The myth of the Apple tax

In some circles, it’s commonly accepted that Apple products cost more than comparable devices from competitors. From laptops to phones and MP3 players, Apple-haters insist that the Cupertino company charges more for pretty design and exclusivity. This gets referred to as the “Apple Tax” and people who buy Apple devices are obviously just fanboys (or worse, misusing the term “hipster”) who were duped into believing the hype in a Steve Jobs-created “Reality Distortion Field”.

Here’s the thing: it’s just not true.

First, let’s tackle the notion of “comparably equipped”. These are the guys who just take raw specifications and proclaim one device to be superior to another. The problem is a computer is a system. Why’s that matter? Because while these guys may know specs inside and and out and are generally pretty knowledgable, they’re not usually engineers that know how all parts will run together. To make an automotive analogy, it would be like declaring an 850 cfm carburetor to be “better” than a 650 cfm… without considering the motor is a now-drowning 289 Windsor. Certain components play better together than others, and this holds true in the computer world. (Don’t believe me? Spend some time reading 1-egg RAM reviews on Newegg. The vast majority are people that bought “spec” RAM without paying attention to whether or not it was matched to their system, with replies from the manufacturer saying “you should have purchased this set”.)

Second, it seems like a lot of competitors are getting sucked into the “reality distortion field” as well, because there are an awful lot of Apple copycats suddenly. But they’re forgetting to drop the price! If Apple is just charging for design and exclusivity, why aren’t these copycats substantially cheaper? Or in some cases more expensive?

That’s just the MacBook Air, but tablets are no different. No iPad competitor offers a comparable product at a cheaper price. Sure, there are cheaper tablets than iPads. They’re also smaller, have shorter battery life, don’t have as responsive or nice a screen… This isn’t a condemnation of Android tablets by any means! If you’re invested into the Google ecosystem they make a lot of sense. But what you pay vs. what you get isn’t any different than an iPad.

The latest Droid-based phones cost just as much as the latest iPhones, with poorer cameras, and less battery life. Android users were proclaiming they had dual-cores before iPhones, but they sucked the battery dry and left a supposedly mobile device tethered curiously near power outlets at all times… If we’re talking about the cost (and now the effectiveness) of the device the “Apple Tax” is bogus once again.

So let’s get back to the big Kahuna. The main event and what is still the focus of work, education, business, and content creation remains a full-blown computer (for now). Whether it’s a laptop or desktop doesn’t really matter in this case. Take the sum total of an iMac (display and everything) and it will stack up dollar-for-dollar against a truly comparable PC running Windows. What’s the big difference?

The big mistake in the entire argument is overlooking what you can do with it.

Nobody really talks about this, and it’s shocking to me because this is what it really all comes down to. Look at the software that comes on a Mac vs. what comes on your average Windows machine from CompuBest big box store. Apple gives you the iLife suite that will create professional looking photo albums, movies, and music right out of the box. The average Dell or HP gives you 30-day Trial software to subsidize it’s cost, and Windows Movie Maker so you can create home videos with 1989-era television quality titles and effects. You’ll sink hundreds more into the “less expensive” Windows machine over it’s lifetime in software and upgrades. Even if the Apple somehow costs more new, it amortizes over it’s lifetime to become much more cost effective than the weekend sale special.

You’ll never play worthwhile games on a Mac unless you install Windows. And I prefer Windows 7 over OS X Lion any day of the week. But we’re talking about what you pay for what you get. And anyone who uses the term “Apple Tax” as if it carries any legitimacy needs to pull down on their shoulders until they hear a loud pop- that’ll be their head coming out of their….

5 thoughts on “The myth of the Apple tax

  1. Pingback: OS X Lion: Apple’s Vista | eric.r.shelton

  2. Glad to see you back to the inter-tube! One thing most none apple users dont realize is the attention to MATERIAL and details in an apple device. One piece unibody MacBook pro cut from a huge chuck of aluminum, ie. same way they cut a pistol slide, but 20x bigger. That’s a pretty amazing industrial design and execution that no one can compare. If you consider the cost required for just that procedure, then you realize it’s not “tax.” it’s “you get what you paid for, most of the time.”

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  4. Pingback: Apple OS X: letting Windows finally win. | eric.r.shelton

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