As imported American traditions go,
Black Friday has plenty to recommend it.
Consumers get lower prices on products that normally cost a fortune; retailers get to focus their marketing on a shorter period of the year and enjoy a predictable boost to their income; and websites like the one you’re currently reading get to act as deals hunters and advise readers on which ones to go for and which to avoid (and get some affiliate revenue at the same time). It’s win-win-win.
It’s important, however, not to get caught up in the general sense of capitalist mania, which can sometimes distort the true value of the deals being offered. My suspicion is that this year a sense of perspective will be more vital than ever, and we may even need to say the unsayable: this is shaping up to be a fairly disappointing Black Friday.
The chips are down
The problem is a little something called the global semiconductor shortage, which started last year as a result of COVID-19, the US/China trade war and a few other factors. It meant automobile and electronics manufacturers struggled to get enough chips for their products, and slowed down multiple major industries… yet Apple, able to merrily leverage its market position for
preferential treatment, escaped largely unscathed.
But worldwide component shortages catch up with all of us in the end, and this year Apple has been just as afflicted as everyone else. At its
Q4 earnings call last month the company revealed it had left roughly $6bn on the table because the supply chain couldn’t meet demand, and warned of
Christmas shortages of iPhones and iPads. We’ve since observed long Mac delivery times, too.
All of this means that, more than ever, demand will outweigh supply this autumn and winter. Apple and the third-party retailers that stock its products will have fewer items than usual, and consequently less incentive to discount them heavily, Black Friday or no Black Friday: indeed, they will probably be able to sell at RRP and still shift all of their inventory.
In other words, prepare yourself for crap deals.
How to beat the system
That’s the theory, anyway. And it’s happening in practice, too. Not in every single area, but in many key ones.
Our roundup of the
best iPhone deals, for example – and it’s largely representative – has a few appealing offers on older models (the ones where there’s older stock left in retailers’ warehouses, in other words) but almost nothing on the new ones. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is available for RRP, and you may struggle to find stock of that; the one site that dared to knock 1% off the price immediately ran out of units. You can get the
1% discount on the 13 Pro, but only in one of the colours – and it may well have run out by the time you get there.
And this is the difficulty. The few significant discounts on up-to-date products will go quickly, so you’ll need to move fast. But you still have to apply critical thinking: is this something you actually need? Is the product worth having? Does the deal offer genuine value? And someone who’s rushing to secure a deal is not in a good position to read reviews, track price history and shop around other retailers.
As mentioned at the top of the article, we’re in the business of hunting down worthwhile deals, and we’ll do our best to help you find good prices on products you actually need. I’ve embedded our list of the best current deals below this article, and you’ll find detailed advice in our
best Apple deals roundup; remember to move fast if you see something that’s right for you.
But here’s a tip you might want to bear in mind:
Apple’s gift card promotion, which most years we find distinctly underwhelming (not least because the ‘saving’ applies to the next thing you buy, not the one you’re currently buying) could come up trumps in 2021. The value of the gift cards – up to £160/$200 – is actually higher than last year, and they’re very much better than nothing.
Sadly there is a catch: Apple isn’t bundling gift cards with the very latest generation of products, which means this isn’t a solution for those who had their eye on an iPhone 13 Pro Max. But it’s like the old saying: in the kingdom of the crap deals, the
slightly better deal is king.
Different Think is a weekly column, published every Tuesday, in which Macworld writers expose their less mainstream opinions to public scrutiny. We’ve
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ditch Lightning and
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Best Apple deals right now
Top 10 Apple Deals
Apple 11in iPad Pro (2021, M1, 2TB) – Wi-Fi + Cellular
We’re not sure if Amazon will bring back the £639 discount we saw in October on this iPad Pro M1 variant, but almost £600 off is still an excellent deal. See our review of the 11in iPad Pro with M1.
Adobe Creative Cloud – All Apps (1 Year)
Was: £49.94 per month
£39.95 per month
Adobe’s slashed 20% off its Creative Cloud subscription prices. The offer ends 14 April.
Apple AirPods 3
The AirPods 3 offer better battery performance, an updated design, and support for Spatial Audio and Adaptive EQ. Save £30 from Amazon.
Smarty 12GB data SIM-Only
Was: £8 per month
£4 per month
(50% off for 3 months)
Grab three months of 12GB data for just £4 per month. If you’re after more data, you can see all its plans here. You can cancel anytime.
Apple iPad mini (2021, 6th gen, 64GB, Cellular)
This is the best deal we’ve seen on the iPad mini you can get the 64GB Cellular (RRP £619) for just £464 – which is less than the RRP for the Wi-Fi model!
Apple MacBook Air, M1, 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 256GB (2020)
From: John Lewis
For some time a gang of retailers have been offering the entry level MacBook Air for £889, but this month John Lewis has dropped the price to £887, RRP £999. Very has the same deal.
You can also get the £999 MacBook Air with 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU in gold for £889 from Currys or Amazon, and AO.
Apple Watch Series 6 (40mm)
Bag the last gen Watch 6 for under £300 at Amazon’s Spring Sale!
Apple Watch Series 6 (44mm, Cellular)
Amazon’s just slashed £160 off the Watch Series 6 with Cellular connectivity as a part of its Spring Sale.
Apple 10.2in iPad (2021, 256GB, Wi-Fi)
Save $50 on the latest regular iPad. It’s a great affordable slate that’s perfect for web browsing or video calls.
Logitech Combo Touch Keyboard for iPad Pro 11
Save an excellent £74 on this Logitech keyboard for the iPad Pro 11 – this is currently the best discount we can see. The Combo Touch works with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd gen models.
Grab this set of Apple AirTags for just under £80 – that’s a saving of roughly £9 per AirTag, which costs £29 separately.
Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS, 41 mm)
The Apple Watch Series 7 has a solid $120 discount in Amazon’s Prime Day sale, making it one of the best prices around.
Beats Solo 3 Headphones
Get £80 off the Beats Solo3 Wireless on-ear headphones (which we gave four stars in our review). They’re available in a range of colours.
Apple AirPods Pro with MagSafe charging case
From: John Lewis
Amazon’s excellent £64 saving on the AirPods Pro from March is no longer available. Multiple sites are selling for £189 (a £50 saving), including AO and Laptops Direct – but we’d go with John Lewis on account of its two-year guarantee.
Apple Watch SE 2021 (44mm, GPS)
Get a great saving on last year’s Apple Watch SE from Amazon.
Want a more affordable alternative to the Apple Pencil? Check out the Logitech Crayon, which works with all iPads from 2018 and later.
Apple iPhone 12 mini (256GB)
The 256GB iPhone 12 mini has over £100 off from Amazon.
Apple iPad mini (2021, 6th gen)
From: Currys PC World
A handy saving on Apple’s new iPad mini model for 2021, but note that this price applies to the Starlight colour finish only. eBuyer is matching the deal on certain colours.
Apple iPad Air (2022, 256GB, Wi-Fi + Cellular)
KRCS has knocked money off the 2022 iPad Air. You will find savings across the whole range.
Apple MacBook Air, M1, 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 512GB (2020)
An excellent deal, this. Save money on the MacBook Air with 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU from Very. The discount applies to the silver version only.
This deal is only slightly better than Currys who has the silver model for £1,099.97. John Lewis had the same deal, but it is currently out of stock there.