In a departure from its usual policy of keeping us guessing until the last minute, Apple pre-announced its Black Friday Shopping Event, outlining the deals that would be available well in advance of the actual shopping date.
It’s a big change form previous years, when Apple has at best teased us with details without laying out what the actual sales are. For example, last year Apple simply said it would be offering gift cards of up to $200, but kept everyone in the dark as to what products those would apply to until the sales actually went live.
Other than the pre-announcement, however, this year isn’t much different, since Apple is once again only offering gift cards, and this year the maximum value is only $150, for which you’ll need to purchase either a 16-inch MacBook pro or 21.5-inch iMac — a big contrast to last year’s $200 gift card offer for any of the 13-inch MacBook Pro models.
Of course, a lot of this is simply based on Apple’s product release cycles; the company almost never offers Black Friday promotions on its very latest products, since it knows people will buy those anyway, discounted or not. Last year, the 16-inch MacBook Pro was the newest model, and it was therefore ineligible for any discounts, while this year that would be Apple’s incredible new M1 MacBooks.
Still, Apple has offered up a couple of surprises, doubling the gift card amounts for the purchase of a HomePod ($100) or an Apple TV ($50), which applies to either the 2015 HD model or the 2017 4K model, both of which are still sold by Apple. The AirPods Pro are also now on the list, since they’re no longer a brand new product like they were last year, but they’re also only coming with a measly $25 gift card, which is pretty disappointing considering that you can do way better at other retailers.
There’s More to Gift Cards Now
That said, the one upside to Apple’s Black Friday deals this year is that there’s more value to an Apple Gift Card than there once was.
Although Apple has been offering up Black Friday gift card promotions for several years now, those “discounts” have only been useful if you actually wanted to buy more Apple hardware, making it kind of a backhanded deal, since it forces you to spend more money with Apple to actually get the value of your discount.
This year, however, things are quite a bit different. This past summer, Apple announced its transition to a new unified gift card system that combines Apple’s iTunes and App Store gift cards with its traditional store gift cards.
In the past, Apple had two different types of gift cards: An Apple Store Gift Card that was used for purchasing physical products from Apple Stores, and then every other type of Apple Gift card which really just translated to digital store credit on your Apple ID, whether that was an “iTunes” gift card, an “App Store” gift card, an “Apple Music” gift card, or even an “Apple Books” gift card. The branding on these gift cards was really just a marketing thing, and there was no reason you couldn’t us an “Apple Books” gift card to buy apps, or subscribe to Apple Music or even iCloud Storage.
In the past, however, purchasing physical products from an Apple Store required an Apple Store Gift Card, and this is what Apple always gave away as part of its Black Friday and other holiday and special event promotions.
Except that now, with the unified gift cards, the $25 to $150 gift cards you’ll get as part of Apple’s 2020 Black Friday Shopping Event can be used for more than just hardware. You’ll be able to use them to buy apps on the App Store, books on the Apple Books Store, and music, movies, and TV shows on the iTunes Store.
You can also use them for any subscriptions or in-app purchases, including Apple Music, Apple Arcade, or an Apple One bundle, or for that matter any purchases for in-game currency or in-app subscriptions from other developers. Basically anything you could normally spent money on in an app that gets billed through your Apple ID can be paid for with one of these new Apple Gift cards.
So this means that buying a new HomePod from Apple could effectively give you a free year of Apple Music by applying that $100 gift card against a $99 annual Apple Music subscription, or you could use the $150 gift card you get with a new 16-inch MacBook Pro to stock up on apps from the Mac App Store.
In short, it’s no longer necessary to go and buy more Apple hardware to take advantage of the “discounts” that Apple is now offering — you can use that money to buy digital goods and services that you’d likely be buying normally anyway, and once that balance is added to your Apple ID, it doesn’t expire, so you can just load up your gift card and let your purchases and subscriptions slowly (or quickly) whittle away at your available balance.
It’s also worth noting that all of Apple’s Black Friday deals are eligible for its very generous holiday return policy, so if you’re picking up a product as a gift for somebody, or even if you want to try something out but you’re not sure you’ll like it, shopping Apple’s Black Friday deals may be a better way to go.
While Apple has always offered a 14-day no-questions-asked return policy, every year the company extends it during the holiday season to give customers time to return gift purchases.
This year, any product purchased from Apple after November 10th, 2020 up until December 25, 2020 can be returned until January 8, 2021.
For online purchases, you also actually get a little bit longer, as you have until January 8th to initiate a return, and Apple gives you another week or so to actually get the item shipped back to them.
To be clear, if you do decide to return a Black Friday purchase you don’t get to keep the Apple Gift card — you’ll need to return the unused gift card with your item in order to get a full refund; if the gift card is unavailable or has already been used, Apple will simply deduct the value of the gift card from your refund.