A Few Critical Thoughts About The ‘Apple Tax’ And What It Really Means

The Apple Tax. I’ve used the phrase myself more than a few times to describe the little extra we pay to become loyal Apple customers. It’s not a true tax, of course. Taxes are required. Nobody is required to buy an Apple product, or to continue to buy apps, accessories, or upgrade incessantly to the latest and greatest.

So, the so-called Apple Tax isn’t really a tax at all. It’s merely the cost of purchasing and using what you prefer.

Chris Taylor in Reuters calls it ‘Tthe Apple Tax – American’s costly obsession.’

Americans are shelling out big bucks annually to outfit the entire household with Apple products. And they are spending hundreds – if not thousands of dollars – more each year for the unexpected Apple “taxes” — add-ons that lock them into the Apple system: iTunes downloads for music, movies and games, along with subscriptions and accessories.

Is that true? Do we spend more to buy and use Apple products than we would if we went all spartan on our bad selves and swapped out Apple for Android, and Macs for ChromeBooks?

Yes. If that’s the Apple Tax, then I’m a happy taxpayer. I suspect the world has a couple of hundred million happy Apple taxpayers.

Taylor isn’t on to anything new. This Apple Tax thing has been around for years, originating back in the Mac days. He trots out an Apple customer whose family has about $5,000 in Apple products, the quotes an analyst who says the average U.S. household spends almost $450 on Apple kit, but that is up from $295 in 2010, and up from $150 in 2007, the year the iPhone was launched.

Apple customer Sam Martorana seems to understand the situation.

With my MacBook, iPad and iPhone, everything is linked. All of my music and photos are in their iCloud. So I don’t know if I’d even be able to switch to another product, even if I wanted to. Apple definitely has its hooks in me.

That makes Apple seem like a fisherman hauling in a big catch. Is it Apple’s purpose to catch customers like a fish? Or, does Apple simply enjoy making great products that work well together?

I choose the latter.

Can we do without Apple’s products? Sure. But, I, somewhat representative of a few hundred million customers, don’t want to. We have a choice to buy different products, we’ve all purchased different products we were not happy using, and decided– a choice– to buy products that work better and help to make us feel better about using technology.

That’s not a tax. It’s a well considered choice.


  1. Kate,

    After your Windows (mis)adventure, you are uniquely qualified to make fun of those ignorant fools who continue to pretend that brand X and its Apple equivalent are interchangeable.

    Kate’s Note: Yep. I paid a price for that misadventure. There is a difference between Apple and run of the mill, just as there’s a difference between a Lexus or BMW or Mercedes or Cadillac vs run of the mill cars.

  2. It’s obviously a smear against Apple by the hope that people would interpret the word “tax” to mean an unjustified burden, thus avoiding the common definition of tax which is thought to be a mandatory payment and everyone, that is, those who purchase products, pays taxes as if they must. They do not have to pay at all.

    The retailer’s business license merely gives the retailer the right to collect that tax, but the buyer is not legally mandated to pay it. It’s an option. This means that the retailer could choose to pay the tax him/herself if he/she does not want to charge it to the consumer. All the gov. agencies who expect tax to be collected do not care who pays it, as long as they get it. This is how retail tax collection works.

    Kate’s Note: Good point. ‘Apple Tax’ is a sensationalist phrase and not indicative of reality.

    • Tax has, in tech journalism at least, often been used to denote a higher cost for one thing over another. “Early Adopter Tax” is often discussed for new technologies going all the way back to the VCR.

      “Apple Tax” has been used so long that I honestly think it now only means that Apple gear costs more than similarly spec’d (but not similarly nice) gear from other brands. Its the same reason why a Rolex watch costs more than a Seiko, They both have the same general amount of metal in them, do the same thing and likely even aren’t that different in manufacturing cost.

      I see the “Apple Tax” just that way, as a premium product with a correspondingly premium price. I sell my Apple computers when they turn five-years-old (my business runs on Macs) and usually get at least 50% of their original purchase price back, sometimes more.

  3. There are a lot of advantages to buying Apple products.
    Fewer problems due to tight integration of software and hardware.
    Much lower exposure to malware.
    Lower maintenance costs (In my experience anyway)
    Highest satisfaction with products and support.
    Much higher second re-sale value.

    Just to name a few.

    If you ask me, in the long run you are getting a tax refund, compared to other ‘cheaper’ brands.

  4. The term “Apple tax” has been applied by people who tally up only specs, and put no value on styling, fit and finish, ease of use, platform integration, post-purchase support, and other less quantifiable attributes where Apple excels. As far as they are concerned, Apple is “overpriced”.

    As someone who appreciates Apple’s holistic priorities, I do get annoyed that critics don’t understand that everything involves tradeoffs, and that Apple products actually fulfill the desires of a large number of consumers at a price that seems fair to them. Haters are arrogant yet insecure. They rant about how greedy and evil Apple is, and how stupid and gullible its customers are. They seem to want to destroy Apple and everything it stands for, and are on an evangelistic crusade to turn public opinion against the company. Apple’s continued success is a source of great frustration for them. They will continue to use terms like “Apple tax” and condescendingly call Apple customers “the faithful” or “sheeple”, as if there was no way a thoughtful person could ever choose Apple over the competition. They just don’t “get it”, and probably never will.