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The Apple products you shouldn’t buy this month: March 2024 edition

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Apple Watch Ultra 2, captured by iPhone 15 Pro Max
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

February was a big month for Apple. 

The company launched the the Apple Vision Pro, the first new product to come out of the tech giant for several years, and it seems the response was what we’d expect from a first-generation product — mixed. And to make things worse, there are reports that units are cracking for no apparent reason.  

Also: MacBook Pro (M3 Max) review: A desktop-class laptop for an AI-powered age

Beyond that, Apple’s lineup seems pretty strong, from the hot-off-the-production-line M3 MacBook Air systems, the iPhone 15 to the Apple Watch line, and the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops powered by the M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max chips (no M3 Ultra… yet).

But don’t let the shiny, space-age goggles fool you. Not everything Apple sells is fresh. There are a few things that I recommend giving a wide berth in the store.

The ‘Naughty’ list

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro: Apple discontinued this laptop late last year, but I still see both M2 and M1 models on sale. Unless you get a good deal — and I mean a really good deal — avoid it and look for a 14-inch MacBook Pro instead. 
  • AirPods: As much as I love AirPods, they’re getting old. The 3rd-generation model was released over two years ago and is overdue for an update. Apple still sells the 2nd generation AirPods, and those were released over four and a half years ago! My advice here is to stick to the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) or buy something not made by Apple.
  • iPad Mini: Released in September 2021, it’s worth keeping in mind the age of this tablet. Two years is a long time in tech. Would you pay full price for an iPhone 13, which was released at the same time? No, you wouldn’t.
  • iPad Air: Released in March 2022, this isn’t as old as the iPad Mini — but it’s flown past that 18-month mark and rapidly approaching the two-year mark, making it a dubious buy for the price.
  • 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro: These aren’t in a dire state, but with the M3 chips now out, it feels a bit strange paying top dollar for devices powered by M2 chips. 
  • iPhone SE: This handset was released in March 2022 and rumor has it there won’t be another one. Other rumors say the next one will launch this year, or sometime in 2025. We’ll see.

The ‘Nice’ list

Apple M3 MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air M3

Apple MacBook Air M3

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Apple has updated its MacBook Air with its M3 line of processors and given them more oomph to tackle heavier-duty AI tasks.

Review: M3 MacBook Air: Apple’s AI computer for the masses has arrived

Along with the updated processor, this MacBook Air can also power two external monitors with the lid closed making it a great desktop replacement — just add two screens!

With prices for the 13-inch M3 MacBook Air starting at $1099, and the 15-inch version starting at $200 more, these systems represent some serious processing firepower for a price that’s extremely competitive (especially when you consider these are Apple laptops).

Apple Vision Pro

Apple Vision Pro on a stand

Apple Vision Pro on a stand

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

All eyes are on Apple’s newest product and the company’s foray into mixed-reality spatial computing.

Also: 10 reasons the Apple Vision Pro is secretly brilliant

It’s hard to bet against Apple, but a futuristic set of goggles with a starting price of $3,499 doesn’t feel like the easiest thing to sell. Still, Apple is Apple, and if any company can convince consumers to part with large sums of cash (and developers to create apps for a new platform that could very well fall flat on its face), it’s Apple.

Apple iPhone 15 and 15 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 15 Pro (in blue), held up in one hand in Steve Jobs Theater

Apple iPhone 15 Pro

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Last year brought the much-anticipated refresh of the iPhone lineup. 

Review: iPhone 15 Pro: Coming from iPhone 12 Pro or earlier? This upgrade will wow you

The standard iPhone 15 line gets the processor that’s currently in the iPhone 14 Pro line, a new 48-megapixel main camera, and USB-C, while the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max get a new A17 Pro chip, a titanium structure, and updated cameras, including a 5x telephoto.

Apple 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro

This lineup of MacBooks debuted the entire lineup of M3 chips — from the powerful M3 to the insanely powerful M3 Max.

  • Powered by the M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max chips, Apple’s most advanced chips for personal computers 
  • Up to 22 hours of battery life
  • 8GB to 128GB of unified memory
  • 512GB to 8TB of SSD storage
  • Liquid Retina XDR display
  • Ports galore, with up to three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SDXC card slot, an HDMI port, a MagSafe 3 port, and a headphone jack

Also: M3 MacBook Pro buying advice: Who it’s really for (and who should stick with M2 MacBook Air)

Apple iMac 24-inch

Apple refreshed the iMac, and while it has the same 24-inch, 4.5K Retina display, it received the M3 chip upgrade. 

