Earlier this week, Apple announced this year’s rendition of its annual Back to School promotion. 2019’s student-focused offer delivers a free pair of Beats headphones with the purchase of iPad Air, iPad Pro, and any Mac.

Apple’s roots in education have been well-documented, but over the years its Back to School deals have lost some luster as it has gone through a series of changes. Missteps along the way, the exclusion of gift cards in favor of headphones, and more have caused Apple to miss the mark on one of its most popular first-party promotions.

Launching the 2019 Back to School sale in combination with refreshed MacBook hardware has turned that all around. Here’s why…

A rite of passage for college students

Before Apple started aggressively discounting iPhones over the last year, its annual Back to School event was one of the few times that you could walk into an Apple Store and actually find a deal. This event has also marked a right of passage for many students purchasing their first Macs on their own, without any help from a parent before they embark for college.

That was my experience. I’ll never forget going into the original Michigan Avenue store (RIP) and buying my first MacBook Pro. Way back in 2007, the Back to School promotion was a little more complicated. That year offered $199 in rebates with the purchase of an iPod and Mac. In the years since, the promo has evolved to include App Store credit and finally to its current state of a free pair of Beats headphones. This is of course in combination with the always-available education discounts offered by Apple. It’s that partnership of price drops and more-or-less free hardware that really made this annual sale noteworthy.

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2019 macbook air and beats

Old hardware makes Apple’s Back to School promo out of touch

The last few years have left Apple in a somewhat precarious situation with its Back to School promo. A new partnership with Amazon, which has resulted in near-constant discounts, and a revolving door of updated MacBooks has made these promotions feel lackluster … and honestly, tough to keep track of. With new hardware often announced in the spring or fall, the education promotion typically hits mid-cycle at best. In the case of some MacBooks, way out of date, despite a strong following and natural kinship with the education crowd.

What makes 2019’s sale all the more notable is that it launched in conjunction with just-updated MacBooks. Not only did we get fresh hardware this week, but the new MacBook Air starts at $999 for education shoppers. At 9to5Toys, we often view that dollar figure as the mythical holy grail for a solid MacBook deal. Aside from the mental game played by a three-digit price tag, any time Mac hardware falls under $1,000, it’s worth a hard look.

Add in a free pair of BeatsX or Solo3 wireless headphones, or a $199 credit towards Studio3 over-ears, and this has become the most compelling Back to School promotion from Apple in years.

As I mentioned before, Apple hardware has seen a near constant stream of deals in 2019. But discounts are always tough to come by right after hardware launches. Going the education route is essentially the only way to save on Apple’s latest MacBook Air, along with this week’s other announced hardware.

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For once, new hardware and Apple’s Back to School promotion have come together at just the right time by updating student-friendly Macs before school starts.

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