It’s the time of year when electronics are sold at bare-minimum cost and appear to be good deals for those that wake up early. Black Friday, it’s called – and it’s not a great place to shop. It’s the place where stores pick up large batches of extremely cheap and terrible pieces of merchandise that, on the surface, seem like they’ll be pretty much exactly what a person would want to buy when they’ve had very little sleep. A big, giant television set! A tablet for next-to-nothing! “Wow, what a good deal,” you might be saying to yourself. If it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is just that.
Back a couple of years ago, we published a guide by the name of Should I buy a cheap tablet on Black Friday? Absolutely not. The vast majority of the information in that guide remains true today. Imagine our surprise when we found advertisements for 77-dollar tablets and 50-dollar smartphones appearing as early as last week.
NOTE: Everything here applies to Cyber Monday as well.
When it comes to electronics like smartphones and tablets, you really, truly get what you pay for. Especially when you’re talking about a device that costs you less than $100 off-contract.
Every single smartphone and tablet we’ve laid hands on over the past eight years that’s been sold for under $100 has been junk.
Do not be fooled.
Why can’t a tablet or smartphone be made for under $100 and still be decent? It most certainly can be, but you’re not going to find a NEW device for that amount that isn’t just absolutely terrible.
If you want a real deal on a device, find out what the most awesome tablet was from around 2 years ago, then go out and buy that tablet from someone listing it as “barely used.” Or even “new in box, never opened.”
The same is true of smartphones – but buy a smartphone that is one year old. After about 3 or 4 years, smartphones start to show their age. It just happens. You use those things every single day of your life, they wear out.
If you want to buy a crappy speaker system for your apartment for $50, by all means, go for it. If you feel like $50 is a good amount of money to spend on a speaker system, you’ll be perfectly content with what you get.
The same is true of every single piece of electronic gear you’ll be able to pick up on Black Friday brand new in the box.
The ONE exception to this hands-off rule is if a device has the following qualities:
1. It was just released recently (within the last year or so).
2. It has good reviews online (see our Review section or just search in the upper right-hand corner of this page).
3. The discount isn’t completely mind-blowing. If they’re selling a brand new camera for cents on the dollar, chances are there’s something wrong with it. Look for sales around the 30%-off mark if you’re really in the market for a device that just happens to have gone on sale this weekend.
Don’t buy the items the ads are selling you.
Think about what you want, then wait for that item to go on sale.
This is how you avoid getting ripped off. Now go forth and stay inside on Black Friday, because Cyber Monday is better anyway. Go watch Star Wars. It’s good for you.
ADDL: See our 2014 gift guide (yes, last year’s gift guide) to find devices that are fantastic. As they’ve all been out for a year at this point, they’ll all be pretty darn inexpensive – they’ll be worth what you pay for them, without fail.