Something that often troubles us as Android users, as I’m sure it troubles many of you, our readers, is whether to import a phone from overseas, or wait (pray?) for a local Australian release. We are (un)fortunate that Australia isn’t (yet) a part of the United States of America, which seems to be the place where all new Android phones come to market.
In fact, there are few occasions that I can think of where a launch has occurred in Australia before anywhere else.
We, Android users, tend to like the bleeding edge. There are many users who are happy to take what our favourite Aussie telcos have to offer, when they get around to offering it, but I dare say that there are a good many MORE users who’d rather have the latest release before the Aussie telcos get around to releasing it – and that’s assuming they do ever release it.There are a number of good (great?) reasons to import Android devices from overseas, and there are a couple of ways to do it too, depending on your preparedness to muck around. However, there are a few pitfalls, and I want to clear the air a little about what you can and can’t do, and the relative advantages/disadvantages of doing so.
1. Importing phones from the USA is probably the best place.
There’s a few simple reasons why this is so. In the states, they have phone networks like ours. The large telcos there operate 3G networks many of which use the same frequencies as we use here.
For example, any phone released on AT&T is almost certainly going to work without a hitch (and in fact, perform very well) on Telstra’s Next G network. Equally, phones released by T-Mobile are quite likely to work very well on Optus or Vodafone (or 3 I guess).
There’s also the other simple reason that phones are most of the time released in the good ol’ USA before they are available anywhere else.
1a. UPDATE: You can also get decent prices / good releases from the UK as well.
A few of you commented on this story about the lack of UK options. Of course, how could we forget this? Our own Buzz Moody wrote about importing handsets from the UK a year ago. As others have commented, Buzz pointed out three UK vendors worthy of note:
Each of the three offer competitive pricing and all ship to Australia using couriers (DHL or FedEx).
When purchasing from the UK you are exempt of VAT (tax), so you don’t have to pay it. This can reduce your costs. It’s very unlikely you’ll end up paying customs duties or GST on the phone on entry into Australia, unless its valued over $1000 AUD (and most phones aren’t).
Folks from Whirlpool and from our comments below have had a great deal of success with early release handsets from the UK, so if the handset you want isn’t available in the US, or even if it is, the UK is a good viable option.
2. A couple of pitfalls for importing yourself.
As with Australia, the source of most phones in the USA is from telcos. As you’d imagine, they’re probably not all that keen on selling phones to people with shipping addresses in Australia, so you need to find some way of getting the phones to you.
Places like PriceUSA.com will source a phone via their agent in the USA, have it shipped to the agent who will then ship it to you in Australia. There are other freight forwarders too, many of which will give you a pseudo-address in the USA that you can have things shipped to, and forwarded to Australia. Expect to pay for these services though.
There can also be issues with Customs – phones worth more than $1000 will likely attract Customs’ duties and GST – factor these costs in.
As you might guess, this can be a tricky process. Many, many people have imported phones this way – I’m reminded of the rush on Google Nexus One phones when they were released – and I’m sure many, many more people will continue to import this way. It’s one of the lowest cost options, short of buying the phone in the USA yourself if you happen to visit.
3. If you don’t want to import it yourself, you don’t have to.
There are a couple of options for sourcing phones from overseas without needing to get involved in the nitty gritty of handling importing and other things yourself.
There are a couple of places that take care of sourcing US stock and importing it to Australia for sale – meaning all you need to do is select a handset, pay the price, give them the shipping address and Bob’s your uncle.
One of Ausdroid’s sponsors, MobiCity, is one of Australia’s favourite importers of mobile phones, and a good place to find them well ahead of any official Australian launch.
However, this is an opinion piece – not an advertisement – and there are a couple of things you should bear in mind buying from MobiCity. Because they take care of sourcing stock and importing it for you, they take on some of the risk, and incur some costs. The primary way they account for this is slightly higher prices than standard retail prices in the USA.
