Cult of Mac’s Global iPad Price Index, Or Why You Should Never Buy In Brazil

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Apple’s iPad 2 may have the same performance in São Paulo as San Francisco, but Brazilians pay about 56 percent more for the same magical tablet.

After Cult of Mac discovered first hand just how pricey iPads are in Brazil – and why there’s a huge gray market there –  we wanted to see if the iPad stood up to the “McDonald’s Index.”

Cult of Mac’s Global iPad Index takes iPad 2 prices – the 32GB model, Wifi only – and compares them in Apple’s 37 online stores.

Our number crunching shows that you can buy a slightly cheaper iPad from our North American neighbors ($605 in Canada and $621 in Mexico) than in California.* You could also pay about 13 percent less Malaysia than in the U.S., where the same iPad 2 costs the equivalent of $559, tax included.

Scandinavian Apple fans already know they pay through the näsa for Apple products; the iPad 2 levitates between 15 and 19 percent more than its U.S. price in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Euro area punters (including Britain) pay about 13 percent more than in the U.S., with the iPad 2 costing the equivalent of $738.

The original Big Mac Index launched by The Economist in 1988 measures PPP, or “purchasing-power parity,” whereby exchange rates should adjust to make goods and services equal across countries; so chomping on a Chinese Big Mac should cost you the same as doubling down on one in the U.S. unless the yuan is undervalued, then it’s cheaper there.

With a few notable exceptions, the iPad Index mirrors its beefier counterpart. (The Big Mac Index ranks 50 total countries compared to our 37.) Switzerland, ranks as the most overvalued (read: expensive) country in the latest edition of The Big Mac Index; in the iPad Index the price is about the same as in the U.S. China, which sells one cheap Big Mac (just $2.44), pays a premium for the iPad 2 despite the fact that it’s made there. The iPad 2 in China costs the equivalent of $710, about 8 percent more than its U.S. price.

These indexes are now almost as plentiful as cheap, global products they represent – including the Billy Index, the iPod Index and the Starbucks Index – and raise some interesting questions about differences in purchasing power around the globe.

What does it say, for example, about countries like China where food is relatively cheap but tech is an extravagance? Or Brazil, where both the iPad and the Big Mac care in the top five for the heftiest price tags globally?

*The U.S. base iPad 2 price, $599, has California sales tax added. Sales tax varies around the country,  but we wanted to compare what consumers in the Cupertino company’s home state pay for it. Excluding the U.S. Apple store, the other countries all have local taxes or VAT figured into the online price listed.