The new Apple iPhones (14, 14 Plus, and 14 Pro) have landed. Do they meet all the “magical,” “groundbreaking,” “innovative” superlatives that Apple promised? Does anyone really care?
ConsumerAffairs asked DealNews’ Consumer Analyst, Julie Ramhold, to give us her takeaway – from pricing to when the right time to buy is. Here’s what she had to say…
Lackluster interest pre-event
Headed into the event, a recent DealNews.com poll found that a slim 6.6% of readers planned to buy the new iPhone 14 the moment it dropped, but 70% said they probably wouldn’t buy it at all. Why is that?
“Technology has definitely improved over where it was several years ago, but the leaps from one generation to the next aren't necessarily anything groundbreaking anymore. Because of that, and the fact that phone carriers aren't subsidizing purchases anymore, many consumers are finding it easier and more affordable to just continue to use the model they already have as long as it's in good working condition,” Ramhold said.
“Many are trying to refrain from upgrading unless their device is seriously outdated (as in, no longer receiving security updates) or has been broken beyond repair as a new smartphone routinely costs closer and closer to $1,000 for many now.”
Pricing turned out to be a relief
No surprises here, Ramhold said, adding that the prices were right on target with what her team expected.
“These are the starting prices we see with new gadgets released every year, and while it would be nice to see them start at lower prices, at least they aren't priced even higher. This is especially good considering the iPhone 14 will start at $799, and top out at $1,099 for the iPhone 14 Pro Max,” she said.” In her opinion, while the iPhones appear to be pricey, they’re not exorbitantly so.
What are the best times to purchase the latest Apple gadgets?
“Black Friday is often the best time of year to purchase new Apple devices, period,” is Ramhold’s opinion. From her experience, when a new generation of devices first comes out, the previous generation (iPhone 13) will typically see a permanent price cut and satisfy the desires of most iPhone lovers.
“But even so, Black Friday usually brings additional savings that are hard to beat and rarely pop up at other times of the year. I would say that occasionally in the summertime around back-to-school season, Apple itself will offer things like new MacBooks with a free pair of Beats headphones or something like that for those that may be headed off to college. However, even then, you may want to look elsewhere to find better deals on a new computer.”
However, for consumers who embrace the trade-off of “free” vs. “long-term contractual commitment,” they might find what AT&T is offering attractive. Beginning Friday, the carrier is offering the iPhone 14, Pro, and Plus for free, and the iPhone Pro Max for $99 -- a cool $1,000 -- off if they trade in an eligible smartphone, or sign up for a qualifying installment and a qualifying Unlimited plan.
About those previous generation phones
When asked for her tips on how consumers can save on previous generation phones, Ramhold offered these two points:
Shop around. Gotta get while you can, apparently, because Apple will only offer previous generation iPhones for so long. And you should be prepared to look elsewhere, including at stores like Target and websites like eBay where you may need to shop via third-party sellers to find good deals.
Consider refurbished. The rule of thumb for refurbished is that the older the model, the harder it may be to find a brand-new version of it. So if you can find an unboxed older generation iPhone, you should grab it. Even "factory-refurbished" phones are good deals because while they’ve seen some action, it’s a safe bet that they were refurbished to the point where they might have nothing more than minor cosmetic issues. Otherwise, they should work like new.
The important thing is to buy refurbished devices from reputable sellers who have good ratings, offer returns, etc. Ramhold suggested that platforms like eBay are sticklers when it comes to how sellers define “refurbished,” and it’s always smart to read those particulars.
“Test before you buy a refurbished model, if possible. If you're shopping in person, you should ask if you can see the device in action before you buy it. That is, ask to plug it in, turn it on, make sure there aren't any dead pixels and that it's actually charging before you walk out of the store with it,” are her recommendations.
“If the seller won't allow you to check the status of the item before buying it, consider it a red flag and walk out on the sale."
Where are the best places to buy the new Apple products?
From having tracked these new releases before, Ramhold says that more often than not, big box retailers like Target or Best Buy are ideal places to shop. “Even Amazon and Walmart can be worthwhile retailers to shop for the latest gadgets.”
Interestingly enough, though, she says that consumers should avoid buying directly from Apple online or at an Apple store. “Basically the biggest reason to not shop at Apple is that it rarely offers discounts – in fact, it's notorious for not having a Black Friday sale. It may offer surface-level savings, but overall you're going to find better deals and potentially better perks by shopping elsewhere,” she concluded.