is cov­ered for a rea­son­able life­span (for ex­am­ple, two years), no mat­ter what the seller says. Of course, it can be hard to get an over­seas re­tailer to en­ter­tain your war­ranty claim, and al­most cer­tainly, it will in­volve ship­ping the de­vice back to its ori­gin for as­sess­ment. Even if the same brand is sold in Aus­tralia, the man­u­fac­turer may not ac­tu­ally of­fer a lo­cal war­ranty ser­vice. While it gen­er­ally costs a bit more, one option is to buy an ‘im­ported’ phone from a seller lo­cated in Aus­tralia, who must then cover the war­ranty them­selves.


Us­ing a credit card is an ideal method to buy for on­line pur­chases, and gives some pro­tec­tion via a charge­back if the phone never ar­rives. Pay­ing via PayPal (with a credit card) can add an­other layer of pro­tec­tion. Al­ways use a re­tailer that of­fers ship­ping with track­ing and in­surance to en­sure you get the de­liv­ery or can have it re­placed if there’s an is­sue. Some in­ter­na­tional re­tail­ers will pack­age in a lo­cal charger or Aus­tralian adapter. But oth­er­wise, use an ex­ist­ing charger or buy one lo­cally that meets Aus­tralian safety reg­u­la­tions. Most over­seas smart­phone pur­chases won’t be over the $1,000 im­port duty thresh­old, but keep it in mind. From July 1st, 2017, all over­seas pur­chases will be sub­ject to GST, but how ex­actly that will work out re­mains to be seen. While rel­a­tively rare, some im­ported phones have come pre-loaded with spy­ware and other bloat — so it’s al­ways a good idea to dou­ble check and unin­stall any ex­tra apps.

One of the best Chi­nese brands is Xiaomi, with high-qual­ity hard­ware at an af­ford­able price.

Deal Ex­treme can be a great place to buy cheap smart­phones (and other gad­gets) and has an Aus­tralian ware­house.

When search­ing on eBay, make sure to select the advanced search option for items avail­able glob­ally.

If in doubt, web­sites such as fre­quen­cy­check. com can help make sure a spe­cific phone will work in Aus­tralia.

Web­sites such as gs­ are a good place to check smart­phone specs be­fore pur­chase.

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