Skip The Apple Store And Get Deeper Discounts [Report]

Customers might avoid this delightful eye-candy to save a few bucks.

Customers might avoid this delightful eye-candy to save a few bucks.

When you walk into an Apple Store — the minimalist design, the Macbook screens tilted just so, the approachable, encyclopedic sales staff — you might be forgiven for being a little bit speechless.

It’s not unlike walking into a Porsche or Mercedes dealership — you don’t expect to find bargain bins full of junk. The presentation is, in fact, as important as the product, and once inside, you’re going to hand over your money to get both.

Even though Apple stores have become tourist attractions in their own right where folks come from countries like Sweden and Brazil to purchase these great products at prices lower than at home, savvy customers might someday shun those stunning glass facades and signature spiral staircases for cheaper prices found elsewhere.

A new report by DealNews shows that Apple products are getting deeper discounts sooner in a product lifecycle than ever before, begging the question: is the Apple Store the best place to buy your gear?

The biggest changes as far as deals go seem to come from the iPhone category, with the iPhone 5S seeing some of the biggest discounts in any category.

When the original iPhone came out in 2007, it ran $499 and there were no discounts to be had, the researchers noted. The iPhone 3GS had no appreciable deals, either, until the end of its product span when Walmart offered it for $97. A similar progression happened with the iPhone 4 and 4S–not too many price cuts.

The iPhone 5, though, saw quite a few deals when retailers like Walmart, Best Buy and Fry’s competing with wireless carriers like Sprint to offer some great deals —  an eye-crossing total of 27 different offers according to the report.

That sale cycle is definitely speeding up: for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, the prices were slashed just six days after their debut. The iPhone 5c can be found for a grand total of zero dollars with a contract at Sprint and Best Buy, while you can put an iPhone 5s in your pocket for half its original price.

Compare this to the eleven months deal seekers waited to see even a $50 price drop for the original iPad, while the iPad 2 only saw a $10 price cut four months after its release. The third generation iPad had price cuts within a month of its retail debut, while the iPad 4 saw a $50 discount in the same time span.

The new iPad Air is easy to find these days, says the report, for under $450, and it saw its first drop to $430 just 10 days after it was available in stores. That could also mean big discounts leading up to September, when Apple traditionally marks back-to-school time by launching a new iPad model.

Sadly, the iPad Mini and iPad Mini with Retina aren’t seeing the same quick rush to discount, though there are a few to be found at around $350.

Apple’s hot Macbook Air is also seeing steeper discounts, if fewer overall sales. The latest model of Air with the Haswell chip in it can be found at some retailers for a 20 percent discount, which is pretty good–you should be able to find an 11-inch model for $800 if you spend some time searching.

Don’t expect to a see a discount Apple outlet story anytime soon, though. Apple uses its retail outlets for more than enticing you with product. Its generous repair policies and the Genius Bar, which sees around 50,000 people per day, will continue to bring people in to a clean, well-lit place to buy Apple gear.  If the trends here are anything to go by, however, the answer is still a qualified yes.

  • Christopher Morris

    “…encyclopedic sales staff..”?

    I have asked several Apple store employees questions, even some I already knew the answers to, and they could not answer them without going to a computer, bringing up the specs for a product and showing me on the screen. And I was not asking tough questions. For example, I wanted to buy a new cinema display and I wanted to know whether it supported USB 3.0. To me, this is a basic spec that knowledgable store clerks should know, maybe I am being too tough here, but she had to go to a computer and bring up the Apple store web site and look through the specs there.

    Maybe the store you go to is different.

    • http://www.designstrategies.com Len Williams

      It depends on the store you go to and how new the employee is. Apple generally trains its retail staff quite well, which is VASTLY better than in any other computer/electronics goods store I’ve ever been in. Yes, some of the new staff can be airheads, but Apple’s training procedures will usually get them smart and fully functional in a few months. The Tampa, Florida Apple Store has generally very well trained staff that are knowledgeable and pleasant to work with. I’ve been using Macs since 1989 and know them backwards and forwards, and it’s only the tough or weird stuff I need to ask about, and more often than not the staff get it right. If they need to look something up, at least they know to do that rather than trying to fake it or give some pompous opinion (like I’ve run into at Fry’s and some other electronics/computer dealers).

  • http://comentariosdomundoapple.wordpress.com Krikaoli

    It’s like you rightly said, the Apple store is a tourist attraction, we Brazilians see even more , is a temple of technology, a living dream, a place that leads to a frantic hypnosis that pushes us to buy, even though we have the same product at a discount elsewhere.

  • RedMercury

    Actually, I’ve eschewed the Apple Stores pretty much since they stopped carrying software.

    Granted, I have a MacMall store about a half-mile down the street, a Fry’s about 3 miles away, a Best Buy about 3 miles away, and a MicroCenter about 10 miles away. This compares with three Apple Stores at about 7, 10, and 20 miles.

    Part of the reason is that I’m not “looking”–if I need something, I go get it. Which means I want to be in and out as quickly as possible. This is next to impossible at an Apple Store. Forget even the hassles of mall parking–just count the time going into MacMall or MicroCenter from the time you walk in the door of an Apple Store to get something like a display adapter. I walk in and ask someone, “Where are the display adapters” and they take me over to the rack. I grab the one that I need and walk over to the person behind the cash register. Give them money and I’m gone.

    Compare this with the Apple Store. You wait around and try to find someone to go in the back and get you what you need and then take your money (lord help you if you’re using cash).

  • http://batman-news.com Eric Sandoval

    Living WA state, we have sales tax on everything aside from food. Spending 2500 on a new MBP ads to 2750. I did it once when I was a Mac newbie in 2007 but every other Mac I’ve bought came from MacMall, B-H photo, or Newegg. None of those charge sales tax. So the only reasson I visit my local Apple stores are to look at new hardware, maybe pick up a case for my phone, or advise….the latter being very rare hence the slowly declining knowledge base of the staff….

  • Joel Bram

    2 years ago my wife surprised me at an apple store and offered to buy me a 13″ MBP. I knew I would upgrade the Hard drive and RAM aftermarket but the sales kid could not tell me the other difference between the base model and the upgrade! Even telling him what I was planning on using it for! so disappointed! Next time I’m buying Best Buy open box. Just saw a recent 15″ base for $1000!

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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