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?

iPad&iPhone user - - FEATURE -

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?

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