Editor's Desk: Apple's back-to-school tech cycle examined

iPhones on a desk
(Image credit: Future)

It's August. The hot, sticky summer air will slowly start to get cooler, and the leaves will start changing colors as the days get shorter. The bells will ring, and students will flood the halls of schools everywhere. These are the familiar sights, sounds, and feelings we get yearly around this time.

Like clockwork, the back-to-school season is in full swing, and for Apple, a bunch of new products — both hardware and software — will be released. The September event is highly anticipated across the tech world, and this year should feature the iPhone 14 as the cornerstone of the keynote presentation.

Think the September event is the only way Apple makes the school year work to its advantage? Think again. 

August builds anticipation for Apple's September event

It starts with summer. July and August set the stage for the big September event somewhat unassumingly. News from the company is typically much quieter, much like how the hustle and bustle of everyday life slow down when students are on summer break. But this is all by design.

Apple launches its back-to-school deals in the summer to entice people to buy its products. Suddenly, parents and students alike are handed requirements for their studies the following year. Need a new computer? Why not pick up the best MacBook for students while you're at it?

It's not unique to Apple by any means, but the summer is really where it all starts. 

The September and October events

(Image credit: iMore/ Luke Filipowicz)

September and October are a flurry of activity for a lot of households. School starts, which prompts after-school activities to start, which in turn prompts extra-curricular activities to kick off. It can be exhausting, but for many people — especially students — it's exciting.

That's why Apple pounces in the fall to release its new tech. It jumps on the opportunity to take advantage of back-to-school excitement before the long, cold (up here in Canada anyway) winter lulls people into a sort of hibernation.

Just like how your kid's basketball team starts up, Apple turns the key into the ignition for its yearly plan. 

Winter and holiday season

After fall excitement is over, Apple takes a more laid-back approach to winter. Usually, there aren't many product releases (but we've previously gotten some goodies in November), but as the winter holidays roll around, Apple will have some great deals.

Perhaps the student in your life needs an iPad to complement their studies. Maybe that new Apple Watch you couldn't buy in September suddenly looks enticing as a Christmas gift. Once again, Apple cleverly builds each season to lead up to these windows of time where people do a lot of shopping. 

Spring event plants the seeds

The rest of winter is usually fairly dull, but as the sun becomes hotter and spring makes its way to California, Apple holds a spring event.

Typically in March (although we've also seen it in April), this event usually plants the seeds for the fall harvest. It'll sometimes announce something new and exciting — like AirTags — but often, it features the less flashy products. A minimal upgrade to the Apple TV and a quick processor update to the baseline iPad are all appetizers to get you looking forward to the end of the school year. Or, in Apple's case, WWDC. 

WWDC those seeds bloom

(Image credit: Apple)

While WWDC is primarily about software and focuses on developers, Apple knows exactly what it's doing by putting all of those announcements in June.

The school year is coming to a close, and people are excited about summer, but most importantly, they are excited about the possibilities that the next school year will bring. Whether that's graduation, switching schools, or moving on to their careers, people are hoping for the best.

I can't think of a better time to announce a ton of new features coming to the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and all the other platforms that will be available. When will they be available? That's right, the fall. What's before the fall? Summer, where you can catch new deals on the products from the last cycle as you start your back-to-school shopping. Thus, the Apple tech cycle counties to spin on and on into the future. 

Familiarity brings comfort 

Apple's school-focused cycle almost feels is comforting. Even if you don't upgrade your devices every year — which most people don't — you'll know exactly what you're getting into based on the time of the year. From there, you can decide to wait for something newer to come out or just jump on a back-to-school or holiday deal to buy something new.

Apple uses the school year to its advantage every step of the way to ensure it's constantly engaging people in the buying process. Whether it's looking forward to the new products or actually buying the new devices, Apple's tech cycle follows a similar format, and it works. 

-Luke Filipowicz

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.