Apple Product Cycle: When to Buy Your Next Mac

Like many tech enthusiasts, it takes us forever to finally decide on what to buy. One most important factors when buying new tech is the product's life cycle. While some people are more impulsive, we tend to buy our tech with cold hard cash, which always reminds us of how long we can use the new tech without having to upgrade. Today we cover some Apple and Mac products, but we'll tackle Sony, Xbox, and other manufacturers next week.

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You're looking to buy an iPhone
A lot of people can't live without their iPhones. The latest iPhone came out last summer, on June 24. Each year, during the summer, Apple has been releasing an updated version of their iPhone.

How long you might have to wait
Tech experts don't expect a new iPhone this summer, since AT&T lost its exclusivity earlier this year, and there have been a few new models available (white iPhone 4 has been available since April 28 of this year and Verizon's CDMA iPhone has been available for a few months). However, the tech sites and rumors, as well as tipsters, are pointing toward a possible fall release.

Release history
iPhone 4 June 24, 2010
iPhone 3GS June 19, 2009
iPhone 3G July 11, 2008
iPhone June 29, 2007

Should you buy now or wait
There are about two more months to go before Apple's fall event, so our best bet would be to wait unless your carrier offers easy upgrade plans.

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You're looking to buy an iPad
The iPad has opened up a whole new market segment for Apple, and it's a handy, light device that can easily double as an ebook reader. The current iPad 2 was released March 11, 2011. It features some improvements, but some tech experts think that there is an upcoming update this fall. Most sites point to a screen with a better screen resolution (2048 × 1536 Retina display).

How long you might have to wait
Most sites agree that this refreshed "iPad 2 HD" will be released this fall.

Release history
iPad 2 March 11, 2011
iPad April 3, 2010

Should you buy now or wait
Since the release of an updated iPad 2 isn't that far off, we'd wait until then so that you can make your tablet last as long as possible.

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You're looking to buy a MacBook Air
The MacBook Air is a nice compromise between a fully-fledged laptop and a tablet. The newest models are very light and come in two sizes, 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch screens. While their footprint is tantalizing, the lack of decent specs make it a somewhat problematic purchase of road warriors. Most commonly, people tend to match the MacBook Air with a desktop computer at home, allowing them to lug their MBA around everywhere, without feeling the weight.

How long you might have to wait
You'll have to wait about a week or so. Experts expect the refreshed MacBook Air to be released at the same time as OS X 10.7 Lion.

Release history
MacBook Air 3 October 20, 2010
MacBook Air 1January 29, 2008 (spec refresh in late 2008 and 2009)

Should you buy now or wait
We're expecting Apple to release a refreshed MacBook Air sometime in the next week or so, so your best bet is to wait. Updates include Thunderbolt, possible LED backlighting for the keyboard, and upgraded specs all around including better battery performance. Since the 13.3-inch is slightly bigger, we expect it to have a longer autonomy, which is important for these extremely portable computers.

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You're looking to buy an MacBook Pro
The MacBook Pro line of notebooks is quite sturdy and its features will most likely win you over, even if you love your PC notebook. To be honest, it's hard to find similar build quality in PC notebooks (although there have been some recent aluminum PC laptops). Until now, there have been two designs. The first one was discontinued in October 2008, which saw the rise of the Unibody aluminum Macbook Pro case. There was an update expected this year, but it seems that Apple will wait until next year to refresh the design of the MacBook. Unlike iPads and iPhones, the MacBook Pro line receives periodical spec upgrades and a design update every 2 to 3 years.

How long you might have to wait
Experts think that the design update will come only next year. The latest spec update includes Thunderbolt, quad-core processors, more RAM, and a FaceTime 720p webcam.

Release history
MacBook pro Unibody with Thunderbolt & quad core processors February 24, 2011
MacBook Pro Unibody with non-removable internal battery January 14, 2009
MacBook Pro Unibody October 14, 2008
MacBook Pro January 10, 2006

Should you buy now or wait
Since the latest spec update came very recently, you'd think that this laptop is safe to buy but whether or not you decide to get this laptop all depends on when you need it. The best time would be when the MacBook Pro receives a design update next year. If you can't wait that long, maybe you could try combining a MacBook Air with an older computer, like a PC, but ultimately it comes down to your specific needs.

MORE MACS
2011 MacBook Pro 15 with Thunderbolt Review
Getting the Most out of an Older Mac
Design mStand for MacBook Pro
Favorite MacBook Cases
Tumblr Follows the Life of a Stolen MacBook
MacBook Air or Pro, That's the Question
Maximizing the Battery of Your MacBook

(Images: iPhone 4 via Wikipedia, iPad 2 via Wikipedia, MacBook Air via Wikipedia, MacBook Pro via Wikipedia)