The Apple Gadgets You Should—and Shouldn’t—Buy Right Now
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The Apple Gadgets You Should—and Shouldn’t—Buy Right Now

The annual Do/Don’t Buy list is here.

By Joanna Stern
Thu, Jun 10, 2021 2:10pmGrey Clock 5 min

Regular readers should have the iPhone No-Buy Rule™ committed to memory. Once June begins, it’s time to stop phone shopping and wait until September for the release of Apple’s new iPhones.

Last year, I expanded that guidance to other Apple products, and I’m glad I did. Things are even more nuanced this year.

First, we’re right on the heels of an Apple April bonanza, where the company launched new editions of products ranging from the iMac to the remote on the Apple TV. Second, earlier this week Apple kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference with details about iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey and WatchOS 8 coming this spring. The company didn’t announce any hardware, but the software news certainly gave hints of what’s to come.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on any and all future Apple products.

So right now you might want to spend any extra cash on a superyacht or a fully loaded hotdog at the ball game, or just save it for the spring. No matter what, consult my Apple-product Do/Don’t Buy list first.


The answer is no. No, not even that new purple one. No iPhone buying right now.

I don’t expect a radically new iPhone this fall, something that triggers what the industry calls a buying super cycle. Last year Apple completely overhauled the iPhone design and added 5G. That means this year we’ll likely see a few key updates while Apple keeps the same overall design.Reports point to a screen with a higher refresh rate and better cameras. Maybe even bigger batteries. (A while back, I suggested looking at the latest Samsung phone for some signs of what’s in store.)

If you don’t care about the cutting edge, why can’t you just buy an older model now? Money, that’s why. Historically, Apple drops the price on popular models as they age out. Last October, the iPhone 11 dropped from US$699 to US$599 and the XR dropped from US$599 to US$499. Sometimes the price drop is even bigger.

Plus, iOS 15, due in about three months, will come free to all iPhones that currently run iOS (iPhone 6S and later). The new FaceTime, notification, messaging and weather features might be enough to make your current iPhone feel fresh and new.


It’s been 1,000 years—in Apple years (which are like dog years, only shorter)—since the entry-level white ear sticks have been updated. That seems to be set to change this spring. The next earbuds are expected to have shorter stems, a new case and improved fitness-tracking features, according to a Bloomberg report.

Plus, Apple said that iOS 15 will make the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max easier to find if they are lost. Like AirTags, they will work with Apple’s Find My network and have better alarms to help locate them if they are lost nearby. Noticeably absent were the regular AirPods—more evidence that they are outdated.

What about the AirPods Pro released in late 2019? Those fall into the proceed-with-caution zone. That same Bloomberg report says a new version is in the works but might not arrive until 2022.

If you’re looking for bigger noise-cancelling headphones, you’re fine with the AirPods Max. Those were released last December and aren’t likely to be refreshed soon. But do you really want to spend $899? I’d recommend $300 Sonys instead.

Apple Watch

Apple Watches don’t get redesigns very often: In fact, it’s only been redesigned once in a big way since its launch, and that was with the Series 4 in 2018. We’re due for one in the next year or two, and noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has reported that it’s in the works for this year.

Various reports say the next watch could have some new health-tracking features, including glucose monitoring.

Either way, I’d wait until the spring, if only for the price drops. Last year, Apple confused things by introducing two models, the $599 Series 6 and the $429 SE, while dropping the Series 3 price to $299. I even preferred the SE to the 6: most of the features, $170 less. Apple will likely tweak the lineup again, bringing the newer watches to lower price points.


You’re good to go on the iPads—the regular-size ones, anyway. In April, the iPad Pro got a new screen, M1 processor and some new webcam tricks. The iPad Air was significantly improved last October with a new design, including a fingerprint scanner in the edge.

All of those models and more will also get iPadOS 15 in the spring. I’m excited for the new multitasking controls, which no longer require some sort of “Parent Trap”-like secret handshake to place two apps side by side. The new home-screen layout and Quick Notes look cool, too.

