By Joe Levi | November 28, 2013 7:15 AM
Black Friday. In the States those words either conjure up a wondrous land filled with deals, bargains, and amazing prices — or a horrific panic swimming through a sea of ruthless bodies scrambling to scoop up the severely limited stock of whatever item has enticed those crowds to assemble. All of this follows the one day out of every year that is set aside specifically to remember all that we have and are thankful for. The irony of these two days positioned back-to-back is beyond description.
But we’re not here to lecture you about your post-holiday buying-binge. No, we’re here to help you avoid buyers remorse and make sure those deals are worth whatever chaos you’re willing to endure. Without further ado, here’s what to avoid on Black Friday and Cyber Monday!
“Tablets for under $150… with one exception.”
As Black Fridays ads loom and tempt you with the latest tablet goodness, you might be drawn toward a certain category of deal that should be avoided at all costs. That category is “tablets for under $150″. Those are scary machines there and they will mess you up. If it’s for a loved one, they will hate you. If it’s for you, you will hate yourself. Either way, the recipient will be using it as a cutting board when preparing treats for New Year’s day.
There is one exception to that rule, and that is the Amazon Kindle Fire. The original Kindle Fire might be around somewhere for less than $150, and if you want to go that route, feel free. But bear in mind the original Fire has no HD screen and no front-facing camera. Buyer/gifter beware.
Other than that, you’re petty safe. Black Friday isn’t about “low-quality”, it’s about “inexpensive”. Read reviews and be smart, and you’ll be able to get yourself or a loved one a great deal. Just don’t buy a Christmas present with a two-year contract. That’s just bad form.
“Friends don’t let friends buy cheap tablets.”
There’s a difference between “cheap” and “inexpensive”. Often times people use the two interchangeably when they’re very, very different! This year, be on the lookout for “cheap tablets” — and avoid them!
I’ve been approached by two friends so far, both looking at Android-powered tablets that are advertised for “only $50″ or “under $80″. In both instances, after very little research, it was quite obvious: steer clear!
Manufacturers can say their device has a 7-inch screen, a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, and WiFi and sucker people into buying them. Not all specs are created equal! Look for name brands and do a quick search. If the major tech sites haven’t reviewed them, stay away. If you’ve never heard of a certain brand, there’s probably a good reason why. Do yourself — and your intended victim recipient — a favor: leave it on the shelf. No deal, even a Black Friday or Cyber Monday one, is worth alienating a friend or family member. Friends don’t let friends buy cheap tablets!
“I wish this was the future…”
I wish this was the future and that every OEM would have figured out the best way to compete with their products, but sadly, there are still a couple of them that are not worth your money.
Take the Surface 2 for example. It’s a gorgeous tablet that is very promising, but it doesn’t run Windows apps, and is locked to a non-existent ecosystem.
Another case would be of devices likes the Galaxy Gear which is cool, but not useful enough for its price tag. Similarly, phones like the iPhone 5C, which is a very powerful mid-tier phone, is not priced for the target it was intended for. None of these products are actually bad, but simply either not priced right or are worth waiting for their next iteration.
“There are better smart cameras out… save your money for one of them instead..”
Last year, the Samsung Galaxy Camera was the novelty gadget of the season. We went hands-on with the Android-powered point-and-shoot at IFA 2012 but forewent a full review, deciding that an unconventional product deserved some unconventional coverage. So we used the Galaxy Camera as our daily driver for a weekend to see if it could replace a smartphone for the dedicated shutterbugs of the world. To no one’s great surprise, that experiment didn’t yield the most encouraging results, and we concluded that the “Galaxy Camera II” was the device to wait for.
Instead, the spiritual successor to the Galaxy Camera is the Galaxy S 4 Zoom. While that’s a whole ‘nother story in and of itself, the Zoom is important here because it shows us what the Galaxy Camera could have been. It’s slimmer, lighter, and more pocket-friendly than the earlier product, and its photographic output is far better thanks to an improved sensor/lens combo. If you’re looking for an Android camera with smartphone capabilities, the Zoom is one of your only options – but we’d probably still recommend it even if it weren’t.
We don’t know how much Galaxy Camera inventory Samsung is sitting on, but odds are that retailers are going to try unloading some of these at bargain-basement prices this Black Friday. I’m loathe to tell someone never to buy something — it’ll be a good fit for some people, at the right price — but there are other, better smart cameras out there like the Zoom and the Lumia 1020/1520. Save your money for one of them instead.
Chief News Editor
“Honestly, I’d avoid any Black Friday shopping.”
One, I don’t like shopping under the gun — it often takes me a long time to make purchasing decisions, and the specter of a ticking clock, with deals vanishing en masse if I don’t hurry, is something I would gladly pay a little extra to just do without.
Two, the individual Black Fridays deals are often good, but few are truly great – they’re impressive because we see so many all at one time, but you’re going to see just as big savings on most of this stuff available at plenty of other times throughout the year.
Three, Black Friday or no Black Friday, this is an awful time of year to be shopping for phones in the first place. We’re just over a month away from a period of very dense news of upcoming smartphones, and I’d hate to be stuck with a (brand-new) old model.
But If I had to shop, what would I be avoiding then? On-contract phones, refurbished hardware, and any smartphone that launched prior to August.
“Avoid deals for the sake of deals.”
Black Friday is all about saving money -– or believing you’re saving more than you would otherwise. Coming from a wireless retail background, I speak from past experiences when I say be wary with signing up for a new phone on Black Friday.
The sales papers will start seeping out this week, and you may find something that looks like a great, one-day deal. But Black Friday is a great opportunity for wireless providers and third-party wireless stores (such as RadioShack, Best Buy, Costco, etc.) to move those phones that didn’t sell well the previous 364 days of the year.
Last year’s flagship phones may sell for $50 or $100 with a two-year agreement. And then phones which have been rated low and have collected a fair amount of dust over the years might be “free”. But with the holidays just around the corner, better deals may be just weeks away.
Impulse buying a smartphone or tablet, especially one which comes with a two-year agreement, is something we strongly advise against. Do your research before you jump on what sounds like a killer Black Friday deal. Make sure you’re not signing up for two years with a dud.
“So that’s what a bunch of guys on the Internet think. What about you?”
We’ve just scratched the surface on what to avoid on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Since Pocketnow is all about community, now it’s your turn! What advice do you have for your fellow Pocketnowians? Have you seen any amazing deals that we all should know about and jump on if given the opportunity? What warnings do you have for the rest of us? Let us know in the comments below!
And, to help put a smile on everyone’s face, head over the Pocketnow Forums where we’ve set up a special thread to talk about your Black Friday/Cyber Monday victories — and horror stories! See you there!