I’m an unabashed Apple user. I’ve certainly enjoyed using my Apple gear. Nevertheless over the last dozen years I have extolled the virtues of not buying the newest Apple gear because newly released Apple gear costs so much money, way too much in some cases. I’ve pretty much stuck to that. As a retiree now in my third year of retirement, a fixed income has driven that philosophy home ever more forcefully. As a retiree on a fixed income I need to focus on what’s needed, not what’s nice-to-have. Anything new from Apple, without exception, can only be considered a nice-to-have.
In spite of all that pious posturing, there is one notable exception to my don’t-by-new-Apple rule. That was when I purchased my iPhone 11 Pro Max in September 2019. It was the first and only iPhone I ever pre-ordered, and I pre-ordered it with the largest battery ever on an Apple iPhone up to that point. I needed that battery capacity so I would always be reachable and never have to worry about running out of battery power. I still own it and it still runs excellently. After nearly three years of ownership I expect to use it for at least another three more years, until such time as Apple won’t upgrade iOS for it or I manage to damage it beyond reasonable repair.
What about that other Apple gear I currently own?
Ear Pods/Air Pods
My home is littered with three Apple Ear Pods, a pair of Air Pods first generation and a pair of Air Pods Pro first generation. The Ear Pods include a pair with the 3.5mm jack (iPhone 6 Plus), two pair with the Lightning adapter (iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus), and a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter (iPhone 11 Pro Max). All the Ear Pods still work. I could have even used the Ear Pods 3.5mm with my iPhone 11.
Instead I blew bucks on a pair of first generation Apple Air Pods that were on sale at Costco at the time. The Air Pods were purchased to work with my iPhone 8 for hands-free driving. I used them until one evening I ran then through the washing machine along with the jeans I’d left them in. I pulled them out of the dryer and discovered that the Air Pods ear pieces still worked. What wouldn’t work at the time was the case, which wouldn’t take a charge or charge the ear pieces. I put those on the shelf and then I went out and purchased a pair of the Air Pods Pro, again on sale at Costco. Between the two pairs of Air Pods I’ve spent about $400. What I discovered today as I was writing this post is that the washed-and-dryed Air Pods will now charge via lightning. And I was able to pair those Air Pods with my iPhone 11 and use them without issue. In other words, if I’d waited a while longer than I did I would still be using them. The fact they went through the washer and dryer and still work after all this time is impressive. But even more impressive is that the Ear Pods all still work, and they’ve been through worse. And they’re a while lot cheaper.
I have enough Ear and Air pods to last for years to come, probably to the point where my hearing is completely gone. I will never, ever buy another pair of Air Pods.
Back in 2015 and 2016 I purchased two iPad Pros, one original 9 inch and one original 12 inch (no, I won’t use the fractions in the sizes). I purchased them when they’d dropped in price by nearly 50% from B&H Photo. At that time B&H Photo also wasn’t charging Florida sales tax at the time (they do now), and shipping was free. It was a great deal all around. Problem was I purchased them thinking I would use them to write, especially with some of the well-reviewed writing tools available under iOS at the time. I even spent extra on an iPad 12 inch detachable keyboard. I went through the process of setting up the 12 inch iPad including pairing one of my Logitech trackballs, in part because I discovered the same truth Steve Jobs kept saying when he was alive about not putting touch screens on Macs, and that it’s awkward (at best) to use touch on a screen with a keyboard attached. You can do it, but you don’t have the precision for touch at a distance that you do when the tablet is in your hands and a lot closer to you. In the end I gave up trying to write with either iPad unless it was very limited. I still use it for consuming content (reading and video) as well as those tools that benefit from touch, such as editing photos and videos. For finer work I still need a regular notebook (either Mac or Chromebook). For mobile writing I now use my Lenovo Chromebook IP Flex 5 (13ITL6) for the most part, using regular computers when I need some special content added to my post.
Comparing the 12 inch iPad + keyboard with the Chromebook, the Chromebook is the better creative tool for half the price.This particular Lenovo came with a back-light keyboard, which makes typing in a dim environment much easier. And because the Lenovo screen and keyboard are attached with a solid hinge, typing in my lap or on any surface other than a tabletop is far easier than the 12 inch iPad with its Logitech keyboard. The only superior feature of the iPad over the Lenovo Chromebook is the screen, and I will readily admit everything looks better on the iPad. But not that much better.
