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Computers

The Best Time to Buy a Brand New Mac

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If you are reading tutorials on Mactuts+, or on the computing section of hub.tutsplus.com, then you’re likely either a Mac owner wanting to learn more, or you are looking to get into Macs.

And why not, a Mac running OS X is an enjoyable experience that makes work that little bit easier and pleasure, well, more pleasurable I suppose?

Previously, we have looked at the best places to purchase a new Mac. In this tutorial it’s slightly different in that I’ll be giving you tips on the best times to buy a brand new Mac.


Black Friday

Black Friday is regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season, in America, falling on the day after Thanksgiving (which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November).

Many major retailers open very early and offer promotional sales to kick-start the holiday shopping season, a similar idea to the Boxing Day sales, in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, that start on the day after Christmas.

As with many American ideas, the concept of Black Friday is crossing the Atlantic and is beginning to be recognised in the United Kingdom, especially with large retailers such as Apple and Amazon.

This means that Black Friday is the one day of the year that you can purchase Apple products, either from an Apple Store or via the Apple website, at a discount on the normal retail price.

Black Friday - Apple's one day sale
Black Friday - Apple's one day sale

This is significant. Apart from education and some business sales, Apple does not discount the retail price of its products. Except for Black Friday. This is because discounting the price of a product also discounts the perception of the value of that product, in the minds of the consumer, and Apple does not aim its products as the expectations of mass market consumers. Remember the “race to the bottom” with netbooks?

That said, the discounts that Apple gives on Black Friday are not massive. Indeed, they are quite modest, and not all products are given the discount treatment.

As a rule, don’t expect any discounted prices on the iPhone – Apple never has done so, before.

In December 2012, for example, Apple offered the new iPad (iPad 4) with Retina display for $458 compared to its normal selling price of $499 which is a modest discount of around eight per cent.

Deals are usually also available on iPods. The $299 iPod Touch was available for $268, in December 2012.

To get three-digit deals, you need to be looking at the Macs where an 11-inch MacBook Air was available for $898, down from the normal retail price of $999.

If you are buying a brand new Apple device in November, then it’s probably worth ensuring that you purchase it on Black Friday. You’ll make a saving compared to purchasing the same item on any other day.


Christmas 0% Finance

If you miss the Black Friday deals, you may be best advised to wait until after Christmas – especially if you reside in the United Kingdom.

Normally starting in early December, and ending in early January, Apple’s UK website normally runs a 0%-interest promotion that generates a lot of interest!

Apple’s offer is very straightforward. Spread the cost of your purchase over ten months and pay in ten equal instalments. There are no set-up fees, for the credit, and there is zero interest to pay. If you purchase a £949 MacBook Air 13", you pay an intial £94.90 followed by a further nine monthly payments of £94.90.

There is a minimum spend of £429 required, however, to take advantage of the offer and you must place your order on Apple’s UK website.

Apple seasonal 0% finance offer
Apple seasonal 0% finance offer

Affiliate schemes

If you have missed, or can’t wait, for Black Friday and Apple’s nought-percent finance offer, then it may still be possible to snag yourself a discount.

Well, it’s more of a cashback than a discount, but it does mean that you get a small percentage reduction on the cost of a new Mac. It’s not immediate, you could wait up to four months for the cashback. Nor is it guaranteed, that said I have never had an issue being paid this way.

To take advantage of a modest discount, in the order of 1–3%, visit an affiliate scheme such as Quidco. Go via their website to visit Apple and complete your purchase and, some time later, you’ll get the cashback.

Affiliate schemes
Affiliate schemes

Tip: Do read the instructions to ensure that you understand the scheme clearly. There are some reasons that the cashback might not pay out (ie: trying to combine cashback with other offers)


Apple’s All-Year Sale

If you are not too concerned about getting the latest and greatest, are prepared to bide your time and don’t mind checking regularly – as the stock does change daily – then Apple’s Refurbished Mac store could be what you are looking for.

A discount of 37% from Apple!  With one-year Apple warranty.
A discount of 37% from Apple! With one-year Apple warranty.

In fact, you can pretty much forget Black Friday and Apple’s 0% finance (the latter is not available on refurbished products), this is where the unicorns are: Apple products at double-digit discounts!

Located in a menu option in the sidebar of Apple’s website is their Refurbished Mac store. This is where Apple sells refurbished products at discounts of up to 33%, sometimes more.

Coming with the same warranty cover as regular Apple kit, this is where price-astute, tech-savvy Apple fans buy their kit.

Double-digit discount percentages from Apple.
Double-digit discount percentages from Apple.

What’s more, you can combine this with Quidco affiliate cashback for an even bigger saving. Bonus!


Working Out the Best Times to Buy a Mac

So far, I’ve measured the best time to buy a Mac in terms of price and how to get a discount. It should be acknowledged that the best time to purchase a Mac is not always defined by price alone.

An important consideration, of which any prospective Mac-purchaser should be aware, is that of the product cycle.

This is the old Mac Pro.  Don't buy.  A new one is imminent.
This is the old Mac Pro. Don't buy. A new one is imminent.

Apple tends to introduce a product, give it a “speed bump” every year or so, and then give the product a major refresh after a few years. Well, in general terms, anyway; it’s not an exact science.

One of the worst things that can happen is you save up your money and purchase a brand new, shiny Mac. Why not, you deserve it. Then, within a couple of weeks, a newer, shinier, faster model with more features is launched. Immediately your new Mac becomes the “old” model.

To avoid the potential of this happening, any savvy Mac buyer should be keeping an eye on the MacRumors Buyers’ Guide.

By employing a simple traffic light system – of red, amber and green – you can quickly see whether a given Apple product has been refreshed recently.

Green would suggest it has and, consequently, it would be a good time to buy. Amber suggests that the product is mid-cycle and you may want to consider your purchase before going for it. Red suggests that the product has not been refreshed for some time and that you might want to consider holding out for the product refresh, unless your purchase is unavoidable or otherwise required.

As I alluded, earlier, it’s not an exact science. MacRumors bases its recommendations on the number of days since the last refresh compared the the average number of days Apple has taken to refresh that particular product.

The problem with this approach is that Apple does not release each product to a calendar you can determine. Having previously launched iPads in the March/April part of the year, Apple unexpectedly made available the new iPad (iPad 4) in the October of 2012. It is now thought that this product has switched from an end-Q1 to a beginning-Q4 product cycle. In reality who, outside of Apple, really knows?

Use MacRumors Buyers' Guide as a guide.

The MacRumors Buyers' Guide.
The MacRumors Buyers' Guide.

Conclusion

The right time to buy a new Mac will, ultimately, depend upon the requirements of you: the buyer. Are you price-sensitive, are you looking for a discount, do you want the best possible specification, the latest Machine?

Whatever your requirements, in this tutorial I have shown you some different things that you should be considering when purchasing new Apple kit. Perhaps you have other tips that you can offer? If so, please do so in the comments, below.

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