Want a cheaper MacBook or iPad? Head to Malaysia

What a steal.
What a steal.
Image: AP Photo / Lai Seng Sin
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Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked why Apple products weren’t less expensive. His response: Apple doesn’t want to sacrifice quality for price.

Curious then that Apple products in Malaysia are the cheapest in Asia, and cheaper than those in the US or Europe. According to this breakdown of prices from for the MacBook Air, iPad, and other items across 13 countries, Malaysia offers some of the world’s best deals. A Macbook Air starts at RM2,999, about $929, compared to $999 in the US. That’s also cheaper than the starting price of $1,051 in Singapore or $999 in Hong Kong, both locations where many in East Asia go for their electronics shopping. (Prices are from Apple websites and conversions based on exchange rates as of the end of June.)

Apple charges higher prices outside the US, usually because operating costs abroad tend to be higher. Charging more is also a hedge against currency fluctuations. Malaysia’s improving business environment may be helping to lower prices. Last year, the World Bank ranked it as the 12th most business-friendly country in the world. That said, Singapore and Hong Kong ranked no. 1 and no. 2, respectively. China ranked no. 91. (Apple hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment.)

Apple could be playing to the many Chinese tourists who travel to Malaysia to shop for luxury goods. Many of China’s wealthy already buy Apple products smuggled from Hong Kong, where Apple products are cheaper, or they make the trip over to buy them directly. As for less affluent Chinese customers, Apple recently introduced installment plans to make it easier to buy Apple goods. Last year, about 1.4 million Chinese visited Malaysia, and the Malaysian government is hoping to boost that figure. Cheaper iPads and MacBooks could serve as bait.