I used to work at the Apple store, here are 5 things you should never buy there

iPhone 14 Pro Apple Store
(Image credit: Future)

While Apple stores might be grand bastions of incredible architecture, cantilevered mezzanines, and soaring glass panels, they are not the place to be if you want to actually save money on anything you buy. 

Notoriously stingy, but arguably fair, Apple’s retail prices almost never change throughout the course of the year, and if they do change, they very rarely go down. Apple doesn’t hold discounts or sales, except for the Black Friday weekend, and even then it only offers gift cards to supplement full-price purchases. I should know, because I worked there. The reason for this is that, as a customer, you’d quite rightly be miffed to find the Mac/iPad/Apple Watch you bought three weeks ago is now 15% cheaper at the same shop, the downside is you’ll never see a discount in an Apple Store. 

Only students enjoy discounts on Apple products through Apple, but even this is far less generous than it used to be, and often there are still better deals to be found elsewhere. Amazon Prime Day is fast approaching, and Black Friday will take place later this year, but even asides from these sales events, year-round there is a swathe of products that you should never buy from the Apple store if you want to save money. Here’s the inside scoop.

iPad 

iPadOS 17 notes

(Image credit: Apple)

Let's start with Apple’s tablets, a favorite amongst creative professionals, students, teachers, kids, and even your Grandma. The iPad range is great because there’s a tablet to suit every need and every budget, starting from the cheapest iPad 9, all the way to the iPad Pro. 

Apple’s iPads are priced as follows:

  • iPad 9th generation $329
  • iPad 10th generation $449
  • iPad mini $499
  • iPad Air $599
  • iPad Pro 11-inch $799
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch $1,099

 Even a cursory glance at the best Prime Day deals for iPad will show you that you could save hundreds of dollars by shopping around. For instance, the iPad mini has been as little as $399 at Amazon, the iPad 9th gen is just $279, and the iPad Air is $559, although we’ve seen it for even less. Adding iPad storage or opting for a cellular model will add to the cost, but can also make for even heftier savings. iPad Pro discounts tend to be less generous, but when you’re spending $1100 on a tablet, even 5% off makes a big difference. 

 Macs 

M1 MacBook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Just like the iPad, the Mac will never see a discount at the Apple store, but shopping around could save you an astonishing amount of money. Here are all the MacBooks Apple currently sells and their respective prices: 

  • MacBook Air M1 $999
  • MacBook Air M2 13-inch $1,099
  • MacBook Air M2 15-inch $1,299
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch $1,299
  • MacBook Pro 14-inch $1,999
  • MacBook Pro 16-inch $2,499

I’m going to start sounding like a broken record soon, but when it comes to the MacBook, the bare minimum of effort shopping around is going to save you hundreds, and possibly even thousands of dollars. The $999 M1 MacBook Air is the best-value MacBook you can buy, and it’s already $799 ahead of Prime Day, so don’t buy it for anything more than that. You can also get $100 off the M2 version by going to B&H Photo if you want the newer model, and even the brand new 15-inch MacBook Air has $50 off if you choose to buy at Amazon rather than Apple, even though it has been out for less than a month. Likewise, the old 13-inch Pro is $200 cheaper at Amazon, and don’t even get me started on the 14-inch and 16-inch models. 

Adding more storage and RAM to the beefiest MacBook Pro at Apple would see a 64GB M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro with 4TB of storage cost $4,899, but B&H Photo is offering it with $1,600 off, now just $3,299

That’s the price of an entire iPhone 14 Pro, another MacBook, a Studio Display, an iPad Pro, or 533 McChickens from the dollar menu at Mcdonald's. There’s $1,400 off a similarly specced 14-inch model too. Buying it at Apple would cost $4,099, but B&H is selling it for $2,699.

Mac desktops enjoy some savings too, the M2 Mac mini can be fetched for $529 instead of Apple’s price of $599, again at the omnibenevolent B&H Photo. If you want a bit more power, the Mac Studio can also be found with discounts of up to $900 depending on the spec.

The only Mac you can safely buy at the moment from Apple is the M1 iMac, which doesn’t really tend to see any discounts and is often hard to find outside of the fruity brick-and-mortar stores.

 Apple Watch 

Apple Watch series 8

(Image credit: Future / iMore)

We’re due new Apple Watch models in September, but that means the current crop is heavily discounted around the web. Apple sells the Series 8 for $399 despite the fact it only has 3 months left before it’s replaced. But if you head to Amazon, you can get one for $329 instead. The same goes for the Apple Watch SE, which is $219 instead of $249, and even the Apple Watch Ultra is discounted by $50 to $749. Adding Cellular to your watch will see you save even more, with Amazon offering a Series 8 + Cellular for $429 instead of the $499 Apple sells it at, making it the best Prime Day Apple Watch deal on offer currently. 