  • Apple M3 chip (no M3 Pro or M3 Max option)
  • 24-inch 4.5K Retina display
  • 8GB to 24GB of unified memory
  • 512GB to 2TB of SSD storage
  • Super-thin all-in-one desktop 
  • Seven vibrant colors

Also: Apple’s M3 iMac disappoints 27-inch display devotees, but does anyone really need that?

Apple Watch Series 9

More power thanks to the S9 SiP chip, new features such as double-tap gestures, and a new brighter display come to the Apple Watch. If you want to buy this watch from Apple, you should act quickly. Apple is involved in a legal battle with a medical technology company, causing a temporary halt on Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 sales.

Also: Apple Watch Series 9 review: Don’t settle for the less expensive models this year. Here’s why

At the time of writing this article, Apple resumed sales of both smartwatches, but more legal issues are on the horizon and another ban could occur. However, if Apple has to stop selling the watches again, you can still find them at other retailers like Amazon and Best Buy while supplies last.

  • S9 SiP chip
  • 45mm or 41mm aluminum or stainless steel case
  • Up to 2000 nits display brightness
  • 50-meter water resistance

Apple Watch Ultra 2

Apple’s flagship smartwatch gets an upgrade in the form of the new S9 SiP chip, more storage, and a brighter display.

  • S9 SiP chip
  • 49mm titanium case
  • Up to 3000 nits display brightness
  • 100-meter water resistance

Also: Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Ultra: Is it time to upgrade?

2023 Apple Mac Pro

M2 Ultra Mac Pro

M2 Ultra Mac Pro

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

This monster system finally got the Apple Silicon treatment. With a starting price of $7,000, it’s not cheap, but once you start adding the extras it’s a lot cheaper than its predecessor.

  • Apple M2 Ultra chip, with 24-core CPU and up to 76-core GPU
  • Up to 192GB of unified memory
  • 32-bit Neural Engine
  • Up to 8TB of storage 
  • 2 x HDMI
  • 2 x 10Gb Ethernet
  • Rack- or desk-mounting options

2023 Apple Mac Mini with M2 chip

Mac Mini with M2 chip

Mac Mini with M2 chip

Apple

Apple’s “starter” Mac gets the M2 Apple Silicon treatment, and even though it was released last year, it is still a solid system.

  • Apple M2 or Apple M2 Pro chip
  • Two Thunderbolt 4 ports (M2) or four Thunderbolt 4 ports (M2 Pro) 
  • Two USB-A ports (up to 5Gb/s)
  • HDMI port
  • Gigabit Ethernet port (configurable to 10Gb Ethernet)
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 8- to 12-core CPU
  • 10- to 19-core GPU
  • 8GB to 32GB unified memory
  • 256GB to 8TB storage

Also: This $75 dock turns your Mac Mini into a Mac Studio (sort of)

2nd-gen AirPods Pro (now with USB-C)

Airpods Pro 2 in hand.
Christina Darby/ZDNET

The AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) offer a major upgrade over the previous model, giving Apple’s premium buds a massive lead over the competition. Apple has now refreshed the charging case to use USB-C rather than Lightning — great if you have a new iPhone, but yet another cable or dongle to carry if not.

  • Active Noise Cancellation reduces unwanted background noise.
  • Adaptive Transparency lets outside sounds in while reducing loud environmental noise.
  • Personalized Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking places the sound all around you.
  • Multiple ear tips (XS, S, M, L).
  • Touch control lets you swipe to adjust volume, press to direct media playback, answer or end calls, and press and hold to switch between listening modes.
  • Sweat- and water-resistant for AirPods Pro and charging case.
  • MagSafe Charging Case includes a speaker.
  • The case features a lanyard loop.
  • USB-C charging.

Also: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) review: Two major upgrades, tamed by one familiar flaw

AirTag

Hand holding Airtag.
CNET

Blowing away the competition, Apple’s AirTags are the perfect gift for someone who constantly loses things. You can add them to your luggage, your bike, your remote, or even your moving boxes — the possibilities are endless. 

Also: How to find out if an AirTag is tracking you

Well-made, robust, and with a replaceable battery, these will make misplaced keys or lost wallet things of the past.

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