This trade is not, strictly speaking, legal, but everyone sort of acknowledges that it happens. People all over the world got hold of iPhones before their respective countries’ telecoms officially offered them. Anyone who wanted the hottest gadgets, gray market or no, found a way to get one.
Bloomberg’s Vernon Silver picked up a phone on behalf of a woman who does domestic work for him at his home in Rome. The 32 GB iPhone 5s costs around $815 in New York City, including sales tax, but would sell for about $1,130 in Rome. The purchase required a call to his bank’s antifraud department, but such transactions are now apparently totally routine. Silver claims that cashiers at the flagship Manhattan Apple Store asked him if he wanted “only one?” unlocked iPhone, as if the $650 gadgets were McDonald’s apple pies.
Carrying value around in small, easily-portable but valuable packages is nothing new–people have always brought designer goods, jewelry, electronics, or other items that they plan to sell home “as gifts.” Whether this is okay depends on the customs regulations at your destination; after all, customs fees are part of the reason why iPhones cost more in some places than in others. Check these regulations before you load your suitcase up with gold iPhones the next time you travel.