You were content to wait until the end of April to pick up your iPad locally, avoiding the buzz from the handful of people who got one from the USA. But then Apple said, "no iPads for you until the end of May" and now you're giving in and changing your mind. 6 weeks is too long for you to wait, and you're looking in to getting one from the USA somehow. It's confusing and when you're spending a couple of hundred dollars, the last thing you want to do is have your iPad come slowly, or not at all! This guide gives you a rough idea as to the various ways to get one in to your Aussie hands and will hopefully let you avoid any pitfalls or scammers.
3G iPad Availability & Australian Compatibility
A lot of you (me included) are hanging for the 3G iPad - just note, that the 3G model is currently not available. No firm release date for the 3G model has been set. Apple is still giving an estimate of late April for the 3G iPad in the USA. So anyone offering to sell you a 3G iPad doesn't have one - they're just waiting for it to be released and will then ship it to you.
A 3G iPad purchased in the USA will work fine here in Australia. The 3G radio in the iPad is the same as in the iPhone. It operates with 3G on the 2100mhz (metro/large rural Vodafone, Optus and 3) & 850mhz (Telstra) networks. The iPad is being sold unlocked and with no contract in the USA, making it easy to export. The only issue is that the SIM card format for the 3G iPad is a microSIM, which is smaller than the traditional SIMs used here in Australia. You can apparently cut your current SIM down to fit and it should work fine. There's no details on this yet as no-one has got their hands on a 3G iPad yet to try!
Is the Warranty Valid in Australia?
I gave AppleCare in the USA a call to ask and they told me that yes, the iPad (both the wi-fi and 3G model) has a worldwide warranty. Just note that until the iPad is released in Australia, you will need to ship it back to the USA. So for example, you get your iPad and it arrives DOA (doesn't turn on, or has a screen imperfection, etc), Apple Australia can't do anything for you. You'll need to ship it to someone in the USA who can take your iPad to a Genius Bar.
Australian App Store and iPad App Issues
The Australian App Store does contain iPad apps, but no specific iPad section, unlike the US App Store. The Australian App Store also doesn't load on the iPad itself, with the device bringing up an error message stating that the store isn't available in your country.
So if you want to avoid getting a US App Store account, you can simply download apps from iTunes on your Mac or PC, using the Australian store and sync apps to your iPad. If you want to use the App Store on the iPad itself, you'll need to sign up for a US store account and buy apps from the USA.
Either way, you can get apps on to your iPad perfectly fine here in Australia. When the iPad is launched in Australia, you'll be able to use the App Store directly on the iPad with your Australian account.
Power Adaptor Problems?
The power adaptor that comes with the iPad is multi-voltage, so it works anywhere in the world. However the connector has US prongs. Luckily for us, Apple has a modular prong system, so the US pins can be removed and Australian ones placed on it. If you've got a MacBook or an iPhone, you can grab the "duckhead" (the Australian plug) from that adaptor and place it on your iPad adaptor and it will work fine. If you want to get a spare duckhead, this guy on eBay is selling them for $10 each.
You can use any USB port/charger to power the iPad, but it will take longer and even longer again if you're using the iPad whilst it's plugged in to a normal USB port. The iPad power adaptor spits out a lot more juice than a regular USB port.
How much does an iPad actually cost?
Let me give you a formula for working out what the "cost price" of an iPad actually is. It will help you decide if the premium you're paying for having it before the local release date it worth it. I'll use the 16GB iPad for the example.
- A 16GB iPad is US$499
- There is sales tax in most retail stores/online stores that is not advertised. In California, it is 8.5% - in New York it is 8.875% - in some states like Oregon and Delaware, there is no sales tax at all. A full list of sales taxes in the USA is on Wikipedia.
- Shipping one iPad from the USA to Australia, using USPS (the equivalent of Australia Post) and their 5 day service is going to be about US$60. The weight of an iPad and sufficient packaging is around 5lbs (2kg).
So if you're buying a 16GB iPad in California, the total Australian dollar price works out like so:
US$499 for the iPad itself + 8.5% sales tax (US$42.45) + shipping (US$60) = US$601.45. Convert that to AU$ and the total is AU$653.
