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Good value isn’t just about price—it’s about what you get for the price—and while Apple products are certainly expensive, they’re generally better value in the longterm than Windows and Android alternatives. Doubtful? Let’s dig in.
“The Apple Tax” is the supposed price premium you pay just for buying something with an Apple logo. The thing is though, it isn’t real.
Yes, Apple products can cost a lot of money. But here’s the thing, so can Windows computers (hello Alienware) or high end Android smartphones. It’s just that Apple doesn’t offer any products that can compete at the low end. Wheel out all the $250 Chromebooks and Android phones you like, but they’re not comparable products.
This isn’t to say every Apple product is reasonably priced. The MacBook Air is getting very long in the tooth and the Mac Mini (which our friends at How-To Geek used as an example that the Apple Tax isn’t real a few years ago) hasn’t been updated in years; you can absolutely find better priced alternatives to the likes of these. But for the big stuff like the iPhone or 5K iMac? Good luck.
Let’s take the iPhone, since it’s Apple’s most popular product, and dig a little deeper. A brand new unlocked 64GB iPhone 8 without any sort of financing is $699. That is a hell of a lot of money, so let’s look at what Samsung’s alternative, the Galaxy S9, will set you back.
$719.99!? That’s $20 more for an unlocked 64GB without financing. Alright, at that price point, twenty bucks difference is basically nothing, and that’s what I’m getting at. The cost of a brand new high end phone from either Apple or Samsung is basically the same. Samsung certainly has cheaper phones, but those aren’t the phones that are competing directly with the iPhone.
It’s harder to make the comparison with computers because there are so many products with so many variables, but the Dell XPS, Razor Blade Stealth, and Microsoft Surface lines of laptops all fall in the same rough price and feature bracket as the MacBook Pro once you start to even out the specs.
Again, there will be examples of Windows computers radically cheaper than a Mac—and if you’re prepared to bargain hunt, you might find an even better deal—but for the most part high end computers cost roughly the same regardless of manufacturer. “Cheap” high end devices tend to compromise on things that aren’t always readily apparent from a spec sheet, like build quality, trackpad feel and accuracy, and durability.
So we’ve established that for the most part, Apple products aren’t significantly more expensive than their competitors when you buy them new. There is, however, one time when they cost a lot more money than the equivalents: when you buy them second hand.
This can be a bit of a pain if you’re hoping to get a deal on an older Apple product, but if you own something and you’re planning to sell it, then it’s a big win. Let’s break it down again.
The iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy S6 came out within a few months of each other in 2015. At release, a 64GB iPhone 6S costs $749 while a 64 GB while a 64GB Galaxy S6 costs between $700 and $785 depending on carrier. Unlocked models ran a little pricier, but we can just assume that you bought the S6 with a carrier lock-in and unlocked it when the contract expired. Whatever way we slice the specifics, let’s just accept that both phones were available for roughly the same price when new. It will make life a lot easier.
Right now, you can sell that 64GB iPhone 6S for around $250 while you’ll only get about $170 for your Galaxy S6. Things are even starker if you’d sold your iPhone back in October when you upgraded to the latest model. Back then, your iPhone was worth in the region of $350; an S6, however, was selling for less than $180 on average.
All this data comes from Swappa and it’s averaged across different carriers and the like, but the trend is pretty clear. Two and a half years after they were released, the iPhone is worth significantly more than the equivalent Galaxy model. If you’re flogging your old phone to upgrade, the extra $100 or so can go a long way.
Things are even worse when it comes to computers. Right now there are 19 listings on Swappa for 13” 2015 MacBook Pro Retinas with prices between $727 and $1595 depending on specs.
The section for Windows laptops was a wasteland with a few 2017 models being sold at a discount.
Unless people are eagerly snapping up every older Windows laptop that becomes available, I think it’s a pretty clear sign that they just don’t hold their resale value like Macs do (or have a healthy resale market where you can sell them easily).
As well as holding their value, Apple products remain up to date and supported for longer. Your hypothetical iPhone 6S has received updates for every version of iOS since its release. It’s still unclear whether the Galaxy S6 will even get updated to Android Oreo.
If this was just about features, it would be minor points scoring. Android and iOS are both mature ecosystems so each update is adding less and less features worth having. The thing is though, it’s also about security. New vulnerabilities are discovered every month. Apple rapidly pushes security patches to fix any holes; on Android, you’re just left waiting in a state of perpetual doubt.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This article isn’t an attempt at an Apple VS Everyone hackjob. There are lots of awesome Windows and Android devices that have their place. For example, if you just need a cheap phone, I’m a huge fan of the Motorola Mote E4; I keep one as my backup phone.
Similarly, the S9 is by all accounts an incredible phone. If you prefer Android to iOS, go ahead and buy it. I would if I was you. Just bear in mind that if you plan on selling it second hand, it’s probably not going to fetch the same price as an iPhone 8.
While Apple products are often dismissed as being overpriced, it’s really not the case. While they certainly cost you a lot up front, you can recoup quite a bit of that when you sell them second hand; you just can’t quite do that with other products.
Image Credit: Sharon McCutcheon.
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