What Not To Buy on Black Friday
For starters, put down that Nano.
In September I howled at the injustice of the new dock. (I argued that Apple should have gone with an industry-standard connector). Because I love the new iPhone, I’m resigned to living with the connector. But I’ve vowed to minimize the chance of getting burned by Apple’s arbitrary dock policies —which means I’m never ever buying a device that relies on Apple’s proprietary connector. I think you should do the same.
Avoiding the connector is not as hard as it sounds: Many phone and tablet accessories now feature wireless connectivity, so you can hook up your iPhone (or most other phones!) without having to physically plug one thing into another. (See, for instance, Jawbone’s $130 Jambox or Logitech’s $100 Mini Boombox.) It’s true that these wireless accessories are more expensive than devices with physical docks, but remember that you’re investing in long-term compatibility.
In the same vein, whatever you do, do not buy an accessory that still uses Apple’s old connector (of which you’ll find many on sale this week). That’s just asking for trouble.
Don’t buy a non-retina MacBook. Also probably the iPad 2. Oh, and the iPod Nano.
Apple put out a lot of new stuff this year: In addition to the iPhone 5, there were three iPads (first the third-generation iPad, which was later replaced by the fourth-generation iPad, and now we’ve also got the iPad Mini); a new iPod Touch; a wondrous new line of iMacs; a few nice upgrades to its MacBook Air line; and finally, it created two groundbreaking, if very expensive, laptops with ultra-high definition displays, the 13- and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros.
What’s strange is that Apple didn’t bother to remove some of its older models from its lineup in order to make room for the new stuff. This has created a weird overlap in its catalog—some of Apple’s models now offer what seem to be the worst features of its best products.
Take, for instance, the 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro, which normally sells for $1,199 but can be found for up to $60 less on Black Friday. Don’t fall for that discount—with its old-school technology (a magnetic hard drive and even a slot for DVDs!), the non-retina MacBook weighs a ton more than the comparably priced 13-inch MacBook Air, which Amazon is selling for $1,152. (OK, the Pro is only a pound and a half more than the Air, but it’ll feel like a ton.)
There’s the same problem with the iPad 2, which Apple is selling for $399. Yes, that’s less than the newest full-sized iPad ($499), but the iPad 2 lacks that model’s amazing high-resolution display. If you want to save money, go with the iPad Mini, which is actually faster than the iPad 2, much more portable, and costs only $329.
And finally, there’s the $149 iPod Nano. It’s a stylish device, but it lacks what has become a basic necessity for music players—a wireless connection to cloud music services like Pandora or Spotify. The Nano depends on the most annoyingly ancient technology that Apple makes: iTunes. For $129, you can buy an 8GB iPod Touch, which does allow you to connect to the cloud. So the Nano is kind of pointless.
Farhad Manjoo is Slate's technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter.