The Apple Black Friday 2021 deals are here, but are they worth it?

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As with Amazon, Walmart, and other major tech companies, Apple has a bunch of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for shoppers this Thanksgiving holiday. Unlike most other companies, however, Apple isn't slashing the prices on its products — rather, buyers will receive an Apple Gift card as part of the purchase, which can be used to buy something else later on. Is the gift card deal ultimately worth it?

The Apple deals

Apple's deals kick off on Friday, November 26, and run through Monday, November 29. During this time, customers who purchase a new Apple device through the company's online store or at Apple Store locations will receive an Apple Gift Card for use with a future purchase. The gift card's value varies based on the product purchased.

Consumers who buy an iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, or iPhone SE, for example, will receive a $50 gift card, the same amount offered with the purchase of an Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch SE, Apple TV 4K, Apple TV HD, Beats Studios3 Wireless, Beats Solo3 Wireless and other Beats audio products.

A $50 gift card is likewise given when buyers order certain accessories, including the four-pack AirTag, Magic Keyboard, second-generation Apple Pencil, Smart Keyboard Folio, and MagSafe Duo Charger. The larger gift cards, meanwhile, come with the AirPods, iPad, and Mac product lines.

Customers who buy the second- or third-generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max will receive a $75 gift card, for example. The iPad Pro 11" and 12.9", meanwhile, come with a $100 gift card, as does the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13", iMac 27", and Mac mini.

Are the gift cards worth it?

The first thing to keep in mind is that getting one of these gift cards requires buying the product directly from Apple — and it certainly isn't the only company offering the iPhone, AirPods, and other products on Black Friday.

The discounts offered on Apple products through other retailers may, in some cases, be greater than the value of the Apple Gift Card you'd get buying the same product through Apple. For example, the AirPods Pro is discounted from $249 to $159 on Amazon, which is a $90 savings. Compare that $90 discount with the $75 gift card Apple is offering with the AirPods Pro purchase, and Apple's deal is clearly the less appealing option.

Not all products are offered at discounts above what Apple offers, however. The third-generation AirPods, for example, are only reduced from $179 to $154.99 on Amazon, a savings of around $24 — or, simply enough, less than half of the value of Apple's gift card if you purchase the product from Apple directly.

Apple's gift card offer shines, however, when you focus specifically on the company's accessories. The Apple Pencil, for example, costs $129 and Apple offers a $50 gift card with purchase. Compare that with, for example, Amazon and Best Buy's Apple Pencil discounted price of $99, which is only a $30 savings. The same goes for the four-pack AirTags and the MagSafe Duo Charger, both of which are offered at lower discounts through Best Buy and Amazon than the $50 Apple offers.

There is one big consideration to keep in mind when deciding whether Apple's discount is ultimately worth it for the particular device you want: the Apple Gift Card can only be used to buy Apple products, such as games on the App Store, an Apple TV+ subscription, or to shave a bit off the price tag for another hardware product.

Direct discounts on products offered by retailers mean the buyer gets to keep the cash saved off the regular price, which can, of course, be used to buy anything from any store. If you're, for example, buying someone an Apple Pencil for Christmas and don't personally use Apple devices or services, the $50 gift card may be less appealing... unless you give that away as a gift, too, that is.