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Are Apple products worth their price tag?

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Compared to many, I am still a relatively new Apple consumer – I purchased my iPhone 3G in early 2009. (I don’t feel it’s fair to count the Apple Newton I owned many years earlier!) Before I walked into the Apple Store and handed over my credit card I’d lusted after the iPhone for a couple of months. Whilst there I started to pay more attention to the MacBooks and iMacs but was horrifed at their price point. I’ve been a PC user for 20 years, and have built every single PC I’ve owned, therefore compartively the Apple products were, to me, outrageously priced.

Given that nearly all of the mobile handsets I’ve owned over the years have been provided by my operator, either for free or at a discounted price, the iPhone was the first mobile device I’ve every fully paid for. I laid out the best part of £350 for my iPhone 3G 8Gb before taking it straight home and jailbreaking it so I could put my Vodafone sim in it. This was a large sum of money, but when you consider that the Nokia handsets I always used to utilise retail for similar or higher prices (if purchased without contract) I felt it was good value.

Conversely over the past twelve months I’ve started to find the MacBook Pro series very attractive. There are a number of applications I feel would greatly ehnance my life and help me be more productive. Being a tech I want to get the best out of my hardware and therefore the 15″ model fits my needs, but not my wallet. (£1,500 before warranty. Warranty is nearly another £200). What I have been finding is that since my first glance at the price tag in the Apple store (all that time ago) I’ve started to become less horrified at their price. It could be that I’m persuading myself more each day that the product is worth it’s price tag, but there’s a large part of me that feels they are retailing for a third more than it should be when we look at the physical hardware.

One of the key things I have been finding is the more MacBook owners I speak to, the more I’m convinced the pricing strucure is acceptable and more importantly right. There are a great number of Apple fanboys out there who will buy anything and everything that Apple churn out. I prefer to make educated decisions about my purchases and make painstaking amounts of research into purchases because I’ve been burnt too many time by gut based decisions. In most cases I found that the hardware platform serves it’s owner for a good five years before it becomes necessary to replace. That’s more than twice what I’d say a Windows user would experience! If we take that into consideration, it means that the product is actually priced similarly to PC counterparts.

The greatest concern I have is being able to replace components that typically wear out over time (e.g. battery) and the feasibility of upgrading core components like hard drives and memory a couple of years into ownership. Sure, I haven’t built my own laptop before, but every one of them that I’ve owned I’ve been able to self service. Whilst I can accept that the operating systems developed by Apple knock seven bells out of Windows in terms of what they can do with the hardware platform, I do get a warm fuzzy feeling about being able to resolve PC hardware issues with limited difficulty myself.

The warranty plans offered by Apple are, in my opinion expensive. They, like all warranty plans are insurance policies that we all hope we don’t need to cash in on. I’ve read about and heard a great deal of Genius bar horror stories and I don’t want to become another statistic. My own wife had to fight to get her iPhone replaced within their 10 minute appointment slot and I’ve personally had very mixed experiences just with the sales staff at my local Apple store. If I do decide to buy then I’ll be getting a friend to make my purchase – she’s a university lecturer and will therefore be able to get 15% of the retail price and obtain a warranty for a mere £45. For the warranty, that’s more realistic. On a seperate note, I’d like to see more retailers offering warranty programmes like Richer Sounds offer – don’t use the warranty, get all the money back you spent on it – no catches.

In conclusion, I’m torn. I really think the iPhone is value for money. I can see that there are many things swinging me in the direction of considering the MacBook series to be appropriately priced, but a big part of my head saying, “that’s a lot of money – are you sure it’s really worth it?” and I realise that I’ve only touched on two of the products currently in Apple’s line-up; I therefore turn to you and ask, “Do you think Apple products are worth their price tag?

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