Buying a NEW anything in technology can be a risky gamble. Timing is everything. As someone who follows technology closely I'm always keeping and eye open and an ear out for when the next gadget might be introduced. Even I get it wrong sometimes, but for the most part I've been quite happy with my "timed purchases." Let's look at the 3 Apple categories that I now buy in regularly. I use a MacBook Pro for work (company purchased). I use a Mac Pro for my video work and anything requiring lot's of horse power or rendering and of course I'm an iPhone user.
Let's start with the iPhone
When it comes to the iPhone I always want the current model. Apple has historically refreshed the iPhone every year in the summer. So that makes it easy to plan. However, the penalty with upgrading the iPhone is the AT&T contract that you sign for 2 YEARS! So how do I upgrade every year? I rotate iPhones between family members. My teenage daughters are always one rev back. So currently they are on the 3G model. As soon the 2010 model comes out (rumor has it in June), then I'll get that one and pass down my 3GS to one of the girls. When you setup a New iPhone, it wants to know your existing account. So I do this for one that is eligible for an upgrade. Then I swap SIM cards and report the new serial numbers, etc. to AT&T so that the accounts are straight. It seems that AT&T doesn't really care where the phone actually ends up account wise as long as you do the 2 year commitment. This has worked for me every year so far.
My Mac Pro
My current desktop Mac is the original Mac Pro (introduced in August 2006)! This is probably the longest I've held on to a single Mac as my primary workstation. My typical upgrade pattern had been every other model, however I just couldn't justify the last couple of upgrades when they came out. I had other priorities. However, NOW I'M READY!
I'm very ready for a New Mac Pro. Why not just order one today you say? Well because the current model that Apple sells came out in March 2009 (the one before that was January 2008. See a pattern here?), a little over one year ago. Although that doesn't really sound like it's that old, it's old in terms of computers. So rather than buy last year's model this late in the game I can wait a little longer until the NEXT Mac Pro is released. I've waited this long, a few more weeks, months, etc. won't hurt me. Also I'd feel really bad if I go out and buy one today and the new one comes out tomorrow with more bang for the same buck. Again, you have to plan.
My Work MacBook Pro
At work our computers are refreshed every 18 – 36 months depending on your job description. So I have less control here. However, I was eligible for a new laptop last year in 2009. I held off for the same reasons above. The current MacBook Pro was introduced in June 2009. Although I was ready in October for a new one, I knew that it wouldn't be too much longer before Apple refreshed the MacBook line again. That day came last week! I was ready. I had already gotten pre-approval for a New computer at work so I was just patently waiting for Apple to introduce them. I ordered the NEW MacBook Pro 15.4" Core i7 with Matte Display, 8GB of RAM and the 500GB 7200 RPM drive.
How do you know when something was introduced?
Although there is no way to know the exact date that Apple will introduce new Macs, you can use history as your guide. As you might imagine there are sites dedicated to this as well as Apps. My favorite iPhone/iPod touch App for this is MacTracker. MacTracker is a FREE App that is updated regularly to show you not only the specs of all the Apple Hardware that has been introduced to date, but it also shows you the introduction and discontinued dates for each item.
What's my old computer worth?
Like anything your old ______ is only worth someone is willing to pay for it. However, if you're wanting to get an idea of used Mac Prices, I've found this site to REALLY GOOD.
It's OK to buy last year's model
Another common strategy that people use is to plan their purchases around new product introductions, but not to buy the new one. They plan to buy the one that was just discontinued to save money. This one can be tricky because you're banking on that Apple didn't sell out of the current inventory before releasing the new one! I tried that when the new Mac mini was introduced. I didn't need the new one, but ended up with the new one because I couldn't find any of the previous models in stock at the time and ones I did find weren't that much less than the new ones.
The Bottom Line
You should never say "hey Apple (or any company for that matter)just introduced _____ and I'm so mad because I just bought _________". If you don't do your research, then it's your own fault. Besides, whatever you just bought still works to do what you bought it for. By the way, it's perfectly OK that you're not on the latest and greatest thing. Apparently you didn't think you needed it when it was introduced and you waited. So you got it now. Use it and be happy. You can buy on your own schedule.
So here I wait for my New Mac Pro. As soon as it's introduced, I'll be placing my order.