Back to School: Apple Dumps Free iPod Touch for $100 Gift Card

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Apple’s 2011 back-to-school deal ditches the free iPod Touch of years past and offers a $100 gift card instead, a move that some pundits are calling stingy.

In previous years, Apple has given a free iPod Touch to any student who buys a new MacBook, for a value of up to $299. This year’s gift is obviously much cheaper. Joe Wilcox of BetaNews called it a “stingier promotion,” while AfterDawn’s Andre Yoskowitz called it “notably cheaper and less appealing.” Ars Technica’s Jacqui Cheng said the deal is “likely to be quite a disappointment by comparison” to previous years.

(MORE: Apple iPod touch (2010) Review: Don’t Want an iPhone? Get This!)

While the change will certainly upset some students, it’s a smart move by Apple, and for some students it may actually be preferable.

Over the years, smartphone adoption has soared, accounting for 23.6 percent of worldwide phone sales last quarter according to Gartner, and iPhone sales have doubled over the last year. That means more people own an iPhone now than ever before, and if you own an iPhone, you have little use for an iPod Touch.

Apple also introduced the iPad last year, and has sold millions of its latest model. Again, if you own an iPad, you can do without an iPod Touch.

A gift card, however, provides students with necessary software, either through the Mac App Store that launched in January, the iOS App Store, iTunes or iBooks.

Personally, I’d rather have $100 of free software than an iPod Touch I’d never use and the hassle of trying to sell it on eBay or Craigslist. If you disagree, too bad; there’s no way Apple’s changing its mind now.

(MORE: Is Apple’s $649 No-Contract, ‘Unlocked’ iPhone Worth It?)