Apple or Amazon? Choosing the right gift card for Apple gear owners

If you’re planning to buy gift cards for the Apple product owner in your life this holiday, you may be wondering which gift card is better: one from Apple,(s AAPL) or one from Amazon? There are a few things to consider. Lets assume that the intent of the gift card is for someone to use on one of their Apple devices, to purchase hardware, accessories, music, movies, books, apps and games.  The following will help outline which gift card is best used in each situation.

Gift card choices

There are two things to think about when buying a gift card from Apple. Do you want to buy a gift card for the Apple Store or for iTunes? An Apple Store gift card can be used to purchase Apple gear and accessories — iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone case, earbuds, etc. — from either Apple’s online store or one of its retail stores. An iTunes gift card is different — it can be used only to purchase music, books, movies and of course apps. In fact, this is the only gift card that can be used to purchase apps and games for Apple’s iOS devices in the App Store.

Two Gift Cards

If you are not sure which one of the two to buy, get the one for the Apple Store. I have been able to take these to an Apple Retail store and exchange them for iTunes gift cards without any problems. This does not work the other way round. You cannot use your iTunes Gift Card at an Apple retail store to purchase an Apple Gift Card.

Better deals and larger selections on tech gear

If you want to give the Apple gear owner in your life even more options you may want to consider a different option: an Amazon gift card. The Apple Store usually charges full retail price on all products it offers. Amazon,(s AMZN) on the other hand, can offer better deals from time to time on the same gear. This can stretch the value of your gift card even further.

Comparing Prices

For instance, I recently found the Western Digital My Passport Studio 2 TB FireWire 800 External Hard Drive for my Mac on the Apple Store for $249 while Amazon was selling the same item for just $220. And if all you are looking for is a large external hard drive, you could pick up the Seagate Expansion 3 TB USB 3.0 Desktop External Hard Drive on Amazon for just $129, but not from the Apple Store since they do not carry that particular drive.

For most of the products I was looking at, Amazon either had the same or lower price as the Apple Store. Overall, Amazon carries more brands, and even more products that go with Apple devices than the Apple Store does. About the only items you cannot buy on Amazon that you must buy from Apple are custom-configured Macs.

Music, books and video

Both the iTunes Music and Amazon MP3 Stores have comparable music libraries, with a slight edge going to iTunes. Amazon does have a native iOS cloud player for the iPhone and iPod touch that allows you to play music directly from Amazon’s cloud-based music service on these devices. If you prefer, there is an Amazon MP3 Downloader that can be used to download your DRM-Free Amazon MP3 music and automatically add each downloaded track to your iTunes Music Library on your Mac. Amazon also has an Amazon Music Importer that can be used to upload your DRM-free songs from your iTunes library into Amazon’s cloud-based music service.

While purchasing music from either music store will deliver about the same results, it is the Amazon MP3 Store that seems to have better deals on music.  Like the 100 Holiday Albums on sale now for $5 each in the Amazon MP3 Store.

Kindle on iOS and OS X

The same can also be said for books. Both Amazon and Apple have very comparable selections to choose from in their online book libraries, and Amazon has a Kindle iOS app and the Kindle application for OS X. The one thing you cannot do is transfer books you purchased from Amazon into your Apple iBooks library and vice versa.

When it comes to video, it all depends on how they watch it. If the gift card recipient only has an Apple TV, then the way to watch their videos directly is buy purchasing or renting them on iTunes. However, Amazon’s Instant Video client ships on just about every smart television, modern Blu-ray player and game console on the market. Additionally Amazon’s Instant Video Player for the iPad can be used to watch an Amazon purchased or rented video title.

It all depends on the intended purchase

It seems natural to want to get someone who owns Apple products either an Apple Store or iTunes gift card. Choosing instead to purchase an Amazon gift card does have its advantages, especially if you expect them to buy tech gear and accessories like headphones, cases and external storage.  When it comes to music and videos, iTunes may be more convenient, but again, Amazon seems to have more promotions and better deals.

For buying ebooks, the decision will come down to personal preference as to which online library your gift recipient chooses to maintain.  But the main thing to remember this holiday is this: if the intent is for the recipient of the gift card to purchase apps and games for their iOS devices, then the only option is an iTunes Gift card.  Otherwise, the Amazon Gift Card may in fact be a better deal.

Here’s a basic chart that sums your options up:

Which Gift Card is Best