One iPad that you should absolutely not buy? The Mini. Last upgraded—minimally—in 2019, it’s overdue for a real rejuvenation.


OK, pay close attention, Mac buyers. Lots of nuance ahead.

If you want a beautiful and fast iMac, the new 24-inch iMac, powered by Apple’s M1 chip, gets the green light. I just reviewed it and have loved working on it for the past month.

If you want a replacement to the current 27-inch iMac—something with a bigger screen and more power—hold off. Bloomberg and others report that Apple is working on a chip that’s even faster than Apple’s current M1, and that it will be in this new machine, possibly with an even larger display.

MacBook Air and Pro

That brings us to the laptops. Apple kept the design of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air but swapped Intel chips for its own M1 chips last November—making them virtually the best laptops out there. They’re fast, but run cool and quiet.

Yet they’re expected to get even better this spring—at least the MacBook Pro is. Reports from Bloomberg, Taiwan’s DigiTimes and Mr. Kuo say that Apple is readying Pro laptops with 14- and 16-inch screens, powered by that faster chip. The update sounds big: new designs plus the return of MagSafe charging and other ports, including my favourite, an SD card slot. Also, you can probably say goodbye to the mostly pointless Touch Bar.

If you really need a laptop for back-to-school season, I’d opt for the cheapest Air.

Apple TV

If you need a new streaming box and aren’t tempted by a more affordable Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire stick, Apple just refreshed the $249 Apple TV 4K with a faster processor and new Siri remote.

If your Apple TV is fine, however, and you just want to stop the pain and suffering caused by the old remote, the new one, sold separately for $79, is the must-have upgrade of the year. It’s bigger (so it no longer lives in the couch cushions) and it has a touch-enabled click pad at the top (so you can tell which end is up).

Speaking of media devices, Apple’s $149 HomePod Mini is also safe right now.

As I say every year, if your current gadgets are on their last legs, look to repair what’s broken, or find a deal wherever you can. Don’t pay full price! And just know that in the years to come, like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” I’ll be back saying the same thing, over and over and over again.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 9, 2021


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For the Best Interior Design Finds, Take a Guided Shopping Tour to Paris, Istanbul and More

Passionate about both decor and travel? Design industry pros are leading global tours to share their secret shopping sources—and help you score one-of-a-kind pieces.

Mon, Feb 6, 2023 6 min

WHEN MELANIE BURNS of Oklahoma City first entered the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, she was stunned by its sheer size and the pathways winding through its tented structures like a tangle of yarn. Though well-traveled and an old hand at hunting one-of-a-kind objets, she’d never experienced such an onslaught of potential riches. “The bazaar is intimidating,” she said, “the size of about five football fields.”

She had expert allies, however: Clare Louise Frost and Elizabeth Hewitt of Tamam, a lifestyle brand and Manhattan store specialising in Turkish antiques and their own collections. The duo led Ms. Burns to a shop layered deep behind other shops. “It was no more than about 14 feet square, and stacked high with the most beautiful hand-woven vintage tapestries I’ve ever seen,” Ms. Burns recalled. “I would never have tackled the place without these women. They are walking encyclopedias, they speak the language and when you shop with them, you don’t overpay.”

Ms. Frost, who calls the bazaar “her second home,” lived in Istanbul for nine years, and her business partners, Ms. Hewitt and Hüseyin Kaplan, still live there. Together they host trips to Turkey, capped at 14 participants, all eager to buy décor to take back home. Overseas shopping sprees like this are an increasingly popular new category of travel. Interior-design pros immerse travellers in a country’s culture and guide them to fabulous finds, whether an ornate vintage camel bag from Turkey or a contemporary French sculpture.

Indagare, a travel company in Manhattan, is seeing a growing market for overseas shopping trips. The 30 Insider Journey trips it ran in 2022, including seven design-centred jaunts, drew 540 travellers, twice as many as in 2019. Sicily, Japan and Mallorca are locales Indagare is eyeing for future design trips. Penta, a magazine that, like The Wall Street Journal, is published by Dow Jones & Co., has a partnership with Indagare to organise trips.

