A new report from Bloomberg reveals one unexpected use for Apple’s lineup of smartphones and tablets: currency. Across the world in countries ranging from Italy and Brazil to China and India, people will gladly trade cash or even labor for unlocked iPhones, which Apple sells for less money here in the U.S. than it does abroad.
In the U.S. you can pick up an unlocked 16GB iPhone 5s for under $649 from Apple’s online store. Meanwhile, the same device costs roughly $1,200 in Brazil and $1000 in the Italy. Pick up a few iPhones on your way out of the country, Bloomberg’s Rome-based reporter suggests, and you can buy your way through Europe or even sell them at face value as a friendly gesture.
Unlocked iPhones also serve as a way for immigrant workers to get their money back home. Bloomberg notes that most people buying the devices at Apple Stores are foreigners, and Apple’s salesforce actually expects customers to buy multiple units at once.
But before you run out and spend your life savings on smartphones, remember that the iPhone’s value is inherently tied to Apple’s product cycle. As soon as the iPhone 6 hits the market the iPhone 5s automatically drops in price both at the Apple Store and in public perception.