When the Nexus One was released, if memory serves, it was available for around $500 from Google directly, however, they weren’t shipping directly to Australia. MobiCity very quickly had the Nexus One available, however it cost a few hundred dollars more. For many people (me included) this was well worth the price.
However, for some people, this mark-up isn’t worth it – importing it yourself, if you know what you’re doing, can save you a fair bit.
4. What to do if something goes wrong?
Phones bought in Australia are covered by all manner of warranties and things – basically if you buy a new phone and it goes caput, there’s a fair chance that either the telco or manufacturer will repair or replace it (if the damage isn’t your fault). If you drop it in water or something, then you’re up the creek…
However, things that you buy from overseas aren’t covered by Australian statutory warranties, and if you import it yourself, you’re going to have to deal with a warranty offered elsewhere, and you can imagine that manufacturers are going to have a bit of a laugh at you trying to have a device in Australia repaired under a US warranty. Some people have had luck with this – many haven’t.
This is where importers like MobiCity can in fact be quite beneficial – not only do they absorb much of the risks for you (as outlined above), however, they also provider another service – a third party warranty. Without going into excessive detail – you can read the link for MobiCity’s explanation of what they do and don’t – they basically offer the equivalent of a manufacturer’s warranty on phones you buy through their site. This means phones that are DOA (dead on arrival) are replaced if they are notified within 48 hours of delivery. After this, repairs and replacements are dealt with under a separate system which works quite well.
If you buy direct from the USA, and you don’t have such a third party warranty, then if something goes wrong your best option is to get in touch with the manufacturer and let them know what’s gone wrong, and see what they can suggest which might get you going again. However, don’t expect this to be an easy process.
UPDATE: We have had folks point out that phones bought from the UK have been returned to the UK for warranty service, however we haven’t verified this (and I haven’t personally experienced it), so as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.
5. So, how does it work in practice? Have you guys done this before?
This post is from me (Chris), not the other guys, so I can only speak of my own experiences. I’ve dealt extensively with MobiCity, both in purchasing phones for myself and friends, and also receiving review units for Ausdroid. Much of MobiCity’s stock comes from Canada and the USA, and every time without fail I’ve received a working handset with no issues whatsoever.
Although not my own experience, I know a good number of people who imported (by themselves, with the assistance of a freight forwarder) Nexus One phones when they were released, and they – also – had no issues whatsoever in receiving a working handset. However, if they had experienced issues with their phones, they’d probably have had an interesting time trying to get warranty service.
The bottom line is this – importing phones (either yourself or with the assistance of companies outlined in this article) is a fairly easy process, and most of the time you’ll have no issues at all. Bear in mind though these dot points:
- Phones imported from the USA (or anywhere, really) are unlikely to be covered by a warranty in Australia, so if something goes wrong, good luck. Check this at the point of purchase – if you’re buying through a third party site like Clove or Handtec, check what their policies are.
- Phones sold by companies in Australia (like MobiCity) are covered by warranties, and you also have statutory protections as well. This can well be worth the extra cost you’ll pay these places for your new phone.
- You’ll pay a bit more for someone else to do the work for you – it might be cheaper to import it yourself, but make sure you know the risks.
Above all, enjoy your new phones!
There are online shops in the USA which ship phones to Australia, all the time, such as http://www.onthegosolutions.com. And, the phones they sell are usually upgraded (rooted) and unlocked. What’s also cool is that sell Australian phones too, such as the Telstra HD2!
I ordered a Xoom through Clove, other than a few problems validating the credit card (I had to send them a copy of my driving license and the credit card) it has been a breeze, cann’t wait for it to arrive next week.