“Covid taught us we need to go when we have the opportunity,” said Grant K. Gibson, a San Francisco interior designer who himself has led eight trips to India and two to Morocco and is adding excursions to Egypt, Mexico and Turkey.

Trips are as cultural as they are commercial. Before Mr. Gibson’s group of 10 globetrotters start looking for linens or bargaining for bowls, they tour Jaipur by electric rickshaw and visit a textile museum. “I want them to understand the history and know where design ideas come from,” he said. Cynthia Smith, a biotech exec from San Francisco who traveled with Mr. Gibson to Morocco, came home with pottery in a vibrant green glaze unique to Tamegroute, a village that edges the Sahara. “Everyone asks me about the vase, and I have a story to tell about Tamegroute pottery,” she said. “It gives character to my house.”

The packages don’t come cheap—from around $4,000 to $18,000 (not including flights) depending on location and length—but offer you insider access. Designer Chloe Mackintosh of Boxwood Avenue Interiors in Reno, Nev., is leading her first trip this year to parts of Italy and France she knows well. One focus will be the weekend antique markets in L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in southeast France, but she’ll also introduce guests to local artisans, including a fifth-generation ceramist. Her group will take a pottery-making class to understand the process behind the product.

Known as “the huntress” because of her many years buying and selling vintage furniture, Ariene C. Bethea says people began asking her to lead a trip so they could hunt alongside her. The owner of Dressing Rooms Interiors, a shop and design studio in Charlotte, N.C., teamed with TrovaTrip to create a journey to the Paris flea markets this May. With Ms. Bethea’s input, the Portland, Ore., group-travel managers lined up accommodations, vendors, translators and tickets to museums. “I plan to help my guests shop, give them ideas and help them learn to tell stories in a space,” said Ms. Bethea, known for her playful use of colours, bold patterns and culturally inspired designs.

Lodging on these guided forays offers design cred, too. Ms. Mackintosh has reserved an entire 16-room château in the French countryside for just 12 people. Tamam’s Istanbul guests stay in a marble-floored hotel that was a late 19th-century Ottoman bank—with a vault that doubles as a wine cellar—and for excursions to Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey, they bed down in a traditional cavelike home carved out of soft rock.

On a trip to the South of France with Los Angeles-based designer Kathryn M. Ireland, visitors stay in Ms. Ireland’s farmhouse near Toulouse. Her trademark fabrics and colourful Bohemian and English-country style are on display in every bedroom lamp shade and living room chair. “Guests shop my house, and then I point them in the right direction to buy similar things,” she said. Ms. Ireland has been leading groups (a maximum of 10 people) for over a decade, taking them to neighbours’ villas, antique markets and out-of-the-way bakeries and bee yards.

Abby Landers first visited Ms. Ireland’s home as a high-school senior, traveling with her mother. Now five years out of college and living in Boston, she recently returned. “Kathryn embraced us, and she has been a mentor for me ever since.” Inspired by that first trip, Ms. Landers earned a master’s degree in interior architecture, and her current boss is someone she met on that trip. “You’re there for a week, and it’s a whirlwind of meeting artists and artisans, all friends of Kathryn’s.”

Kirstan Barnett, a tech investor from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., traveled to Tangier with Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of Indagare. Ms. Barnett was particularly moved by dinner at the 300-year-old, whitewashed, riad-style residence of Jamie Creel and Marco Scarani, two of the many designers she met at private events. The home was so richly layered and eclectic, she said, it inspired her to approach her own décor more bravely and reject the notion that a room must adhere to one style.

Some pros who organise such tours offer itinerary planning to folks who don’t want to travel with strangers. Mr. Gibson recently created a program for a group of four going to Jaipur. Though he won’t be joining them, he’s chosen the lodging and booked the restaurants and the experiences.

