If you're visiting Hong Kong and want to buy some cheap Apple products, you need to know about the "parallel imports" trade market. Parallel imports are hardware and software products legally purchased in another country and then sold in Hong Kong for less than the recommended retail price (RRP)—sometimes significantly cheaper. This applies mostly to laptops, phones, and games consoles. This is legal and the products are authentic.
Can I Buy a Cheap Apple iPhone or iPad in Hong Kong?
Yes, but it can be difficult. While Hong Kong's Apple store once sold the cheapest iPhones and iPads in the world, that's no longer true —the United States is now the cheapest. But there are, of course, unofficial channels to circumvent this.
Hong Kong's computer markets are legendary. They're stacked full of laptops, phones, and other devices that have usually been imported from Japan or China, allowing retailers to sell them at a cheaper price.
But while you can certainly pick up a laptop or phone on the cheap, it's harder to get hold of Apple products. Sales and shipments are so tightly controlled that even for Hong Kong's wheelers and dealers, getting their hands on significant amounts can be difficult.
For new products, it will be impossible to buy anywhere except an Apple store. Hong Kong gets Apple products on the initial launch date and attracts buyers from around the region. Older models will be available cheaper through the parallel market.
Where Can I Buy a Cheap Apple iPhone or iPad in Hong Kong?
You'll need to buy from an independent retailer. Most parallel imports retailers can be found inside Hong Kong's fantastic computer centers; a particularly good store for phones is Mongkok Computer Centre.
Inside the centers, you'll find booths no more than a couple of square feet wide. Somewhere between a shop and a market stall, these are full-time retailers—they will be here again tomorrow. There's no point recommending particular booths because they are mostly the same, and they will usually price match each other on products. Don't expect the same service from these retailers as you'd find at a big-brand electronics store.
Look for the mobile phone shops and those that display the Apple symbol. They will sell both new iPhones and iPads and second-hand models, so make sure you know which one you are getting.
Problems With Parallel Imports and Prices
While the products are authentic, parallel imports generally don't come with a manufacturer's guarantee, so if they develop a fault, you have no way to get a replacement. Also, the retailers themselves have restrictive returns policies, which can range from 30 days to just 24 hours. For these two reasons, parallel imports can be a risky purchase.
It's also fair to say that the chance of being rip offed by an unscrupulous merchant is higher, although the risk is still low. Look out for classic Hong Kong scams. For parallel imports, make sure that the product isn't set and fixed to its home market—for example, iPads made for the Japanese market or iPhones that only work with Chinese SIM cards. You may find a cheap price, but don't let that stop you from trying it before buying it.
Also shop around to see what the average price is for the Apple product you're interested in. Haggling and bargaining is a way of life in Hong Kong so you need to be sure how much you are willing to pay.
Buying From the Apple Store
The days of Hong Kong being shunned by Apple are over, and you can now buy from the many official Apple stores in the city. There are also numerous official stockists around the city, including Lane Crawford in the Harbour City Mall.
Although there are Apple stores and authorized retailers in Hong Kong now, purchasing an iPhone or iPad can still be difficult due to low inventories and Apple's limited releases. Because of this, there will still probably be a demand for parallel imports for some time to come.