Is it cheaper to buy an iPhone from the US?
Marie Black looks at whether can you save money by buying your iPhone in the US?
If you’ve been following the recent iPhone announcements, you won’t have been able to help noticing the price. The iPhone 8 starts at £699, the iPhone 8 Plus £799, and the iPhone X £999. That’s a lot of money, so it’s only natural you’ll be wanting to find the best deal.
(We’ve focused on SIM-only prices here, because buying the iPhone abroad is enough of a headache without also having to unlock it from a US network.)
Are US prices cheaper?
Only very, very slightly. Although they appear to be cheaper, US pricing does not take into account local taxes, which varies between states.
In New York sales tax is 8.875 percent, for example. And when the phone arrives in the UK you should also pay 20 percent VAT.
That would increase the $699 price of the iPhone 8 to $900, or £679, making it only a fraction cheaper than the same phone when purchased in the UK.
By the time you’ve added delivery or transport costs, however, you’re not saving any money.
How to buy a US iPhone in the UK
If you’ve looked at that £20 saving and decided it’s worth the effort, your next question will be how can you get a US iPhone in the UK.
The best option is to combine your purchase of the iPhone with a pre-planned visit to the US, and if you haven’t got a holiday in the US coming up, then to find
a friend who has. Assuming you do things above board and pay your taxes, this option will save you £20.
Another option is to use a shopping concierge website that specialises in buying products in the US where they are cheaper and shipping them to the UK. One such site is Big Apple Buddy (bigapplebuddy.com).
But while it is useful for sourcing products you cannot buy in the UK, knowing that you’ll have to pay a little extra for the privilege, by the time you’ve paid the site’s service charge and delivery fees you won’t save any money on the iPhone.
Is it cheaper to fly out to the US to buy an iPhone?
We think by now you probably already know the answer to this question: you will not get a return flight to the US and be able to buy the iPhone out there for a combined total of less than what it costs in the UK.
This tweet from Skyscanner caught our eye:
It’s worth pointing out that this tweet does not take into account either sales tax or VAT, and we’d like to know where it is finding that return flight
so cheap. Though you might not get caught if you don’t pay the taxes, we are not about to advise anyone to break the law.
We did our own search using the Skyscanner’s flight engine for 22 September – that’s the day the new iPhones go on sale – from anywhere in the UK to anywhere in the US, and at any time.
The cheapest deal we could find at the time of writing flew from Glasgow to Orlando at 10.15am (UK time), leaving the US at 4.05pm (US time) – a 19-hour round trip that costs £369.98.
Even ignoring the taxes paying £369.98 for flights and £528 for the iPhone (Google conversion at the time of writing) results in a combined total of £897.98.
So, significantly more than £699. But you do get to go to the US. Briefly. (There are just two hours in between those flights, all of which would be spent at the airport.)
Will a US iPhone work in the UK?
By now we’re assuming you’ve got this crazy idea out of your head, and that you will buy your iPhone in the UK as Apple intended. But if you are going to be in the US anyway, it is still possible you could save a little money. So, next question: will it work?
Something most people will overlook is the frequencies used by cellular networks. In the UK, for example, mobile operators use a combination of bands 3, 7 and 20 for LTE. We also use a combination of GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA bands for calls and texts.
Apple lists various iPhone 8 models, some of which will work in both the UK and the US. Specifically, the
iPhone 8 A1905 or iPhone 8 Plus A1897 will work in the US on AT&T and T-Mobile, and in the UK on 3, BT, EE, Giffgaff, O2, Sky, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.
So yes, a US-bought iPhone will work in the UK – provided it isn’t locked to a US network. Be sure to buy a SIM-free version if you do buy abroad.
You should also take into account warranty considerations, however, and should anything go wrong it will cost you a lot more to send it back to the US for repair. Is losing your warranty really worth a £20 saving?