You aren't going to get an iPad for less than $653. Obviously, the price goes up for the more expensive iPads, but shipping remains the same.
Basically, if you're importing one iPad, you will not be charged any sort of tax or duty. If you are ordering two or more in the same parcel, that makes the value of the parcel more than $1,000 and hence, will attract tax. You can write gift, or declare the item to be less than the $1,000, but often I've found that Customs somehow figures it out anyways and ends up charging you, so factor that in to your "is it worth it?" equation if you plan on buying a couple at once. It may work out to be cheaper to ship them individually.
If your parcel contains goods worth more than $1,000, you will be charged GST (10%) and duty (5%) as well as a brokerage fee by your mail carrier (random value depending on who you're shipping with - USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL etc.).
Enough crap, just tell me how to get an iPad!
eBay is the obvious answer - there's hundreds of listings right now, selling all the iPad varieties. The pricing is all over the place. Some sellers are totally gouging, some are adding a modest markup. At the end of the day, all you can do is buy from a seller you trust, who will ship it quickly, at a reasonable price. Keep in mind that a lot of these guys on eBay don't actually have the iPad in stock. They will go to an Apple store or order it online once you front up the cash, so there's no risk for them. That adds more time for delivery. Just be careful on eBay, as there are people out there looking to take advantage of you. Perhaps some MacTalk readers who have purchased from eBay can fill us in on who has been reliable for them?
Price USA is a buying service for American online stores that don't ship to Australia. They're reliable and have been around for a long time. Check out their website for the full procedure. Just note, that right now Price USA is flooded and are not taking new customers. If you've ordered from Price USA before, they'll order an iPad for you, but it could take up to 3 weeks to arrive. Check out Price USA on Twitter to keep track of the latest availability status.
Virtual US Mailboxes/Mail Forwarders
These are places like Ship2Me, Borderlinx, MyUS, Shipito and dozens of others (just Google for US mail forwarder). You pay a fee to them and they give you a US address to have goods shipped to (generally in the states that have no sales tax - score!). You go to the US Apple online store, order your iPad (or iPads) and enter your credit card details and then enter your shipping address (the US one provided to you by the forwarding company). The iPad is then delivered to this address, where the forwarding company notices it and then sends it to you in Australia.
How much this service costs, how fast they forward the mail on to you, and how reliable they are varies from provider to provider. I've never used this service personally, so I can't recommend anything. Some people on the MacTalk forums have used Ship2Me with success.
Just note, the US online Apple store does not take Australian-issued credit cards. Some Australian-issued cards may work if you go in to your online banking and change your address to a US address. This isn't 100% though. There is also word around the blogosphere that Apple is blocking delivery to these forwarding companies, but it seems that iPads are getting to them anyways. Your experience may vary.
A friend/relative in the USA
This is by far the best way. Stock at Apple Stores is pretty solid, so someone can walk in, buy an iPad, then go to the post office and mail it to you with little hassle. Some things to be aware of though - sales tax varies from state to state. So depending on where your friend or relative lives, you'll need to sling them extra money for the sales tax. Also note, that if you're getting them to send you two iPads or more, in the same parcel, that you will be exceeding the AU$1,000 threshold set by Australian Customs and will attract tax (10%) and duty (5%).
Going to the USA Yourself
If you're going to the USA soon, you can just grab one yourself while you're there. Go to an Apple store, get out the credit card and you're set. Again, be aware of the state sales tax, which isn't advertised, and also be aware of foreign transaction fees on your credit card. It's hidden somewhere in the fine print in one of those thick booklets you were given when you got the card.
If you're buying one iPad, you won't get hit with any duty or tax at customs when landing in Australia. If you're buying more than 1, you need to declare it. If you are bringing in over $1,000 worth of items you've purchased whilst overseas, you need to declare it (tick the little box on the form they give you on the plane) and after you've got your luggage and are being processed, you will be directed to a cashier to pay the tax and duty (Customs will work it out for you). Have your receipts handy and a credit card to pay the fees. If you're buying two iPads (one for you, one for someone else) - if you ditch your iPad's packaging in the USA and just bring in one iPad in the shrinkwrap, you can avoid paying any fees as all Customs will know about is that one shrinkwrapped iPad and not the "used" iPad in your carry-on luggage.