You Can Score Free AirPods in Apple’s Back to School Promotion This Year

AirPods FAQ Credit: Burdun Iliya / Shutterstock
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Apple is on the verge of once again launching its annual Back to School promotion for 2020, but this year it looks like the company is offering a new twist in the form of free AirPods.

While the promotion hasn’t gone entirely live yet, Apple’s Education Store is currently down for updates, however, Apple has telegraphed the new deal in the form of a banner in the App Store app for iPhone and iPad that reads Buy a Mac or iPad for university or college. Get AirPods on us.

The banner itself links to the education store page, so until that comes back online, it’s unclear exactly what the terms of the deal will be, but the graphic suggests that it will be the standard second-generation AirPods on offer, and it seems likely these will be the base $159 version without the wireless charging case, although eligible students will likely be able to pay the difference to upgrade to the higher-end version of the second-gen AirPods, or possibly even to the AirPods Pro.

The new back to school promotion is an interesting departure from what Apple has done over the last four years, albeit only a slight one. Previous promotions offered free Beats headphones with the purchase of most Mac or iPad models, although there were some notable exclusions such as the entry-level MacBook Air and iPad.

Apple’s Prior Back to School Promotions

In prior years, users choosing an eligible Mac could choose any pair of Beats headphones up to the $299 Beats Studio 3, while iPad buyers could get the free BeatsX or Beats Solo 3 Wireless, or pay the $100 difference for the Beats Studio 3.

Based on this, it seems possible that Apple could do something similar with its AirPods, perhaps offering AirPods Pro for Mac student buyers, while the iPad would only include the second-gen AirPods, or the equivalent credit against the purchase of AirPods Pro.

Apple launched its back to school promotion in the Southern Hemisphere earlier this year in January, however that program continued to be very similar to previous years, offering the same Beats headphone deal, so this new program in the U.S. and Canada represents the first time that the company has chosen to include AirPods instead.

Apple moved to bundling Beats headphones back in 2015 after several years of simply offering Apple Store gift cards. The Beats headphone bundle turned out to be a much better deal, since the gift cards used to come in at $100 with the purchase of a qualifying Mac, or $50 with the purchase of a qualifying iPad, although students could also get a gift card when buying an iPhone — a product that’s been excluded from the promotion in recent years.

Even when Apple first switched to including Beats headphones, it worked out to a much better deal, with the $200 Beats Solo 2 being offered for free, or equivalent credit toward a higher-end pair of Beats. The deal has only gotten better in the years since, with the $300 Beats Studio 3 on offer over the past couple of years.

So unless Apple is planning to take a significant step back from its previous offerings, we’d definitely expect that the AirPods Pro will be part of the deal for those students purchasing a new MacBook or iMac, since the $249 price tag falls well within the same range that Apple has offered previously. Those purchase the iPad Pro, iPad Air, or iPad mini will likely be able to get the standard second-generation AirPods for free, although as with prior years we don’t expect that the 10.2-inch seventh-gen iPad or Mac mini will be part of the promotion.

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