 AirPods 

Someone holding the AirPods Pro in their case.

(Image credit: Future)

You should never buy AirPods from Apple, and you definitely should never buy them second-hand, because ears. Ew. Apple sells its AirPods as follows: 

  • AirPods 2 $129
  • AirPods 3 $169
  • AirPods Pro 2 $249
  • AirPods Max $549

Every single model is available for less in the Amazon Prime Day AirPods deals run. The most notable saving is a decent chunk off the AirPods Max, now just $477. AirPods 2 are available for less than a hundred bucks, and Apple’s relatively new AirPods Pro 2 are discounted by 20%, down to just $199.  

Accessories 

Blue iPad (2022) laying screen side down with Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

There are some great accessories for your Apple devices that you can also save a pretty penny on by staying at home and just shopping around. Both models of the Apple Pencil, the first and second generation, are discounted by $20 and $40, landing at $79 and $89 respectively. Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad is also $249 at Amazon instead of $299 at Apple. Then there’s the Studio Display, which is $100 cheaper at Amazon compared to Apple’s price of $1,599. AirTags, Apple’s HomePod, and even chargers are also always going to be cheaper beyond Apple’s walls. 

iPhone 

iPhone 14 Review

(Image credit: iMore / Stephen Warwick)

Apple’s iPhone range is the one set of goods you can safely purchase at the Apple store without getting stiffed by a discount somewhere else, with an important caveat. Buying an iPhone at the Apple Store makes sense if you want a phone outright, or you want to get on Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program. However, plenty of carriers offer great deals when you include a cellular plan that you won’t find at Apple, often including the phone for next to nothing, or even for free! There are some unlocked iPhones available at Amazon, but it’s very hard to sift through the locked and renewed ones to get a good deal. The iPhone is the only product I’d recommend going to the Apple store to buy. 

Why would you shop at Apple?

Apple Logo from Apple Store light

(Image credit: iMore)

I admit that this is a pretty scathing review of Apple’s pricing structures, but there’s a cost of living crisis on, and I think most ordinary people don’t have time to be sentimental about this sort of thing anymore.

There are merits to visiting the Apple store, it’s a great place to get hands-on with any device you’re thinking of buying. It's also the best bet if you want a product on day one. For sure, other retailers online and on the high street stock Apple products on their release days, but there likely won't be any discounts to speak of. However, if the price is your sole concern, even waiting a week or two can sometimes yield a discount, for instance, the new 15-inch MacBook Air has been discounted within the first month of its release, and we've seen similar early discounts on the M2 iPad Pro, and Macs before. 

Finally, Apple offers a great setup service for people who need an extra leg-up with a new device. That last point is particularly pertinent if you aren’t tech-savvy or if the prospective customer is someone vulnerable, has certain accessibility needs, or just finds new gadgets intimidating. In my experience, Apple will almost never offer this service to people who have bought their products elsewhere, so don’t wander in with an Amazon-bought MacBook expecting to have your hand held through setup, they’ll probably tell you to beat it. But hey, at least you’ll be several hundred dollars better off.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9

  • Annie_M
    Early on in my Apple experience, on one horrifically early "Black Friday" morning, I made a beeline for the Apple Store. Not realizing that Apple doesn't give discounts, as this article has stated, I was rather disappointed when I found this out!!! So when I'm looking for a new device, I do my research to get the best deal. I usually make my purchases from other places other than the Apple Store, but there's nothing like walking out of the Apple Store with one of their white bags. :D
    Reply
  • Lee_Bo
    Hmmmmm. Makes you wonder what Future is getting in return for the Amazon / B&H Photo plugs.
    Reply
  • simonmann
    Didn't really need someone who works at the store to tell us this.
    Reply
  • Mars20
    I bought my MacBook Pro from Apple direct and got a very generous Gift Card on a Black Friday weekend.
    Reply
  • bitkahuna
    cheaper if you want last year's stuff or don't need a custom config. obviously nothing wrong with that though, if that's good enough for you.

