Tourists snapping up Apple iPhones and ‘exporting’ them around the world?

“Smuggling iPhones has become a lucrative, if legally questionable, way for traveling students and flight attendants to earn a bit of extra cash. An iPhone costs $499 plus tax in the U.S. — call it $550. Unlock it, for $50 or less, and you can sell the same phone for the equivalent of $900 or so in Europe,” Robert Cyran and Dwight Cass report for The Wall Street Journal.

“Perhaps it’s no coincidence that iPhones, perennially sold out at Apple’s Manhattan stores, are in stock in Buffalo. Manhattan is full of tourists armed with strong euros, rubles and Brazilian reais. Few of them visit cities in upstate New York,” Cyran and Cass report.

“This explanation, while speculative, has big implications for Apple and AT&T. Of course, there could be others explanations. Apple, which declined to comment, could be clearing the decks for a new version of the iPhone. Or it could have simply misjudged demand or run into parts shortages. Listen to the Babel of languages in Apple’s New York City stores, though, and it’s easy to imagine the missing phones in suitcases flying overseas,” Cyran and Cass report.

Full article (subscription required) here.

43 Comments

  1. Why spend that much on an iPhone from the States when T-Mobile Germany is about to put the 8 GB model on sale for $122 USD on April 7th? Buy it there and bring it back to Manhattan for sale outside an Apple Store.

    Now THAT sounds like a way to make some cash!

  2. That T-mobile sale price includes a German service contract. Add two years of service in and the price doesn’t seem so good compared to an unlocked American phone when your reselling in one of the 200+ countries on this planet where you can’t officially buy an iPhone.

  3. I just always found it strange that the Iphone is a GSM phone but can’t be used anywhere else in the world. Any GSM phone you can pop in a SIM card and use it anywhere. Who cares if someone buys 50 iphone Apple Wins. Any company who does work with Apple will know that they will eventually lose.

  4. I’ve seen iPhones on display in at least one retail cell phone outlet in Montréal, Québec. Insofar as the thing isn’t yet officially available in Canada … well, what more is there to say?

  5. What in the world is “legally questionable?” Buy something, take it somewhere where people want it, and sell it for more. Get rewarded for initiative and risk. Declare the income on your taxes. “Legally questionable”? Bite me.

  6. dizil: I just always found it strange that the Iphone is a GSM phone but can’t be used anywhere else in the world. Any GSM phone you can pop in a SIM card and use it anywhere.

    Of course you can use it anywhere – you “just” have to go through the outrageously expensive roaming scheme of your home provider. Not ideal by any means, but not a technical problem.

    dizil: Who cares if someone buys 50 iphone Apple Wins. Any company who does work with Apple will know that they will eventually lose.

    Doesn’t look like it, actually, though some of Apple’s partners seem oblivious to the chances they’re holding in their hands.

  7. @Keith Moon,
    You had better be using those AAPL shares to buy a shitload of booze and pills. You gotta live up to your rep.

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  8. @ Sheep Register and MikeH:

    If, by purchasing an iPhone, you are also obliged to enter into a contract with a carrier and you fail to do so, you are breaking the law. There’s nothing legally questionable about it. It’s illegal.

  9. @Jay-Z…

    But you’re not legally required to enter into a contract with AT&T;when you purchase an iphone in the USA. So it’s not illegal to purchase an iPhone, take it overseas, and sell it there.

  10. @dizil

    I just came back from a 9 day tour in Sicily and used my iPhone everyday via Vodaphone which offers great reception in the areas that I visited. The AT&T;rates were great @ 95 cents per minute and an extra $25 for 25 mb of data roaming. I checked my email several times a day as well aa stocks and several internet sites.

    What are you talking about?

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