It can be well worthwhile shopping around for an iPhone from the States, especially if the dollar is at a competitive rate. Many customers buy an iPhone from there, either from a website, while enjoying a visit, or they can pick up a bargain deal for a used iPhone from home by visiting Ebay USA.
The fact is, the price of an iPhone from the USA is often cheaper than it is in Europe. For example, the Apple store price in the US for a 64GB iPhone 6 is $749, whereas in France it is €819. If we convert to euros, (taking a rate of $1.25/EUR on average over the last 12 months), that puts the price at around €600, a saving of almost €220!
However, the used iPhones sold from the United States are usually blocked by the cellphone service provider.
It’s therefore important to pay attention to whether the phone is SIM FREE, or UNLOCKED (i.e. free of any operator). If not, the cost of unlocking the phone will need to be added to the purchase price. If the phone is locked you might be able to convince the former owner to request that AT&T unlock the phone. If not, you will have no choice but to pay for an unlocking service.
Cost of unlocking a USA iPhone, contract or unpaid
To unlock an AT&T USA iPhone only costs about $9.9 and the service is usually activated within 24 hours. But if your iPhone is connected to an ongoing contract, or there are arrears on the account, then the rate and the period is higher (see the site for rates). So when you buy your used iPhone, be sure to ask the owner if it is in compliance with its operator and whether there are any “Unpaid Bills” or “Unpaid dues”. Usually AT&T will sell a phone with a 2-year subscription. So if the phone has only a few months of contract left, there is a good chance that it is “barred.”
Compare the total cost of unlocking an iPhone on Orange France vs AT&T USA
To do this, take the case of an iPhone under 3 months: iPhone 64GB + cellphone unlocking = total cost.
USA AT&T: 600 € + 35 € = € 635.00
Orange FR: € 819 + € 75 = € 894.00
A total difference of €259!
Pay close attention to the American cellphone provider
Be careful when you make your choice because a locked USA iPhone from other cellphone operators, e.g. T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon can cost a lot more to unlock. T-Mobile USA, for example, costs four times more to unlock than AT&T, about €115.00!
Regarding Sprint and Verizon, there are two important points to note. First, make sure the iPhone has a compatible GSM network. Sprint and Verizon use a different technology which is prevalent in the United States. In general the recent iPhones are multi-network and are therefore compatible, but it is best to check before buying the IMEI number whether the iDevice is GSM or not.
Secondly, for Sprint USA if there are ANY arrears it will be impossible to unlock the phone. We receive many requests to unlock Sprint USA cellphones but in 70% of cases there are unpaid dues and the operator refuses to unlock the device. However when the client file attached to the phone is “clean”, Sprint and Verizon release the phone quite fast and at an affordable price of just €20.00