Buying an iPhone abroad: All you need to know before you go!

Money know-how
04 Jul 2024
10 mins read
Written by Riona lye

Guess what? The thrill of a new iPhone launch is still very real! Sure, flipping an iPhone for profit isn’t as simple as it once was. But, believe it or not, there’s still a bustling market for it—especially with folks jetting in from overseas to buy the latest model before it’s even released in their home country.


Today, though, we’re not diving into whether it’s cheaper to buy an iPhone abroad. Instead, let’s chat about what you should keep in mind if you decide to go that route. Not everyone is looking to flip their phone for quick cash. Maybe you lost your phone while travelling, or perhaps the overall post-tax price tag is just more appealing. Fun fact: not all iPhones are created equal!


We’re here to break it all down for you.

Not all iPhones are made similarly…

Alright, let’s dive into the differences in iPhones before we tackle the warranty stuff!


First off, as we’ve mentioned, not all iPhones are made the same. You might be scratching your head thinking, “The iPhone 15 looks identical no matter where you go, right?” True, but the parts can differ.

SIM compatibility

Take SIM compatibility, for example. Starting with the iPhone 14 series, US iPhones are eSIM-only. Meanwhile, places like Hong Kong and China offer dual physical SIM slots, and Malaysia and Singapore have a single physical slot + eSIM combo. So, if you get an iPhone in the United States but your country doesn’t support eSIM, you’ve just turned your pricey new phone into a very expensive paperweight!

Camera shutter sound

Here’s another fun one: in regions like South Korea and Japan, there’s a mandatory camera shutter sound. And there are reports suggesting that importing phones might trigger these sounds based on local carrier settings unless modified.

Radio frequency support

Don’t forget to check local 5G and other network standards. Some US models might not play nicely with international networks.


So, how does the Apple Store know which model and from where you bought your iPhone? It’s simple really.


iPhones are identified by their model number, and this number gives away all the details about repairs and parts needed.

International warranty confusion

Now that you’re in the know about the differences between iPhones, let’s tackle the whirlwind of confusion surrounding warranties. A quick online search will show you a mixed bag of experiences—some users report hassle-free repairs abroad, while others hit roadblocks. And there’s plenty of debate about whether iPhone users are covered by a worldwide warranty.


First things first, let’s break down Apple limited warranty versus AppleCare+ warranty. These two are very different beasts and can lead to wildly different user experiences.

Apple limited warranty

Apple’s standard warranty service comes in two exciting parts: Complimentary Hardware Support and one year of hardware repair coverage through its limited warranty.

Complimentary Hardware Support

What it covers: Basic setup, installation, assembly, and connectivity help over the phone.


Example: Need help connecting your iPhone to WiFi or setting up your Apple ID? Just give Apple a call!

Complimentary Software Support

What it covers: Phone support for installing, launching, or reinstalling software (but not data recovery), as long as your iPhone meets the software’s system requirements.


Example: If you need assistance installing an app or updating iOS on your iPhone, Apple’s got your back!

Duration of Complimentary Support

How much you get: Unlimited support within the first 90 days of owning your iPhone, or longer if required by law.


Example: Buy a new iPhone and you can call Apple for hardware and software help as many times as you need within the first 90 days!

One Year Warranty Support

Ensuring a few key things:


  • The service will be done right.

  • The parts used will be free from defects in materials and workmanship.

  • For batteries replaced in Apple portable Mac computers, the warranty stretches to one whole year.


So, if something goes awry under this warranty, Apple will either:


  • Redo the service.

  • Repair or replace the defective part.

  • Refund the cost of the service.


To make a warranty claim, simply return your product to the original service location, though you’ll need to cover the shipping costs.

If you need to make a warranty claim during the Warranty Period, Apple or an Apple Authorised Service Provider (AASP) will handle it in one of the following ways:

  • Repair: Apple will repair your device using either new or previously used Apple genuine parts. If Apple repairs your iPhone screen and it malfunctions within 90 days, they’ll fix it again at no extra cost.

  • Replace: Apple will replace your device with a new one of the same model, or with your consent, a different model with similar features (like a different colour or a similar device with the same features). The replacement may include new or previously used Apple genuine parts. Got a new battery for your iPhone and it failed within a year? No worries, Apple will replace it for free.

  • Refund: Apple will give you a refund for the purchase price of your device.

3 ways Apple handles their limited warranties

So, how does Apple handle their warranty? They’ve got three main ways to keep you covered:

1. Carry-in Service

Example: You take your ailing iPhone to an Apple Store or an Apple Authorised Service Provider (AASP). They might fix it right there or send it off to an Apple Repair Service (ARS) location. Once it’s all patched up, you can pick it up from the store—unless Apple decides to ship it straight to your doorstep!

2. Mail-in Service

Example: If your iPhone needs some TLC, Apple could send you prepaid shipping labels and packaging materials. You pack up your iPhone and send it off to the ARS or AASP. After the repair, they mail it back to you. Apple covers all the shipping costs as long as you follow their packing and shipping instructions.

3. Do-it-yourself (DIY) Parts Service

Example (a): Got a bad iPhone battery? Apple might send you a new one with step-by-step instructions. They may ask for your credit card info as a deposit. Replace the battery yourself and return the old one to Apple. Do it right and the credit card hold is cancelled. Forget to send it back, and they charge your card.


Example (b): Need a minor part like an AirPods case? Apple might just send you the new part with instructions, no return required. Example (c): Need help with the DIY route? Apple will assist you but won’t cover any labour costs.


