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Any cash-strapped Apple fan knows that when it comes to saving money on Cupertino's gadgets, you have two choices — buy from authorized retailers or wait for refurbs to hit the Apple Store. Backed by the same 1-year warranty as their new counterparts, Apple refurbs are among the best in the industry.
As we close in on the iPad mini's 3-month anniversary, consumers are beginning to wonder when the first iPad mini refurbs will arrive and what kind of discount they'll offer. To predict their potential price, we turned to our deal archives and looked at refurb discounts that previous iPads have received.
To predict the future price of Apple-reconditioned iPad mini refurbs, we turned to the tablet's closest relative — the iPad 2. Hardware-wise, the two tablets are nearly identical. In addition to packing the same 1024x768 screen resolution, both tablets also use the same dual-core A5 processor.
The iPad 2 was announced in March of 2011. Six months later, we saw the first refurb iPad 2 deals hit the Apple Store, but it notably only included the high-end 64GB WiFi model. Apple knocked the price of this model to $649, or 7% off. Refurb models of the entry-level 16GB WiFi iPad 2 arrived a month later at 10% off the full retail price, or $449.
Following this logic then, the iPad mini refurbs should in theory begin hitting the digital shelves of the Apple Store as early as April or the beginning of May. Since the mini now retails for $329, a 10% discount for the base model would come to $296, but that would realistically be rounded up to $299. However, if Apple wants to price it slightly more aggressively and move it away from that $300 figure, then $289 is also possible.
So, alternatively, we'll look to the price trends of the iPad 3 with Retina for guidance. This model didn't see any refurb deals from Apple until the iPad 4 was announced in late October. (Remember, the 4th-generation came just six months after the third debuted, instead of the expected full year later.) That same week, refurb iPad 3 Retina tablets were selling for 24% off, starting at $379. A similar cut would drop the base iPad mini to $250, or, more likely, $249.
It's important to keep in mind that our estimates for the first discount are assuming a full 1-year cycle for the first iPad mini, which had been a typical length of time for Mac products. However, since the iPad 4's release, Apple has shown that its product life cycle isn't always predictable. Since the iPad mini is technically a new product category for Apple, you may see refurb deals arrive earlier or later in the game. Moreover, since there's been talk of an iPad mini 2 debuting as early as July — about three months earlier than a full year — it's also possible that the mini will more closely follow the trends of the iPad 3 with Retina.
Regardless, history has shown that Apple refurb discounts, while reliable, are modest. If we see iPad mini refurbs hit the Apple Store before a refresh, then you can expect to see them maxing out at 10% for a modest discount of $299. Since refurb iPads tend to sell quickly, consider setting up an email alert now to receive notification as soon as we list a price cut to the site.