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5 Apple gadgets you really should avoid this holiday season

There’s no doubt that Apple makes some great products, and if you’re an Apple fan — or have one in your life — then you’re probably already scouting for AirPods, iPhones, and iPads to put under the tree this year.

While you certainly can’t go wrong with an iPhone 14 Pro, iPad Air (2022), or the latest AirPods Pro, not everything Apple has on the market right now is an obvious buying choice. There are a few that you should probably avoid, or at least think carefully about before you decide to slap down your credit card or click that buy button.

iPad (10th Gen, 2022)

Someone holding the yellow iPad (2022) in front of trees with orange, yellow leaves.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

This year, Apple unified the design language of its iPad lineup by finally updating the standard iPad to match the more premium iPad Air and iPad Pro. Sadly, though, this wasn’t quite the refresh many hoped for.

For one thing, it’s not a replacement for the entry-level iPad, as evidenced by the fact that Apple is still selling last year’s model at the same $329 price. The new iPad (2022) will set you back $449, placing it almost halfway to the price of the considerably better iPad Air (2022).

Further, despite the new design, the iPad (2022) lacks support for the second-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard. Instead, Apple has introduced a new $249 Magic Keyboard Folio explicitly designed for that iPad model. While that’s $100 cheaper than the full Magic Keyboard, it’s a purchase that locks you into that lower-end model; the Magic Keyboard Folio doesn’t work with the iPad Air or iPad Pro. The same applies to the first-generation Apple Pencil, which still sports a Lightning connector and requires a more convoluted charging process for the new USB-C-equipped iPad.

The bottom line is that the iPad (2022) is in a pretty odd place in Apple’s lineup. It’s not a bad choice, but it’s definitely a niche product. The iPad (2021) is still available, and while it doesn’t have the shiny new design of this year’s model, it’s $120 cheaper and offers nearly the same performance, making it the iPad of choice for those on a budget. On the other hand, for only $150 more than the iPad (2022), you can get the iPad Air (2022) with Apple’s M1 chip, support for the much better Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard, and a fully laminated anti-reflective display.

iPhone 12

After each new iPhone release, Apple typically keeps two years’ worth of prior-generation iPhones on the market, moving them down to lower price points for those looking for more affordable options. Following the launch of the iPhone 14 this fall, the 2020 iPhone 12 moved down into the bottom tier, letting you pick one up for as little as $599.

That sounds like a pretty good deal at first glance. However, when you take a closer look, it’s a pretty hard sell. Firstly, the base model iPhone 12 offers only 64GB of storage. In today’s world of sophisticated apps and 4K video recording, that’s not much. Moving up to a 128GB version — the minimum that we’d consider acceptable — increases the price to $649, and going to 256GB will set you back $749.

By comparison, the iPhone 13 starts at 128GB of storage, with the base model priced at $699 — only $50 more than the 128GB iPhone 12. If you’re willing to go smaller, the iPhone 13 mini, also with 128GB of storage, starts at the same $599 asking price as the iPhone 12. The iPhone 13 gives you a faster A15 chip, improved cameras with Cinematic video recording support, and better battery life.

On the other end, the iPhone SE (2022) has nearly the same A15 chip found in the iPhone 13 and even this year’s iPhone 14, plus 5G support, and you can grab a 128GB model for $479 or a 256GB version for $579. Of course, you won’t get the best cameras or the fastest mmWave 5G, but it’s still a great iPhone if you’re looking for the most affordable option.

AirPods 2

Apple AirPods
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Although Apple’s second-generation AirPods may seem like a great deal — especially if you can find them on sale — it’s important to keep in mind that these wireless earbuds are now pushing four years on the market. These were Apple’s newest AirPods when the iPhone 11 was still the smartphone to buy.

Unlike its iPhone lineup, Apple doesn’t release new AirPods every year — they seem to be on about a two-year cycle — but even by that standard, the AirPods 2 are an aging product that will likely soon be put out to pasture. The third-generation AirPods superseded them in 2021, and there’s a good chance we’ll see “AirPods 4” arrive by this time next year.

The AirPods 2 have the same core technology as the AirPods 3, including seamless pairing and support for hands-free Siri and audio sharing. However, the AirPods 3 get a considerable boost in sound quality, with features like Adaptive EQ and Spatial Audio that were previously the exclusive domain of Apple’s pricier AirPods Pro and AirPods Max lineups. This is accompanied by the same custom drivers, amplifiers, and microphones used in Apple’s newest AirPods Pro.

The latest AirPods also offer sweat and water resistance and an extra hour of listening time over their predecessors. That jumps to an additional six hours of power when paired with the charging case, which also features wireless charging. All that comes in a package that’s only $50 more, so unless you’re on a tight budget or find a bargain basement deal on the AirPods 2, you’re much better off spending that little bit extra on the latest AirPods.

35W Dual USB-C Port Power Adapter

Apple 35W Dual USB-C Compact Power Adapter.
Apple

As the company’s first multi-port plug, Apple’s Dual USB-C Port Power Adapter made a bit of a splash when it debuted alongside the M2 MacBook Air earlier this year. It’s available in standard and compact versions, although both share the same charging specs.

Don’t let the 35W speed fool you, though. Like most dual-port chargers, this is the total power output across both ports. This means that if you’re charging more than one device, that 35W is shared between them.

To make matters worse, Apple’s adapter does this in a particular way. There’s not much intelligent power management here; it splits the power output evenly in many cases — each device gets 17.5W charging speeds. That’s well below the fastest charging speeds for an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook.

This isn’t so bad if you only want to charge an Apple Watch or a set of AirPods since these only draw 7.5W of power, leaving 27.5W for your iPhone. Nevertheless, you can do much better with third-party options, especially considering the $59 asking price for Apple’s dual-port adapter.

Apple Pencil (first-generation)

An Apple Pencil with its charging cap off.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

If you’re still toting one of Apple’s older iPads or you’ve opted for this year’s iPad (2022), then you won’t be able to take advantage of the much better second-generation Apple Pencil designed for the iPad Air and iPad Pro. However, that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to settle for Apple’s first-generation stylus, either.

For one, you may be throwing good money after bad since it’s unclear if future iPad models will support this. You’ll have to replace it if you upgrade to any of Apple’s higher-end tablets; the iPad mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro all require the newer Apple Pencil. Apple made a weird decision to go with the first-generation Apple Pencil on this year’s standard iPad model, so it’s hard to say whether that will continue with next year’s model.

If you don’t have the luxury of owning one of Apple’s higher-end iPads and still want a stylus, it’s worth noting that the Apple Pencil isn’t your only option. In addition to a plethora of passive styluses, there’s the Logitech Crayon, an active stylus that’s considerably more affordable than the Apple Pencil and offers many of the same capabilities; the most significant omission is pressure sensitivity, which will be a deal-breaker for artists, but isn’t necessary if all you’re looking to do is scribble notes on your iPad.

However, Logitech’s Crayon is more durable, won’t roll around on you, and charges far less awkwardly. A male Lightning port under the cap lets you plug in your standard Lightning cable without fussing with adapters or leaving it dangling off the end of your iPad’s bottom port. There’s also an off switch on it, so you can ensure it’s not consuming power when not in use. Unlike Apple’s two generations of Pencil, Logitech’s Crayon also boasts compatibility across the entire iPad lineup, from the sixth-generation iPad (2018) to the latest M2 iPad Pro (2022).

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