    also, buying from apple with their card gives 0% plus apple cash back.
    Reply
  • mjd1969
    Pretty obvious advice for anyone that has shopped around at all. I will say that the Apple store is the ONLY place you should go for repairs though. I had a 5th Gen 12.9" iPad Pro that was 6 months out of warranty. My dog knocked it off a table and knocked a glass of water on top of it. Despite my attempts to save it, the True Depth camera failed and face id didn't work anymore. I checked online and Apple said my local Best Buy was an authorized service center. I took it there, the tech rans some diagnostics and declared it unrepairable. He handed it back to me. He said I simply had to buy a new one. Frustrated, I made an appointment at my local Apple store. They ran the same diagnostics and agreed it was dead. He also mentioned iPads are too difficult to repair, so they usually just swap them out. Instead of turning me away, they offered me another 5th Gen for $750 which was cheaper than new. He also mentioned that if I wanted a new on, they would give me $475 for my broken unit towards a new unit. THe math was easy- $750 for the previous gen or $1200-475=$725 for a new one. I went the new route. When he was checking me out, he asked if I had any kids in school. As I have a daughter in college, he gave me the education discount. Because I made the purchase during the back to school promotion, I got a $100 gift card with the purchase. In the end, I got a new 6th gen 256Gb unit for $670 after taxes and a $100 gift card to use later. I was very happy with the Apple store visit.
    Reply
  • Annie_M
    mjd1969 said:
    Pretty obvious advice for anyone that has shopped around at all. I will say that the Apple store is the ONLY place you should go for repairs though. I had a 5th Gen 12.9" iPad Pro that was 6 months out of warranty. My dog knocked it off a table and knocked a glass of water on top of it. Despite my attempts to save it, the True Depth camera failed and face id didn't work anymore. I checked online and Apple said my local Best Buy was an authorized service center. I took it there, the tech rans some diagnostics and declared it unrepairable. He handed it back to me. He said I simply had to buy a new one. Frustrated, I made an appointment at my local Apple store. They ran the same diagnostics and agreed it was dead. He also mentioned iPads are too difficult to repair, so they usually just swap them out. Instead of turning me away, they offered me another 5th Gen for $750 which was cheaper than new. He also mentioned that if I wanted a new on, they would give me $475 for my broken unit towards a new unit. THe math was easy- $750 for the previous gen or $1200-475=$725 for a new one. I went the new route. When he was checking me out, he asked if I had any kids in school. As I have a daughter in college, he gave me the education discount. Because I made the purchase during the back to school promotion, I got a $100 gift card with the purchase. In the end, I got a new 6th gen 256Gb unit for $670 after taxes and a $100 gift card to use later. I was very happy with the Apple store visit.
    That's fantastic! I agree and would choose to go to the Apple Store for repairs over Best Buy. They took good care of me when one of my AirPods died, and I was quite pleased. I have gone to an independent place to have the screen replaced on my husband's iPad 2 when he left it on the roof of his car. Needless to say, it flew off and the screen was damaged. This was several years ago before there was an Apple Store in my area. The repaired screen worked well, and he still uses it occasionally.
    Reply
  • EdwinG
    mjd1969 said:
    Pretty obvious advice for anyone that has shopped around at all. I will say that the Apple store is the ONLY place you should go for repairs though. I had a 5th Gen 12.9" iPad Pro that was 6 months out of warranty. My dog knocked it off a table and knocked a glass of water on top of it. Despite my attempts to save it, the True Depth camera failed and face id didn't work anymore. I checked online and Apple said my local Best Buy was an authorized service center. I took it there, the tech rans some diagnostics and declared it unrepairable. He handed it back to me. He said I simply had to buy a new one. Frustrated, I made an appointment at my local Apple store. They ran the same diagnostics and agreed it was dead. He also mentioned iPads are too difficult to repair, so they usually just swap them out. Instead of turning me away, they offered me another 5th Gen for $750 which was cheaper than new. He also mentioned that if I wanted a new on, they would give me $475 for my broken unit towards a new unit. THe math was easy- $750 for the previous gen or $1200-475=$725 for a new one. I went the new route. When he was checking me out, he asked if I had any kids in school. As I have a daughter in college, he gave me the education discount. Because I made the purchase during the back to school promotion, I got a $100 gift card with the purchase. In the end, I got a new 6th gen 256Gb unit for $670 after taxes and a $100 gift card to use later. I was very happy with the Apple store visit.
    That’s an amazing story about good customer service! :)
    Reply
  • Ledsteplin
    Annie_M said:
    Early on in my Apple experience, on one horrifically early "Black Friday" morning, I made a beeline for the Apple Store. Not realizing that Apple doesn't give discounts, as this article has stated, I was rather disappointed when I found this out!!! So when I'm looking for a new device, I do my research to get the best deal. I usually make my purchases from other places other than the Apple Store, but there's nothing like walking out of the Apple Store with one of their white bags. :D

    New iPhones are usually the same price most places.
    Reply
  • Ledsteplin
    I buy very little from Apple in the way of products. My iPhones I buy from Verizon. Other items mostly from Amazon.
    Reply