Ask Adrian: Our tech editor Adrian Weckler tackles your trickiest technology problems
Q: I'm wondering if I might save money by buying an iPhone abroad? I don't want to buy one as part of a contract but it seems like they're a lot cheaper in some other countries, especially America. My sister lives in New York and I'm going to visit her there this summer. Are there any downsides to buying one there as opposed to over here?
A: In general, tech products are noticeably cheaper in the US than in Ireland. You specifically mention an iPhone, so I'll start with that. I'll use the flagship (and most expensive) 'iPhone X' model to illustrate the difference - other iPhone models won't have as much of a saving attached.
In Ireland, the iPhone X costs €1,179 wherever you buy it. And it's the same price in all other euro-currency countries. In Britain, it's roughly this price too - £999, which is €1,132 before your currency-trading fee is counted (this will bring it up to around the same price as Ireland).
Now look at the price in the US: $999 (€834). Of course, US states have sales tax to be added to this. In New York, where you say you plan to visit, sales tax is 8.875pc. That amounts to an overall price of $1,087, which is €907.43. Add around €30 to the exchange rate cost and you end up with something in the region of €940.
In other words, it's €240 cheaper to buy an iPhone X in the US than it is in Ireland, or anywhere else in Europe.
The savings are similar, in percentage terms, right down the range.
For example, an entry level iPhone SE costs €419 here or around €330 in the US, taking into account the same sales tax and currency conversion costs as above.
So yes, in pure financial terms, you will save considerably if you buy a phone outright in the US rather than in Ireland. This is especially the case if you happen to buy your device in a state with low sales tax (or ones with no sales tax at all, such as New Hampshire).
Are there other considerations?
Undoubtedly. What if something goes wrong? Who do you call or take it into?
Apple is an outlier here and generally has good after-sales support, regardless of where you bought the item in question. So if you buy an iPhone in the US, Apple should take it back in Ireland and repair it or replace it (although my understanding is that they won't offer a refund, as that remains an issue with the retailer).
If you're worried, Apple offers an extended, more in-depth warranty service called Applecare that explicitly takes in global repairs and returns.
It is also worth mentioning that the Revenue Commissioners advise that goods purchased outside the European Union are generally liable for Vat and Customs duty when re-entering the EU.
Implementation of this appears to be haphazard on small electronics goods, especially with so much available to buy in duty free shops at the outgoing airports. However, those rules are there.
There are some other minor issues with buying electrical equipment in the US for use in Ireland. An obvious one is plugs and power leads. Sometimes, a power adaptor will have the local country's plug configuration welded on to the cord. However, this generally isn't a problem for phone or tablet chargers, where the lead is usually separate from the plug.
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