Tips for finding Apple deals on Cyber Monday and Black Friday
If you're looking for deals, you won't find them at Apple's own stores or on its website. "This time of year, the company usually offers only gift cards, instead of lower prices, when you buy products," Nick said. "Even when Apple does offer cash-off deals, they're often not substantial discounts." Instead, you're better off looking to other retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Costco, and Sam's Club, for discounted Apple gear.
You shouldn't expect great Black Friday deals on the newest Apple items, though, even from third-party retailers. It's unlikely that a new iPhone 11 or Apple Watch Series 5 will see any discounts, but products that have been around for longer are fair game. For instance, both Nick and Deals editor Nathan Burrow predict that this will be a good year to score a Black Friday discount on the Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4, with select Series 3 models dropping as low as $150 (which would be easily the lowest price we've ever seen for a brand-new Apple watch) and the Series 4 selling for $300.
You'll likely see something similar with iPads. Older generations like the 64 GB iPad Air may drop to $430 or less, and the 11-inch iPad Pro could hit $750. A welcome exception is the newest iPad, as ad leaks indicate that the 32GB model of 7th-generation iPad will see an $80 drop. The 6th-generation iPad will definitely see discounts, perhaps even more substantial—and because there isn't too much of a difference between the two generations, the iPad 6 is still a good choice if you're looking for a newer tablet. According to editor Andrew Cunningham, if you can find the 128 GB iPad 6 for the same price or less than the 32 GB iPad 7, it's a solid discount worth considering.
Some retailers swap price drops for gift cards
Apple is notorious for providing gift cards instead of knocking down the price of gear (which is why we recommend you look elsewhere if you want to buy Apple products for cheap-ish), but it isn't the only retailer running promotions like this. Last year, both Walmart and Target offered gift card deals for those who bought and activated their iPhones during Black Friday.
Most people would rather save money than receive a gift card, but if you're really interested in securing the newest iPhone, you might as well get a store gift card out of the deal. Though we can't say for sure how much Walmart and Target will offer this year, we expect it to be similar to last year's promotion: Walmart provided a $300 gift card with activation of the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, and a $400 gift card for the iPhone 8, 8+, and X. Target offered only a $250 gift card for the iPhone XS and XS Max, and a $150 gift card with activation of the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X.
One of the downfalls to this deal, Nick pointed out, is that on-the-spot activation can be a pain for people who want to buy iPhones as holiday gifts. If you don't activate the phone during the Black Friday period, you'll lose out on the store gift card. And though the card doesn't feel as good as scoring a low price on an iPhone, both Target and Walmart offer a wide selection of inventory—you won't have trouble spending the money, even if it's on groceries for the next month.
Apple also has its own Apple Shopping Event that usually runs during Black Friday weekend. Though it hasn't officially announced the event yet, we're predicting that, as usual, no cash discounts will be offered—just gift cards. If you were planning to buy a device directly from Apple anyway, the store credit is a nice bonus, but not every product comes with a gift card. Last year, no store credit on Apple's latest hardware was offered—the same will probably be true of this year's event, too.
What about deals on refurbished stuff?
If you see a too-good-to-be-true price on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac on a third-party site, Nick noted that it's likely a refurbished unit (a device that has been returned or repaired), which can feel a little sketchy, especially for a purchase with a hefty price tag. "With the exception of refurbished products that Apple itself sells, refurbs usually have a shorter warranty than new models and no guarantee of quality," he warned.
But buying a refurbished product directly from Apple is a safe bet. "Apple's refurbished products are every bit as reliable as new ones and almost always cosmetically indistinguishable," Nick said. They come with a full one-year Apple warranty and are eligible for Apple's optional AppleCare extended warranty.
"Before you take advantage of a retailer's Black Friday deal on an Apple device, check out Apple's refurbished section on its website," Nick added.
How about accessories?
Not unexpectedly, it's unlikely you'll see deals on Apple accessories from Apple itself, but Nick predicts minor price drops on a few accessories through third-party retailers like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and Costco.
Though our picks for iPhone and iPad cases are already on the cheaper side, we'll likely see further discounts, Nick said, but nothing too substantial. The same goes for the Apple Pencil, which may drop $10 or so.
AirPods, on the other hand, will likely see a nice price drop. Nathan predicts that, in the same way 1st-generation AirPods saw their first drop during Black Friday last year, 2nd-generation AirPods will probably drop to $130 for the non-wireless charging version and $150 for the wireless charging version this year—and with the release of the AirPods Pro later this week, those prices could drop even further. Though Apple's wireless earbuds are no longer a Wirecutter pick, our guide writers still like them for iOS users, so if you've been waiting for a time to splurge, Black Friday is as good a time as any.
To make the most of Black Friday, check out our predictions, advice, and early deals.