If you're considering picking up a shiny new iPhone, Mac, iPod, Apple TV, or iPad for your loved ones this holiday, Apple's made it easier than ever. Between the Apple Online Store and the company's retail stores, it's simple to pick up the device of your choice in time to hide it under your Christmas tree, menorah, or favorite holiday trinket.
Ordering from the Apple Online Store
The Apple Online Store's shipping deadlines are especially forgiving this year: If your item is in stock, the company will pay for free two-day shipping. Note: Two-day shipping doesn't apply to customized built-to-order Macs, engraved products, or orders paid for with financing or a bank transfer.
Any order placed before 5PM ET Monday-Friday will ship two business days after. If you order after 5PM, your order will ship in three business days.
As such, the latest you can place an order and receive it is on the 24th is before 5PM ET on the 22nd of December. UPDATE: If you're a really late shopper, Apple is now offering free next-day shipping for any in-stock item ordered before 10AM ET on the 23rd of December.
The iPhone is a special exception: Apple's offering free next-day shipping on all in-stock iPhone models. As such, the latest you can order an iPhone and have it arrive on the 24th is before 5PM ET on the 23rd of December.
If you miss out on those free shipping deals, of course, you can always add Guaranteed Next Day Shipping to your order, which gets it there in one business day (or one business day before noon) for an additional $20+ fee.
Now, none of these deadlines apply if you're trying to order a built-to-order Mac or an out-of-stock product. If you've waited until now to order a custom Mac and won't ship until after the 25th, you may be out of luck finding such a build somewhere else — but I hear handmade "Something special is coming your way" IOU cards are all the rage.
If you're not looking for something built-to-order and you've either missed the shipping deadlines or your item is out of stock, don't fret: There's still another way.
Picking up from the Apple Retail Store
When you order something online from the Apple Store, you now have the option to select in-store pickup if the Apple Retail Store carries the item in question. (Hint: If it's an Apple product, they probably do.)
This is a great way to shop for last-minute hardware gifts without necessarily having to rush to the mall, worrying that your gift-to-be may or may not be in stock. If you order online first, all you have to do is choose a store in your area and come pick it up when you get an email notification.
Now, all that said, the Apple Store is a pretty popular holiday shopping destination, so I would advise ordering things for pickup before the 24th, to better ensure that your item in question is in stock.
Ordering from a third party
If you've waited too long and you're scrambling, there are a few places you can pick up Apple-related items, including your local Apple authorized reseller, Best Buy, Target, and overnight shipping from Amazon. I personally tend to prefer ordering direct from the source when it comes to Apple products, but if you don't have a choice, these can be good places to visit in a pinch.
Good luck! And may the gift-buying forces be with you.