When should you buy your next Mac?
Here's my answer to the age-old question of when you should buy your next Mac, once and for all
In my capacity writing about the Macintosh for the past 15 years, I've been asked one question more than any other: Should I buy a new Mac now or should I wait?
Here's my answer to that question:
Buy the Mac you need when you need it. Understand that its obsolescence is inevitable, and that it will probably be replaced sooner than you would like with a new model.
Now, we can certainly go down the rabbit hole. We can look at Apple's upgrade cycles, buying patterns among Mac-using consumers, Intel's chipset roadmap and other esoterica and make guesses about when each system is going to be refreshed. But we're also guessing, because except under rare circumstances, Apple doesn't telegraph when it's going to refresh a product or bring out a new product.
It's a popular pastime to guess. I admit I enjoy the sport. And financial analysts who track Apple often depend on their own intelligence — based off reports from abroad and their sources within Apple's supply chain — to figure out when Apple will release new Macs and iOS devices.
But it can be deceiving, and the track records of any of these experts is less than 100 percent. Everyone makes mistakes.
Obviously, none of this gives comfort or reassurance to the average customer who's considering shelling out $1,000 or more for a new Macintosh. You want to get your money's worth. You want your Mac to last as long as possible and to work as well as possible not just with software and peripherals that are out today, but stuff that's coming out.
That fear is always there: That right around the corner, Apple's going to replace your computer or your smartphone with something that's way better than you have. And you're going to be stuck with something that's just not as good.
It's a bit funny, because it's a really irrational fear. When you buy a car, you know that the carmaker is going to replace it with a new model for the next model year within months of your purchase, but that doesn't stop you from getting the car. And rarely do you regret getting a car just because its newer models have features that yours doesn't.
If anything, it's an incentive for you to trade up, or to lease and rollover into a new lease. But you buy the car you need when you need it, because it's transportation and it fits the list of requirements you have for safety, passengers, cargo space, economy — whatever your criteria may be.
But it's not quite that easy when buying a computer.
Many of us prefer to use our computers as long as they will last. Apple will warranty a Mac for up to three years from the date of purchase, but many of us use our Macs well beyond that date: We will drive our Macs into the ground, so to speak (just like I personally do with my cars — I hate making payments).
2014 has turned out to be a very frustrating year so far for Mac users. There was a very mild refresh to the MacBook Air earlier this year that bumped processor speeds up just slightly (from 1.3 to 1.4 GHz) and dropped prices. And more recently, Apple released a new 21.5-inch iMac that is $200 less than the considerably faster 2.7 GHz model.
But there's been no refresh of the MacBook Pro, or the Mac Pro, or the Mac mini or standard MacBook Pro. The latter two devices are very long in the tooth at this point; both were 2012 models. It's not out of character for Apple to wait until the fall to introduce a new MacBook Pro model, so that's not out of its typical upgrade cycle yet, and the Mac Pro didn't begin shipping until last December.
Intel's troubles getting its new Broadwell microprocessor have been well documented at this point. That may be impacting Apple's ability to refresh its Macs, but we won't know until later this year. Apple's own Eddy Cue suggested during his interview at Re/Code's Code Conference that the second half of the year would hold new product announcements from Apple, though he stopped short of promising new Macs.
To summarize: You'll never be disappointed by your decision to wait to purchase a new Mac (or iOS device). Because Apple doesn't exist in some statis; the company is constantly moving forward with new products, innovating and trying to interest customers in new products.
But ultimately, you should let your need dictate your decision about what to get and when to get it, rather than trying to guess when Apple is going to introduce a device. Be happy with what you buy, and just bear in mind that it's only going to be a matter of time until there's something even better.