Skip to main content

Is importing smartphones a good idea for South Africans?

Google Pixel 4a
(Image credit: TechRadar)

South Africa has an impressive line-up of the main smartphones most people want, but there are a few brand we don't get. 

These include many Android-running smartphones like Google, OnePlus, Sony and Motorola. 

If you're considering importing a phone, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. Here is our guide on what to think about before pressing the checkout button. 

The cost, especially taxes 

The most important part of the process is the cost, because it's significant.

To begin with, many of these phones aren't cheap and can be on par with phones you can already get in the country. 

While some online stores have created a system where they include import taxes in their price, double check to make sure when you're buying. 

The South African government taxes smartphone imports as luxury goods, so this is added to the straight price the phone might be in another country. 

There is a 15% luxury tax, a 7% duty tax and a 15% VAT tax on these kinds of imported items. 

As a result, you might spot a Google Pixel phone on Amazon for R11,000 but the phone including shipping will likely cost you a few thousand more. 


Depending on how you're importing the phone, different sites will have different warranty coverage. 

However, returning a phone even under this warranty will be more complicated than with phones available in the country. This is because it won't be a simple fix and possibly require the phone to be sent back overseas to the original supplier. This will mean more money and more time.

Be sure to check the warranty deal and its Ts and Cs when buying.

Is it compatible

Check whether the phone covers all South African frequencies before you order, or at least the provider you will go with. 

It would be an incredible pain if you shipped a phone over and then none of the big networks worked with it. 

Leila Stein

Leila Stein is an experienced multimedia journalist and content producer with a special interest in data journalism. she is skilled in news writing, editing, online writing and multimedia content production and have a Bachelor of Journalism  from Rhodes University and an Honours in Historical Studies from University of Cape Town.