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Shopping in the iOS device bargain bin

Erica Sadun, @ericasadun
January 17, 2014
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Although we're not expecting refurbished iPad Airs to hit Apple's online store for a month or two yet, it's still a terrific time to shop for all things iOS. At US$500, the bottom-line iPad Air may not be discounted, but it still provides excellent value for the dollar. Light, thin and super fast, this latest Retina-based iOS tech offers a lot to the buyer. The intro model Retina mini starts at $400.

But what about those of us with a more limited budget? You won't go wrong picking up an original (non-Retina) iPad mini from Apple's online refurbished and clearance store. All items sell with a one-year warranty and refurbished iPads include both a brand-new battery as well as a new outer shell. It's that battery guarantee in particular that makes buying refurbished devices from Apple such a great choice.

Right now, you can pick up a refurbished first-generation 16GB WiFi iPad mini for just $250. Stock varies, but on any day you're likely to find units with varying memory configurations and onboard cellular support listed for sale as well. Yesterday morning, a 64GB non-Retina WiFi mini was just $419.

Although the iPod touch tends to get short shrift in glamour, it provides surprisingly sophisticated kit. A fifth-generation refurb with an A5 chip, a 4-inch screen, excellent cameras and more starts at just $189. That's particularly attractive to developers looking for an extra work unit with modern screens and geometry without having to pay that costly phone premium. Like iPads, refurbished iPods sold direct from Apple contain that all-important new battery.

If you're focused on Retina and shopping for a full-size iPad, your best bet is probably a refurbished fourth-generation unit, which starts at $379 for the 16GB WiFi model. While Apple is still selling third-generation devices, with an admittedly spotty collection of stock, we'd suggest choosing the latest-but-one version instead. It was an excellent model and while it weighs more than the Air and has a larger frame, it's still a great iPad all around. Compared to a new iPad 2, which sells for $20 more, the refurbished iPad 4 gives you that Retina screen, better battery life and all-round stronger computing.

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