I imported my Xperia Arc from the UK, through Handtec. The price was excellent, the shipping was quick, the whole thing was painless. I talked to people on Whirlpool who’ve imported from them and had no issues with warranty returns to the UK (obviously that hasn’t come up for me yet, and touch wood never will). Would definitely import again. Added bonus, which you didn’t mention: no carrier-installed bloatware, and I’ll get the next version of Android when the manufacturer releases it, not when the carrier does. The only downside is importing from the UK means Optus or Vodafone here,… Read more »
I can confirm that my HTC desire HD had to be sent back to the UK for repair (was a UK import). While this can be a ‘pain’ it wasn’t too bad. I paid for shipping to the UK only, HTC paid for shipping back to me in Australia.
I had no issues in logging a fault and having the return address to Australia. Infact the guy I spoke to was quite aware of the process and it seemed common.
Would like to know if i could buy a phone from SG and use it in AU on the optus network.
Like all good answers, the answer is ‘depends’, depends on what phone and what 3g std it has. Check the phones specs for HSPA/WCDMA, you need the following depending on what network HSPA/WCDMA: 900/2100 MHz for optus/vigrin/optus resellers (3g ) HSPA/WCDMA: 850/2100 MHz for telstra nextg (really could get away with 850mhz only as the 2100mhz is getting turned off by telstra in about 12 months) HSPA/WCDMA: 850/900/2100 MHz for vodafone as they have a mixed bag of crap networks, but they are moving to an 850mhz only network s lowly…. HSPA/WCDMA: 850/900/2100 MHz for 3, Its mixed bag of… Read more »
I thought this was a great article except for the PriceUSA part. A visit to the whirlpool forum will show many posters who have had negative experience with the service that is offered. There are several other companies that offer the same service but for less fees
I picked up my HTC Inspire 4G from GSM Nation. Got a great price, and
since I purchased these guys now include a 3rd party local warranty.
Would definitely look at using these guys again for my next phone,
although it looks like there has been some success buying from the UK so will be worth (as always) doing some research.
If I buy an Android from overseas will the android receive over the air updates (Donut -> Froyo -> gingerbread)? I was under the impression these were send out via the network opperator (telstra, optus)
nope it will be done via sync on pc, ota is only an us thing
This is incorrect. Overseas models like those bought from handtec, clove etc are not carrier locked. I have received all my updates OTA including the latest HTC desire hd gingerbread. This one of the main benefits, OTA updates long before carriers like Optus or Telstra can be bothered.
Or, if you purchase a rooted Android phone, you can download and install your own updates, well before your carrier rolls them out.
Yeah, as “Mail” says, handset manufacturers push out updates (OTA – though it’s really over IP) the carriers also get copies and can “perform testing” to ensure it’s not messing up their networks. Some carriers do make patches, and of course they like to stamp their brand all over it.
There is one other factor that you failed to mention. Importing a phone from overseas yourself is generally illegal. The phones do not comply with ACMA regulations regarding the A-tick compliance. In fact, without a custom build, stock Android cannot comply with A-Tick as 000 is not recognised as an emergency number. Some companies that offer non-Australian stock believe that they are getting around A-Tick requirements as the purchaser is the importer. My direct discussions with the ACMA about this revealed that the ACMA does not agree with this position. Although as long as no one complains – ACMA seem… Read more »
This is not 100% true that non A-Tick phones won’t dial 000. My imported Desire HD from the UK will let me do a 000 call from the emergency dialling screen without issues.
You are also aware that 112 is the international emergency number for all mobile phones. Dialing 112 for emergency will use any network that the phone can see to make the call, bypass any screen/phone locks etc.
Android 10″ Tablets in SG – Asus Transformer:SG$699 Acer Iconia:SG$799 Motorola Xoom:SG$888. All WiFi versions with international warranty.
I got my new Samsung Galaxy S2 on Friday. Ordered from Handtec in the UK on Tuesday and delivered in 3 days. Saved over $250 over Aussie retailers. No tax or duty to pay. Fantastic!
How did you save that much? i think ure exaggerating…
I disagree with importing from the US. The UK gets many phones earlier and when i bought my desire last year, Clove were cheaper. I even had a fault and returned it to the UK for warranty without any problem.
