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 ( www.mi.com) — 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 ( oneplus.net), Huawei ( huawei.com), Honor ( hihonor.com), ZTE ( zte.com), Meizu ( meizu.com) and Oppo ( oppo.com). Websites such as whirlpool.net.au and ozbargain.com.
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 ( www.whirlpool.net.au/wiki/mobile_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, willmyphonework.net and
frequencycheck.com 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 gsmarena.com and phonearena.com 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.
OTHER IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS
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
gsmarena.com are a good place to check smartphone specs before purchase.