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The Apple products you shouldn't buy this month: December 2023 edition

Don't waste your money. Check this list before you shop.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
iPhone 15 Pro in Titanium
June Wan/ZDNET

OK, so with the iPhone 15 now out, along with a refreshed Apple Watch line, and new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops powered by the M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max chips (but no M3 Ultra... yet), Apple is perfectly placed for the holiday season -- and the company's focus will be on having enough products in stock to satisfy as many orders as possible between now and the end of the year.

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

Apple's latest device refresh also means we can trim a lot of stuff off the don't-buy list. Note that there are a whole bunch of iPads now on the list. This is because 2023 will be the first year since 2010 where there hasn't been a new iPad released. What's to blame for this? Well, it might be you, you as in the people buying tablets, or more accurately, not buying tablets. Data suggests that there's been a close to a 15% drop in sales compared to the third quarter of last year. 

Are you all excited for the Vision Pro mixed reality headset? Well, don't hold your breath there either as that's not going to launch until March at the earliest.

The 'Naughty' list

  • 13-inch MacBook Air: With an M2 version of the MacBook Air now available for only $100 more, it no longer makes any sense to pay full price for one based on the M1 chip. 
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro: Apple has discontinued this laptop, but I still see both M2 and M1 models on sale at what are inflated price for a discontinued product. Unless you get a really good deal -- and I mean a really good one -- 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 are in need of an update. Apple is also still selling 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 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 Mini -- but it's flown past that 18-month mark, making it a dubious buy for the price.
  • 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros: These aren't in a dire state, but with the M3 chips now out, the M2 chips now feel dated. 
  • iPhone SE: This handset was released in March 2022 and rumor has it there won't be another one. Other rumors has the next one launching next year or in 2025. We'll see. 

The 'Nice' list

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

We have the much-anticipated refresh of the iPhone line. 

Also: iPhone 15 Pro Max: 50 photos that show what the new camera system can do

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- and 16-inch MacBook Pro

This lineup of laptops debuts 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's iMac, with its 24-inch, 4.5K Retina display gets the M3 upgrade, bringing it into 2023. 

  • 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 comes to the Apple Watch.

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

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

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 MacBook Air

Apple's "thin and light" laptop gets bumped up to a 15-inch display and an M2 chip.

  • 15.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology
  • 2880-by-1864 native resolution at 224 pixels per inch
  • 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
  • 10-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine

2023 Apple Mac Mini with M2 chip

Mac Mini with M2 chip

Mac Mini with M2 chip


Apple's "starter" Mac gets the M2 Apple Silicon treatment, bringing it into 2023.

  • 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 second-generation AirPods Pro 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!

Also: AirPods Pro might be an inexpensive solution to your hearing loss

  • 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 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: 6 tips and tricks to get the most out of Apple's newest wireless earbuds


Hand holding Airtag.

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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