I agree, there have been a number of recent releases to Europe first, particularly from Asian manufacturers, of course American manufacturers are going to deliver locally first.
Given that Australia and Europe are both GSM systems, I’d expect US phone releases to be for a different baseband model, which is likely to have it’s own release schedule.
‘However this is an opinion piece not an advertisement’…. Ok whatever you say.
This was an idea that I asked ausdroid about on twitter as I am a big believer in buying from both US and UK. I to was disappointed to have the opinion this was more of a push for mobicity. As mentioned by ndwalters in another comment the uk is probably one of the best placed to import phones, especially Android phones, there was also no mention of saving the VAT or sales tax when purchasing abroad only the possibility of gst and duty when bringing the phone in. I dont even think there is an Android phone that will… Read more »
“All that aside I love the site and just hope it doesn’t fall prey to the commercial pressure that is a sponsor.”
Oh no, not at all. I mean it’s not like there’s “campaign=Ausdroid+Referrals” attached to the end of the MobiCity hotlink in the article or anything……
Hahahah well spotted, guess the impartial edge has been lost 🙂
Those links with the utm details are the same for most of our outgoing links, not just MobiCity.
Though points for trying.
The article starts well but seems to drift into a promotion for Mobicity, mentioned 8 times.
Hmmm you can tell who pays the bills and offers free handsets for review 🙂
What are your thoughts on clove (uk)? They seem to be reasonably cheap as well.
I import almost all of my phones from the UK, mostly from Clove Technology. If you’re going to import a HTC phone or tablet, the European version almost always comes with 2 years warranty. Not that I’ve ever had a phone for that long, but its nice to know that you’re covered. Local carriers (Telcos, that is) are just too slow to get stock and way too expensive. When I imported the HTC Desire, I got it $200 cheaper and months earlier than I could have got it from Telstra and that was before the $ to £ exchange rate… Read more »
Just get them off eBay. I got my Desire HD, postage was very fast and the phone was unlocked…
I’ve imported all my phones, warranty isn’t an issue because I root and put custom firmware on my phones anyway.
Buy from a reliable source and use a reliable mail forwarding service are the real tips.
AT&T do 3G on 850 and 1900, so an AT&T phone will be fine on NextG. T-Mobile USA do 3G on 1700, which isn’t used here at all. Now, you may find that a phone released on T-Mobile *also* has support for 900 or 2100, in which case you’re good to go on Optus or VHA, but you really should do your research first to be on the safe side. Phones for any of the other US carriers won’t work here, they’re all CDMA. Europe and the UK may well be a safer bet, as 2100 is the standard frequency… Read more »
Yeah, I don’t quite understand why the author chose the USA as the definitive best place. For Telstra/AT&T, yes, maybe.
But phones like the T-Mobile Vibrant (Galaxy S) and G2 are missing the 3G 900MHz band, which I’m pretty sure is what Optus uses in rural areas. Verizon and Sprint are both CDMA, which, as you said, is unusable here. Importing from the UK is definitely the safer bet. (and yes, research!)
Thanks for clearing that up. I was going to ask which US carrier to do we need to purchase from if you are with Vodafone or Optus. How about purchasing from Canada? Which of their carriers have phones that work on Optus and Vodafone network?
i root.and hack the hell out of every phone i get so the warranty thing is not an issue as i normally void.the warranty within a few.weeks of buying it anyway…
good article ..
there are pros and cons for each side of the argument
When I bought my Nexus One I looked overseas and even 12 months ago when the exchange where no where near what they are today it was cheaper (with forwarding and everything else). In the end I bought the phone outright but locally. The warranty is what did it for me. To be sending my phone to the US for warranty issues was not going to work. I was prepared to pay some more for this. Remember this is technology, things are likely to go wrong. I ended up buying from Smooth Mobile and did use their warranty service which… Read more »