It's a weird time to buy an Apple product. By that I mean it's a terrible time to buy an Apple product. At least, if you want to own the latest and most amazingest with the least amount of heartbreak. That's the story for three of Apple's biggest products: iPhone 4, iPad and now, the MacBook Pro.
If you're the thrill-seeking sort—and more specifically still, the sort who measures their thrills in an inverse relation to the amount of time that's passed between a fresh gadget rolling off the assembly line in Shenzen and being pressed into your hands by a cute-but-not-too-cute Apple Store employee—we think you'll be happiest if you buy your admission tickets to the new and shiny in the first half of its life-cycle, so you get to ride out its entire life knowing you own the thing to own. Generally speaking, the closer to a gadget's death date you purchase said gadget, the worse you're gonna feel when its hotter, younger, possibly tanner replacement is announced.
Obviously this formula for gadget happiness is subject to the pull of two major variables: Price and new hotness density. Sure, the new iPhone might be able to blow you, but can you buy it for $100? And if the one before it was similarly sexy, the new one's talents may not seem all that great as an upgrade. (Hence, less new gadget remorse.) On the other hand, if the new model does something truly amazing that the previous one did not, the remorse factor can explode so violently it reforms itself into a black hole suck.
Anyway, we've already said why this moment is a dicey one to buy an iPad—a new one is likely less than an iPhone 4 for that matter, though the case is strongest for holding out on the iPad, given that we're in a timeframe measured in weeks before a likely replacement.
But now, you should hold off the MacBook Pros, too. If anything, a MacBook Pro update appears more imminent. Jason and I started thinking about this two weeks ago, mostly because of Intel's killer Sandy Bridge chips, which were unveiled at CES: Even if the new MacBook Pros weren't getting major design overhaul (think more Air-like for true next-gen Pros), they're due for some fresh guts, which are now available.
Cue dried up inventories of MacBook Pros, new MacBook Pro SKUs in Best Buy's computer systems, Apple telling some resellers to expect "sealed packages" this week and Apple getting ready for a "significant product launch" this week. There might be more changes in store than just Sandy Bridge chips, too, according to Apple Insider's sources. All of this might not add up to new MacBook Pros this coming week, but the case looks plenty solid. And even if they don't materialize next week, it seems safe to say at the bare minimum a gut refresh is imminent in the next few months, by June at the latest. I always buy or build my computers around the launch of new generations of chips. The next Pros are the ones to pounce on. But for now, just wait, if you can. At least a week.
Waiting can be painful, especially given how deeply instant gratification can be with new things. I can have almost anything I want from Amazon delivered to my door in hours. So the idea of waiting for a month or two even if it's to make sure you have guts so fresh you can practically eat them raw seems a little off-putting, especially when it comes to technology. But knowing you're so far ahead of the curve it hurts brings its own kind of joy, especially after you've upgraded all of your gear to the newest stuff possible, and can breathe a contented sigh of relieved superiority, knowing you've safely invested in your gear.
For the next 8 months, anyway.