I’ve purchased or had purchased for me four Macs since 2014. Before then I was a Windows user with Windows computers or notebooks, many of them company systems given to me while I was an employee. Since then I purchased a refurbished mid-2012 Mac Mini Server from Apple in 2014, a mid-2015 15″ MacBook Pro, a mid-2019 16″ MacBook Pro, and a late 2020 13″ M1 MacBook Pro. I paid for all except the 16″, which was paid as part of a contract I was working on at the time. It was still declared at tax time as income, but as a business expense. The M1 MacBook was purchased with a bonus on the same contract, and I purchased it when it was on sale right before the newer 14 and 16 inch M1 MacBook Pros were released. As I have since discovered, the M1 MBP is as fast as the 16 inch Intel MBP, even though the 16 incher has a hex-core i9 with 64GB of memory. The M1 is my field test and evaluation machine because of the incredibly long battery life between charges. The 16 incher doesn’t even come close.
The most “intimate” device is my Apple Watch. I currently have a stainless steel cased Series 3, which I picked up on deep discount from B&H Photo Video. I purchased that model because of its stainless steel case. My original Apple Watch (Series ‘0’) was stainless steel, and every other mechanical watch I’ve ever owned was also stainless steel cased. I beat on a watch too much to have anything less than that. All I want from my Apple Watch is for it to relay incoming texts and phone calls when I’m not near my phone. That’s it. The fact it shows the correct time is actually incidental. Because I have such a limited need for Apple Watch functionality it can last at least 24 hour between charges. This came in handy when I was business traveling between Orlando and either Japan or South Korea.
My only complaint is about the band, not the watch. My current band is a third-party Urban Armor Band (UAG) which I picked up from B&H Photo well over a year ago for about $50. One edge is fraying badly, but it still will stick if I carefully close the band.
Until such time as Apple stops updating watchOS on this device I will continue to use it. It works just fine, thank you very much.
As far as computers are concerned I have little need for anything powerful. What I currently have, I have more out of vanity than anything else. All of my existing Macs still work. Apple declared the Mac Mini “legacy” and thus no longer deserving to run the latest macOS, but it still runs. The Mini is primarily used to keep tabs on my WiFi network via Vivaldi. The old 15 inch MBP is still running the latest macOS. Its only problem is its battery; I’m going to have to replace the battery with a kit from iFixIt because the battery is beginning to swell. The other two MBPs are quite new. I don’t carry the 16 inch MBP out of the house any longer due to its high cost, which is going to help it age even less and last even longer. For travel outside the home I either take the 13 inch M1 MBP or the Lenovo Chromebook. If I need to use the web with my Chromebook (or MBP for that matter) then I use my iPhone as a hotspot.
Unless and until there is a catastrophic failure in anything Apple that I currently own, I won’t replace it. For a number of devices, such as the iPads, I’ll never replace them. The M1 MBP is the replacement for any iPad Pro, especially if you intend to add a detachable keyboard. I no longer see any use for anything more than a base iPad, if that. An iPad Pro is a waste of money that can be better spent elsewhere within the Apple ecosystem.
The best bang for the dollar with regards to a personal computer is probably a Chromebook, especially one running Intel or AMD processors. There is no ARM-based Chromebook that I would either purchase or recommend. The only ARM-based computer worth buying is one from Apple running Apple Silicon.
I’m 68, less than two years away from the big seven-oh. My gear is also aging, but my physical aging is such that my needs will decline faster than the gear’s functionality. I can see myself giving away my computers to my kids in the very near future as I just don’t need all this horsepower lying around the house. I could easily collapse everything I need down to an iPhone and a Chromebook, or perhaps just the M1 MBP in place of the Chromebook. My wife has already reached that point with her HP Chromebook (again from Costco) and her iPhone 8 Plus (the one I had before I purchased my iPhone 11). The one critical feature of an iPhone outside of iOS updates is battery life; my iPhone 11 is still at 91% while my wife’s iPhone 8 is at 86%. If either battery goes bad I’ll just have it replaced. My youngest daughter has what was my iPhone 7, and when the battery dropped to 75% she had it replaced by Apple for $50. That iPhone 7 is still seeing regular iOS updates, and still works like a charm.
My philosophy, and that of my family, is use it until it truly breaks, then replace it with something low cost if it can’t be inexpensively fixed. Repeat. That’s the only affordable, sustainable path forward.