Keep in mind:

  • Apple can switch up how they provide warranty service and which methods are available in your country.

  • Service options and response times may vary by location.

  • If you’re getting service outside the country of purchase, you might have to cover shipping, handling, customs duties, VAT, and other taxes.

  • Apple might use parts from different countries that meet local standards.

Apple limited warranty is tied to local consumer laws

You’ve probably seen it in the fine print: you need to send your iPhone back to the service location for warranty claims. In other words, where you bought it! This happens because the limited warranty is tied to the country of purchase and follows local consumer laws.


For instance, if you buy your iPhone in the US but need service in the UK, your protection is limited to just the first year—unless you’ve splurged on AppleCare+!

AppleCare+ is globally accepted

Your next best bet? AppleCare+! It’s like VIP treatment for your iPhone, extending the warranty for another two years.

Extended Coverage

Duration: Extends your coverage to two years from the AppleCare+ purchase date. Accidental Damage: Covers unlimited incidents of accidental damage. Each incident has a service fee for screen or back glass damage, and for other accidental damages.




  • Dropped your iPhone 15 and cracked the screen? In Singapore, AppleCare+ covers the repair for just 42 SGD, compared to 426.83 SGD without it.

  • Spilled water on your iPhone? In Singapore, you can get it repaired for just 148 SGD with AppleCare+, instead of paying 834.31 SGD without it.
24/7 Priority Support

Access: You can get help from Apple experts anytime via chat or phone at


Example: Got an issue with your iPhone at midnight? No problem! Apple support is just a call or click away.

Convenient Service Options
  • Same-day Service: Available in most major cities worldwide.

  • Onsite Service: Schedule a technician to repair your screen at your home or office.

  • Express Replacement: Apple will ship you a replacement iPhone so you don’t have to wait for a repair.

  • Carry-in Repairs: Take your iPhone to an Apple Store or an Apple Authorised Service Provider for repairs.


  • Broken screen? Have a technician come to your office and fix it right there.

  • iPhone stops working? Apple can send you a replacement device while yours is being repaired.
Comprehensive Coverage

Includes: Repairs or replacements for your iPhone, battery, and included cable.


Technicians: Apple-authorised technicians will handle all repairs.



  • iPhone battery dies? It gets replaced under AppleCare+.

  • Charging cable stops working? It’ll be replaced for free.
Expert Assistance

Help with: iPhone issues, iOS and iCloud problems, and Apple-branded apps like FaceTime, Mail, and Calendar.


Example: Trouble connecting to WiFi? An Apple expert can guide you through the steps to fix it.

What does this mean for people who purchase iPhone overseas?

So, what about folks who buy their iPhones overseas? Well, it depends on the fix! If it’s a minor issue and you’re still under warranty, you’re in luck—you can still get it fixed. Here’s the scoop:


  • Minor repairs like battery or screen replacements? No problem, Apple Stores usually handle those just fine.

  • Major repairs that need a phone swap? That’s where it gets tricky because of model compatibility.


Example: You can’t swap a US “A” model for a UK “B” model unless they have the exact one in stock.

Warranty claims can also be a bit trickier in places without official Apple Stores, relying on Apple Authorised Service Providers (AASP). Not that AASP service is bad, but if the nearest one is far away, you might have to go the extra mile (literally) and mail your iPhone in for repairs.


It’s more about the inconvenience than anything else.


So, to keep things hassle-free, especially if you bought your iPhone overseas, grab AppleCare+ for that sweet peace of mind!

Don’t forget about custom and taxes

Hey Singaporeans, don’t forget that you still have to pay GST on that shiny new iPhone you bought overseas! All goods brought into Singapore are subject to GST at the prevailing rate, which is based on the value of the goods, including cost, insurance, freight, and other charges.


For example, if you buy an iPhone for 1261 SGD (4399 MYR) while on holiday, here’s how GST is calculated:


  • Away for more than 48 hours: You get a GST import relief of 500 SGD. So, the GST you pay is [(1261 – 500 SGD) x prevailing GST rate].

  • Away for less than 48 hours: You get a GST import relief of 100 SGD. So, the GST you pay is [(1261 – 100 SGD) x prevailing GST rate].

If you don’t comply, you could be fined up to 5000 SGD or face prosecution, depending on the severity.


In short, the fine could buy you another 5 or 6 iPhones, so it’s best to pay up!

Before you go…

If you’re set on snagging that iPhone abroad—because it’s a sweet deal or you lost your old one—don’t forget to pay with your amaze card!


amaze card in app


With amaze card, by Instarem, you get to save while you travel with fantastic FX rates and rewards on all your overseas spending.     


Sign up via the Instarem app and start using amaze instantly! It’s totally free.  

*iPhone prices were taken in Jun 2024. 


*Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products or vendors mentioned.


About Instarem

Instarem stands at the forefront of international money transfer services, facilitating fast and secure transactions for both individuals and businesses. Our platform offers competitive exchange rates for popular currency pairs like USD to INR, SGD to INR, and AUD to INR. If you're looking to send money to India or transfer funds to any of 60+ global destinations, Instarem makes it easy for you. We are dedicated to simplifying cross-border payments, providing cutting-edge technology that support individuals and businesses alike in overcoming traditional fiscal barriers normally associated with banks. As a trusted and regulated brand under the umbrella of the Fintech Unicorn Nium Pte. Ltd., and its international subsidiaries, Instarem is your go-to for reliable global financial exchanges. Learn more about Instarem.

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