Gaming Apple: How to Time It Right and Get the Best Prices on Apple Products

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Apple doesn’t do discounts. Deals and promotions? Those are for other guys, the retailers and tech manufacturers who need to go there to attract customers. When people are so in love with your products that they’ll sleep out overnight on the curb for the privilege of buying them, why bother with silly deals and 10% off sales?

Still, even as Apple gives the impression that the price is the price, with strategy, good timing, and—something many Apple-o-files lack—patience, it’s fairly easy to pay less than retail for all sorts of Apple products.

The folks at dealnews have analyzed three years of pricing for various Apple products, and can now definitively declare something most value-conscious consumers probably knew already:

Never buy an Apple product on the day of its launch.

Why? The price will only go down from there. More often than you’d think, it’ll drop pretty darn quickly. With the exception of the iPhone and the iPad, Apple products are typically discounted within eight days of first hitting the market. Yep, you’d save by subduing your early adopter instincts for a little over a week.

Another key strategy for snagging the best price is to bypass Apple itself when it comes to actually making the purchase. According to dealnews, over the years the best deals and earliest discounts on Apple products tend to come not via Apple but from other vendors, including Amazon, Mac Connection, and MacMall.

(MORE: Cheaper No-Contract iPhones, More Sensible Data Plans Could Be Coming Your Way)

Based on dealnews data, the Apple product that was discounted the fastest was the 15″ MacBook Pro 2011. Within hours of its official launch, MacConnection started selling it for $100 cheaper than Apple ($1,799 vs. $1,699). The 2010 model was discounted (by $130) just two days after launch. The MacBook Air and 2011 iMac 21.5″, meanwhile, were also discounted very soon after their debuts—one day ($30 off) and eight days ($94), respectively.

If prior history is any indication of future pricing, the advice here is clear: When it comes to Apple notebooks and computers, hold your horses and wait a little after they’re introduced before buying anything. By purchasing right away, you’re eliminating the possibility of easy savings.

As for the most in-demand Apple products—iPad and iPhone—there doesn’t seem to be much financial incentive to delay your gratification. The price for either is unlikely to change by waiting a few days, or even a few months. When the original iPhone came out in 2007, it costs $399 at retail—knocked down to $200 a mere two months later. Since then, discounts have basically been nonexistent until it’s time for Apple to introduce the latest new-new model. A rare exception occurred three months after the iPad 2 was launched, when dealnews spotted a below-retail price from PowerMax. The savings: a whopping $10.

(MORE: Should You Buy an eBook Reader?)

To pay less than full price for an iPhone or iPad, though, there are other options. One strategy is to do what was hinted at above: Buy an older model once it’s discounted because a newer model’s hit the market. Some older iPhones have been selling for as little as $49 (with a two-year service plan, of course). Another possibility is to buy a discounted refurbished iPad from the Apple Store, where all products come with the full Apple warranty.

For that matter, going refurbed is an easy way to save money on MacBooks, iMacs, iPods, and any number of Apple products. Unfortunately, it’s a mathematical impossibility to buy a refurbed gadget on the day the gadget launches—so again, in order to get a deal you’ll have to curb the desire to have it, hold it in your arms, and show it off on the first day possible.

(MORE: The Early Adopter: Trendsetter or Sucker?)
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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