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Revealed: The Best Times to Buy Tech in 2021

ByAnne Willis

Feb 24, 2021 #Finance, #Savings
  • The average price of a smartphone is £528, with the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max costing £1,249 and the budget Nokia 1.3 priced at a mere £65.
  • The best times to buy a smartphone are May, June and October; for TVs shop in June; for cameras try February, April and October; and for laptops hit the holiday sales.
  • In 1950, it took 35 weeks on an average salary for a person to be able to afford a TV. It now takes only 3-2 weeks.

When the UK lockdown was announced in March 2020, GfK reported that sales of televisions skyrocketed by 59.5% that same week. Plus, while global smartphone sales declined 20% in the second quarter of 2020, the use of mobile phones has increased to record highs. According to Ofcom, adults in the UK spent a record 4 hours online on average in April 2020, with twice as many people as usual using their phones for video calls. It’s clear that technology has been a lifeline for many this year.

To shine a light on a crucial aspect of tech, Carphone Warehouse created the Taking Stock of Tech research. The campaign cross-compared a wide range of sources to explore three major aspects related to the sale of electronic products: historic prices across 8 categories of electronics, typical low-end, high-end and average prices for each category in 2020, and, crucially, the best times to buy the products to get the best prices. The findings are outlined below.

The average price of electronic and tech products is £500 in 2020

When buying tech, knowing the average price of products can be handy for setting a benchmark for the typical price you should expect to pay. In 2020, the average price of electronic and tech products was found to be £497.70. Wondering what types of products made up this number? Here’s a breakdown of these averages, rounded to the nearest pound:

  • £132 for headphones
  • £145 for iPods or CD players
  • £371 for gaming monitors
  • £528 for mobile phones
  • £631 for iPads or tablets
  • £680 for laptops
  • £712 for TVs
  • £783 for digital cameras

But, what if you have your eye on a particular model? If you’ve set yourself a specific budget, you may want to know the price difference between high and low-end brands, so you can pick the level of product that’s right for you.

When it comes to single-purpose electronics like headphones, monitors and CD players, there’s a massive £585 price difference between the lowest and highest prices: £23 for a CD player versus £607 for a gaming monitor.

  • Low end prices include headphones at £30 and gaming monitors at £90.
  • On the flip side, higher end CD players have a price tag of £242, while best-in-class headphones will set you back £293.

The prices naturally rise when you look at multi-purpose behemoths like smart TVs, digital cameras and smartphones – even when it comes to budget choices. For example:

  • Lower-end cameras can cost around £205 compared to higher end picks at £1,699.
  • A good-quality budget laptop weighs in at £549 – almost half the price of top-end ones costing £1,010.
  • Among tablets, lower-end picks are priced at £95, with a massive jump to the top-end products priced at £1,000.
  • As for TVs, the lower-end products cost £529 compared to the higher-end choices priced at £1,371.

The products listed above are best in class examples of their category, which means even if you do go for the budget options, you’ll still get solid performance and quality for the price. Likewise, the top-end picks represent the pinnacle of their category.

Think about new releases to find the best times to buy tech

Everyone knows Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas sales are all times when retailers drop prices on electronics. But, if you’re looking for the best deal possible, you’ll need to think beyond the usual sales. Fortunately, tech companies and brands behave in predictable cycles, which means keeping an eye on their schedules could help you figure out the best time to pounce.

  • Best time to buy smartphones
    • October is usually a great time to buy the last-gen Apple iPhone – a month after the newest model has come out. Apple’s delay this year means November might be a better bet this time round.
    • New releases for the Samsung Galaxy range are announced between March and April (and again in October), making May and June (as well as November) good times to buy outside the typical sales.
    • As for the Google Pixel, it takes a few months after new releases for sale prices to appear, with February being the optimum time to buy.
  • Best time to buy televisions
    • Many new TV releases happen in March and April, with LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic all announcing their new lines during this time. This makes June the ideal month to buy discounted TVs.
    • In fact, when it comes to TVs, you’ll usually find that retailers use any excuse to put on a sale – with only April, May and October being less than ideal months to buy.
    • Whenever you buy, aim for 55-inch models, as retailers tend to lower prices on these even further because they know customers love this size!
  • Best time to buy laptops
    • Laptops tend to go on sale fairly regularly throughout the year so you’d be better off remembering the months in which you should avoid making a purchase: January, May and October when prices are less than favourable.
  • Best time to buy cameras
    • New cameras are usually announced in September and January’s consumer trade shows, with last-gen models often seeing price drops the month after. This means the run up to Valentine’s Day sees a reduction in camera prices, while April, October and the holiday sale are also great times to buy.
  • Best time to buy iPads/tablets
    • Aim for the holiday sales for iPads and tablets, starting from October.

As well as the above, keep your eye on consumer trade shows like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February and the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) in September. With these events being used by brands to announce new releases, you’re likely to see retailers drop prices on last-gen products (i.e. the previous model) in the month before and after the events.

It’s now more affordable than ever to buy tech products

You’ve probably noticed the leaps and bounds that electronics have been making over the past few decades. There was a time when a smartwatch – all the power of a computer on a tiny device on your wrist – would’ve only been found in science-fiction. As electronics get more complex and sophisticated, are prices rising with it? Surprisingly no. The average price of most consumer products is such that a person on an average UK salary would only need a weeks’ worth of wages to buy the item.

  • In the 1950s, it would’ve taken a person on the average salary 35 weeks to afford a TV. In 1960, this went down to 8 weeks, 6 weeks by 1970 and yoyo-ing at between 3 and 2 weeks from the 1980s onwards.
  • In the 1950s, buying a camera would’ve cost 4 weeks’ worth of wages. This went down to 2 weeks in 1960, 1 week in 1970, 2 weeks in 1980, and 3 weeks in 1990. From 2000 onwards, this number fluctuated between 1 and 2 weeks each decade.
  • If you were buying a games console, you’d have saved for 39 weeks in the 1950s, dropping to 25 in 1960, 2 in 1970 and then just a week from the 1980s onwards.
  • When mobile phones became commercialised in 1980, it would’ve taken the average person 13 weeks to afford one. In just ten years’ time, this dropped sharply down to just 2 weeks in both 1990 and 2000, and just a week from 2010 onwards.

There are several reasons for this price drop. While electronics are getting more sophisticated, the technology has advanced so much that it costs less time and money to produce the devices. And, as more and more people are able – or willing – to buy the products, manufacturers are able to save money by creating products in bulk. And, if you’ve ever agonised over the Apple versus Android question, know that having a vast range of brands and models to choose from likely means you’ll have been able to take advantage of the lower prices created as brands compete to get more customers.

Above was a quick rundown of some of the findings from the Taking Stock of Tech campaign that explored the trends in prices of tech products across a wide range of categories. Discover further insights from the campaign to score some further tips and tricks for getting the best price on your next tech purchase.