Travelers laser-focused on in-the-know shopping minus the touring can hire Chicago-based Skin Interior Design in cities such as London, Paris and Milan. The company arranges excursions so clients are shown exactly what they want—whether French midcentury chairs or Venetian-glass chandeliers. “We have an education in art history and antiques, and we help find pieces that keep value,” said Lauren Lozano Ziol, one of the founders. A recent two-day antique-furniture and art expedition in London cost $10,000.

How to get all the booty home? Mr. Gibson advises guests to travel with at least one empty suitcase. Bulky items can be packed and airfreighted home using DHL or FedEx. (Most carriers will pick up at the hotel.) Some vendors ship direct to the States from their stores at reasonable rates. For those who travel with Tamam to Turkey, easy shipping—including having your purchases collected from the vendors—is one of the perks. Ms. Burns, who bought ceramics, four suzani bedspreads and six rugs, said Tamam handled shipping for about $400. “Some of my things arrived before I even got home,” she said.

International Harvest / Souvenirs that guests collected on their design-focused journeys abroad

Five 2023 trips abroad devised and helmed by interiors experts imparting their insider info

Ready to shop your way around the world? Here are just some of the available packages that focus on home design. Prices are per person and generally include accommodations, meals and beverages, guided touring, activities and local transportation.

Flea Market Foraging | May 4-10, 2023

The owner of Dressing Rooms Interiors, a vintage-home-furnishings boutique and design studio in Charlotte, N.C., Ariene C. Bethea takes travellers shopping the Paris vintage markets and art galleries and on visits to lesser-known museums such as the Museum Nationale Gustave Moreau. Also on the agenda: a foray to Versailles and its gardens, a tour of Montmartre street art and a tasting at the Museum of Wine. From $3,649,

Ciao, Italia | May 15-19, 2023 (wait list only)

Chloe Mackintosh, owner of Boxwood Avenue Interiors, a Reno, Nev., studio and shop, leads a 4-night trip in Florence, Italy. Travelers stay at the five-star Il Salviatino, a restored 15th-century villa that mixes Renaissance and contemporary décor. Along with shopping excursions, antiquing and a workshop at a local artisan’s studio, the trip includes wine tasting and cooking lessons. Florence, from $5,500,

Turkey Club | May 17-26, 2023

Designer Clare Louise Frost, Tulu Textiles owner Elizabeth Hewitt and carpet dealer Hüseyin Kaplan teamed up to create Tamam, located in Manhattan and Istanbul and specialising in antique and vintage Turkish textiles, rugs and ceramics. Travelers tour Istanbul, Konya and Cappadocia, shopping the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar and visiting textiles and antique dealers. Plus: a hot-air-balloon ride and cooking class. Tamam in Turkey, from $3,600,

English Town and Country | June 11-17, 2023

In London, South African interior designer Serena Crawford guides travellers through Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden (Diana’s favourite) as well as shops such as heritage brand Fortnum & Mason. In the university town of Oxford, architectural highlights range from medieval to modern, and in the bucolic Cotswolds, guests visit private homes and gardens of renowned interior designers. London & the Cotswolds with Serena Crawford, from $15,350,

Joie de Vivre in France | Sept. 9-16, 2023

Los Angeles-based designer Kathryn M. Ireland takes you on private museum tours, flea market hunts and a trend-spotting tour of design fair Maison et Objet in Paris (ticket not included), followed by leisurely days in the French countryside at her farmhouse outside Toulouse. Paris & La Castellane, from $7,900, Paris hotel not included,

India, Indeed | Dec. 11-18, 2023

San Francisco interior designer Grant K. Gibson shares his passion for India with a guided tour of Jaipur and Taj Mahal. Participants stay in a guesthouse once part of a maharajah’s gardens; enjoy traditional Indian feasts; learn the history of block printing; rendezvous with rescue elephants; and conquer the chaotic bazaar, comprising flower and spice markets and rug and textiles vendors. Travel with Grant from $9,500,

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