What if you want to get yourself into the Apple ecosystem – apps! iMessage! FaceTime! iCloud! – but you don’t have a lot of cabbage? And you don’t want to buy used?
Below we list the least expensive items in each of Apple’s main product categories. At the risk of turning this article into clickbait, it’s surprising what you can get for less money than you might think!
Prices quoted are in US dollars, but the items listed should be the the most inexpensive in all Apple stores within Europe and the rest of the western world.
Cheapest desktop Mac
Mac Mini — $499
$499 gets you a Mac Mini with 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB traditional rotational hard disk, and Intel HD Graphics 5000.
The only gripe is the 4GB of RAM and, unfortunately, on this model of Mac the RAM is soldered to the mainboard, so can’t be upgraded by the user. 4GB isn’t an issue right now but it will be in two or three years’ time. Everything else can be lived with very comfortably, and the addition of two Thunderbolt 2 ports means you can add-in SSD storage at some point in the future and switch over to using it as a boot drive. It’ll be screamingly fast.
Paying $100 more will see 8GB of RAM fitted at the factory.
Don’t forget that the Mac Mini doesn’t come with a keyboard or mouse, and you’ll need to provide your own display too. Any USB keyboard and mouse will do – even ones designed for boring old PCs – or you could use Bluetooth, of course. The display will have to be HDMI-ready or you’ll need to buy Thunderbolt adapters for your VGA or DVI monitors. These can be had for a few dollars on eBay – just search for Displayport adapters, which are the same thing.
Like all Macs, the Mini does come with an operating system (El Capitan) and the iWork/iLife software (even if it isn’t called that nowadays).
Cheapest portable Mac
MacBook Air 11in — $899
It’s crazy to think that the MacBook Air line was once amongst Apple’s most expensive laptop offerings because nowadays it offers the cheapest way to get a piece of the portable Mac pie.
$899 gets you a MacBook Air 11in with 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor that will Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD/flash storage, and Intel HD Graphics 6000 running on a 1366×768 resolution screen. Again, the spec would be perfectly acceptable – even admirable – if only for that 4GB of RAM, and once again it’s soldered to the mainboard so can’t be upgraded by the user. There’s a single Thunderbolt 2 port if you want to attach additional storage, although no SD card slot.
Paying $100 more will bump the RAM up to 8GB via a factory upgrade.
iPhone SE — $399
Assuming you want to buy the iPhone outright – that is, SIM-free – the 16GB iPhone SE undercuts all the other iPhone models despite being the latest model and having a pretty nice tech spec of an A9 chip, 16GB of storage, 4in display and 2GB of RAM. Notably, it’s no longer possible in the US to buy a dirt-cheap iPhone with 8GB, as it was a year or two ago with the 5C (although a handful of eBay sellers are still offering brand new and refurb models at the time of writing).
$100 more gets you 64GB of storage and at $499 it’s still cheaper than any other iPhone model currently being sold new by Apple.
iPad mini 2 — $269
Getting onto the iPad ladder is surprisingly inexpensive and just $269 will get you an iPad mini 2 with 16GB of storage and a 7.9-inch Retina display. However, it’s harder to recommend this particular model compared to the other selections listed here. For example, the mini 2 is powered by a lowly A7 chip – several generations behind the A9 used for the iPhone SE – and only has 1GB of RAM. The latter is particular means you’re pushing hard even now against the performance limits imposed by iOS. Still, for watching movies and playing basic games you won’t notice this much. An extra $50 gets you 32GB of storage and is surely worth the investment.
Cheapest Apple TV
Apple TV 3rd gen — $69
Just $69 will get you the previous generation Apple TV, but there are a handful of caveats. Only the most recent 4th generation model supports the App Store, for example, and only that model comes with a Siri remote control. With the 3rd generation Apple TV you’re limited to a basic remote, and only a relatively small selection of “Channels” (as Apple calls them). Still, these hook into some of the nation’s major services and broadcasters, and if your needs don’t get much above watching Netflix or basketball/baseball/football, and AirPlaying video and audio from your iOS devices or Macs, then the 3rd generation Apple TV remains a compelling choice.
Cheapest Apple Watch
Apple Watch Sport 38mm – $299
Apple’s never made a clear link between Watch sizes and gender but if you’re a man, and don’t mind wearing a slightly smaller 38mm model, then you can become one of the Apple Watch trendies for just $299. The case is aluminum and comes in black, silver (that is, no color), gold and rose gold finishes, while you get to chose from an extensive selection of Sports and Nylon bands (and third-party bands are cheap on eBay/Amazon). $50 more gets you the 42mm model, if your wrist is just too thick to sport the 38mm model without it looking dainty.
Beating Apple’s prices
Apple doesn’t discount their products, which is to say that they don’t announce a recommended retail price and then allow resellers to sell for less than this. However, some third-party retailers do manage to trim the odd few dollars off Apple’s prices, or run special offers where you’ll find discounts (usually to clear end-of-line stock in preparation of a new model). Sometimes the prices are the same as Apple’s but the third-party retailer throws in something like an extended warranty.
Refurb: Apple also sells refurb hardware, which is hardware that’s been sold and then returned for whatever reason – perhaps the buyer didn’t like the product, or there was a fault that Apple was able to easily fix. The discounts can be substantial and while you’re guaranteed to get a model at least the specification you request, people report sometimes receiving models with better specifications – 16GB rather than 8GB of RAM, for example. This isn’t guaranteed, however, and is pretty much a lottery.
Education or government discounts: If you’re in full-time education, or work within education, then you can use Apple’s education discounts to trim around 5-10% off the price of Apple hardware. Usually all you’ll need is an .edu email address to prove your status. Apple offers similar discounts for state and local government employees, as well as federal employees and military personnel (plus military personnel families). This time you’ll need to phone a special number (1-877-41-APPLE) and discuss the matter with an Apple sales rep.