Update 9:00am ET:Sure enough, minutes after this article went live Apple announced that yet again, it would offer gift cards rather than actual discounts.
Apple doesn’t really do sales. Its prices, like those of Lego or Games Workshop, tend to hold remarkably steady over long periods, resistant to the buffeting that blows other companies’ prices up and down, particularly in the U.S. This might seem like a bad thing, but it encourages customers to buy with confidence throughout the year, knowing there’s little chance that the product will suddenly cost half as much as they paid and leave them feeling, as we say in the U.K., mugged off.
Traditions, however, are made to be broken, and this year is different in all sorts of ways. In both the U.S. and the U.K., it’s a time of price hikes and economic gloom. Apple’s own products have already been affected by currency fluctuation and the increased costs of manufacturing and shipping. For example, when the 9th-gen iPad was replaced by the 10th-gen model earlier this fall, the old model remained on sale at exactly the same $329 price. In the U.K., indeed, the old model actually costs more now as part of a raft of startling overseas price increases – and we predict that prices will increase even more.
When it comes to Black Friday, the day regarded as the biggest sales event of the year, Apple offers only the smallest of concessions for its Black Friday Shopping Event. Ever since 2013, Apple has bundled gift cards with its products rather than offering actual discounts, which you need to cash in as part of a subsequent purchase, not the one you’re currently making. This is better than nothing, of course, but it’s pretty begrudging as festive special offers go. It’s like telling someone you’re giving them a birthday present, but to collect it they have to come round to your house and cook you dinner. Again.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Even the newest products are something of a concession as part of a wider Apple push away from budget tech and towards mid-market and premium models. The 10th-gen iPad is pitched at an entirely different audience from its predecessor: one with plenty of cash, but also, oddly, a willingness to use a two-year-old processor and an inferior screen. The cheapest new iPhone models are saddled with last year’s A15 chip. And the Apple Watch SE 2 is barely distinguishable from the two-year-old 1st-gen model.
It’s an expensive time to be a fan of Apple. Even more so than normal. So maybe it’s time to offer some actual savings. With supplies of the costlier iPhone 14 Pro running short and likely not obtainable in time for Christmas and lower-end devices like the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Apple TV HD no longer available, a Black Friday sale is an excellent time for Apple to make the prices of its devices more attractive—especially outside the U.S.
The reality for many people in 2022, Apple fans or not, is that the cost of living is spiraling, money is tight and the future is uncertain. And while Apple’s high-end tech products at their best can be life-enhancing, they certainly don’t qualify as essential. Which means, quite rightly, they’ll be one of the first things to be sacrificed. Before the iPhone 14 Pro hit production shortages, Apple had already warned of slowing growth over the holiday quarter, and a real price cut would certainly help spur sales.
There was a time when Apple championed the idea of technology being accessible to all. Indeed, over the years it has broadly stuck to this ideal, far more than the stereotype of the overpriced Apple product would lead you to expect: While it doesn’t sell cheap hardware, the company has generally ensured that each category includes at least one decent-quality model at an affordable price. This year–as a result of many factors, some of them outside Apple’s control–that hasn’t been the case. And I think the least it could have done is slash a few prices for Black Friday, and give a few more people the opportunity to treat themselves.
Here on Macworld, we’ll be checking all the major retailers to find the best deals on Apple products. Which you can find in the following roundup articles: