Apple vs. the World

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Paul writes periodic travel and tech articles on Dappered.com.  Follow his travel blog, drivinginertia.com, to read more about his adventures.  He owns an Acer laptop, an Android phone, and an iPod Touch.

Save a man 40% on a suit, and everybody cheers.  Save a man 40% on a computer, and he may accuse you of being a raging anti-Appleite.  Sure, Apple makes good products – I don’t think anybody disputes that – but are they worth it?  Are they a good deal?  Buying an Apple product is a bit like buying a BMW – nobody will question your decision, you’ll end up with something nice, and you’ll spend a good chunk of money in the process.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, once said: “There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less.”  Apple works hard to get you to pay more.  Samuel L. Jackson flirts with Siri on TV to get you to open your wallet.  So are there Apple deals?  And if so, how do these stack up against those recent picks from two weeks back?

Our technology decisions display our taste, our fashion, our style.  We’re judged by both the providers of our email and the phone in our pocket.  The aim of this post is to look at Apple’s offerings and see if there are deals there.  It hopes to answer, or at least help answer, one of the greatest questions of our time: if your polo shirt doesn’t need a pony, does your phone need fruit?

Battlefield iPad: 2 ($399) vs. New ($499)

The new iPad is $100 more than the older iPad 2.  It’s got better guts, of course, but the thing everybody talks about is the display.  Is the Retina-branded resolution worth it?  For $100, maybe, but 20% off isn’t nothin’.  If you really want a tablet, the iPad is the undisputed king.  But $500?  That’s two suits.

Refurbished iPads are a bit cheaper (starting at $320 … sometimes), but is that significant enough savings to justify buying a non-new, non-current product?  The real deal will be if the Apple rumors are true and a 7” version is in the works.  We’ll have to see how that plays out.

Honestly, the best deal Apple tablet just might be the iPod Touch ($199).  It’s basically an iPhone without the phone, an iPad with a tiny screen.  Kids love them because their parents will buy them a Touch before buying them a true mobile phone.  But if you’ve got an iPhone, what’s the point of buying an iPod Touch if their screens are the same size?

iPad vs. Coaster. I mean Kindle Fire.

Non-Apple Challenger: Amazon Kindle Fire ($199), 50% savings.  The Kindle Fire isn’t in the same league as the iPad – hell, it costs as much as the iPod Touch and boasts a 7” screen – but that might not matter to you.  It’s real competition is the still-a-rumor 7″ iPad.  If you just want to browse the web from the couch, play some Angry Birds during commercials, the Kindle Fire is probably perfect.  It’s so cheap, you have to consider it.  No front facing camera? Not a problem — use your phone or your laptop to video chat.  How many cameras do you need, how much do you video chat?  If the camera is a deal-breaker, wait for the Google Nexus 7 (available for pre-order now @ $199) … or the next Kindle Fire.

Let’s also not forget that this is a coffee table computer even though the iPad can almost replace a laptop.  Do you really want to risk spilling food or wine on your $500 iPad, soiling it with Yellow Tail Syrah or lo mein?  Spill a little take-out Chinese on your Kindle Fire, shrug it off.  Spill some sweet-n-sour on your iPad home button, spend the rest of the weekend in bed crying.  Better yet: wait for the Kindle Fire to go on sale and buy three of them.  Scatter them around your home like coasters.

Battlefield iMac: Air ($999 um … $1,199) vs. Pro with Retina Display ($2,199)

The new MacBook Pro with Retina Display has more pixels than you’ll ever even see.  That’s the thing about Retina display – it’s better than your eyes.  But it costs over two grand.  Damn.  At less than half the price ($999), the MacBook Air 11” is tempting. But 11” is just one inch bigger than the iPad’s screen!  No thanks.  The 13” is the way to go, but it’s more expensive ($1,199).  It is, however, pretty awesome.  It’s light and sleek and sexy.  What’s not to like?

Both vulnerable when dropped out windows.

Non-Apple Challenger: Acer S3 ($699-$720), 40% savings.  What’s not to like, Mr. Air?  Price, sir.  Price!  Apple products break too, so don’t give me that build quality line.  Bullets don’t break computers — people do.  We download viruses and drop them and spill things on their keyboards.  The S3 costs 40% less than the Air — you could almost buy two of them instead of the Air.  Break it, buy another, sell the broken one on eBay and come out ahead.  Sure, you give up a few pixels of screen resolution (1,366 x 768 vs. the Air’s 1,440 x 900), but how many pixels does one need to write emails, waste time on Facebook, read BuzzFeed, comment on Dappered.com?  If you need an optical drive, take a look at the Samsung Series 5.

On the other hand, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is pretty much the coolest, most badass computer you can currently buy.  What other things can you afford that can boast that?  A Bugatti VeyronA Patek Philippe Calatrava watch?  You might be reading the wrong blog.  But buying it for the resolution is a bit like buying the first color television — all the shows are still broadcast in black and white, the web is a low-res neighborhood.

However, with Apple, if you have issues, you can just bring it in to one of their stores and they’ll fix it.  With Acer, you’re pretty much on your own.

Battlefield iPhone: 4 on Virgin ($1,270) vs. 4S on Verizon ($2,120)

If you’re saving money, you ditch Siri and get the iPhone 4 instead of the 4S.  The prices above are the full two-year prices you’ll end up paying over the course of a standard cell phone contract.

Water Torture vs. Guillotine

With Verizon

  • $40 for 450 minutes of talk time,
  • $10 for 1,000 text messages,
  • and $30 for 2GB of data

= $80/month for 24 months ($1,920) plus the phone ($200).

With Virgin

  • $30 a month for 300 minutes and unlimited data (throttled after 2.5GB) and texts ($720 for service)
  • plus the phone ($550).

Virgin costs more up-front.  Verizon’s more in the long-term.

It comes down to where you live and where you visit.  If you’re a city-dweller, you can get away with Virgin’s Sprint network.  If you live in the boons, Verizon’s better.  AT&T is somewhere in between.

Non-Apple Challenger: HTC EVO V 4G ($1,140), 10% savings.  With Virgin Mobile, you can save another $130 if you go Android.  You’ll still be able to make phone calls, check your email, send texts, waste time on Facebook, and play Angry Birds and Words with Friends.  You also get 4G connectivity.  You can replace the battery or carry an extra on vacation.  You can swap out the SD card.  There are advantages to Android beyond price.  Sure, it’s not an iPhone, but you don’t get stuck with iTunes either.

But wait: there’s more.  You could hold out a bit and get a Google Nexus (with Google Now, Google’s response to Apple’s Siri) for $350, then activate it online and get unlimited texts, data (reduced speeds after 5GB), and 100 minutes of talk for $30 from T-Mobile and Walmart and save another $70 ($1,070 all-in).

Virgin Mobile makes the cost argument against Apple products pretty close — this is a fantastic deal for an iPhone.  However, if they kill the $5 price break, and they could because you don’t have a contract with them, the savings start to disappear.  And if you get the 4S instead, you’re another $100 behind.  But still, this is the Apple deal most worthy of consideration (iPhones do get the coolest accessories).  I’m considering getting one for my mom.  It would be her first smartphone.  She’ll be able to video chat with my sister and my nephew, and I’ll be able to point her towards the Genius Bar after she sends the thing through the laundry.  Could be perfect.

The Totals

If you want the three latest and greatest products from Apple, it’ll cost you just under $5,000 for the three-pack ($4,820). That’s a lot. You could almost buy a used sports car instead. You could also spend more by getting an iPhone or iPad with more storage.

If you go the cheaper Apple route, you’re in for $2,870 (assuming you get the iPad 2 and the 13” Air). This saves you about 40% against the high-end options. That’s a lot of savings.

If you grab the value picks, you’re in for $2,040 – $830 less than the cheapo Apple route (about 30%). $830 is a chunk of dough, over 55% less expensive than the high-end Apple picks. That’s real money. But maybe it’s not worth it. Apple does have their Genius Bars, they do have good customer service.

Now’s your chance to chime in. Is Apple the one brand Dappered readers will pay extra for? Is it worth the higher price or is it just another pretty logo you can do without? Let us know what you think in the comments.