Black Friday Smartphones 2014
Smartphone sales tend to flourish during the holidays, and this Black Friday will be no exception. Orders of Apple's new iPhones have already topped 4 million, whereas Android is still dominating the market with smartphones that are almost three times cheaper than Apple's handhelds. As we approach Black Friday, here are the phone deals you can expect from retailers and carriers alike.
You'll Only Find Good Deals for Subsidized Phones
While there are many benefits to purchasing an unsubsidized (off-contract) smartphone, we've found that during Black Friday, retailers overwhelmingly focus on discounting subsidized smartphones instead. Under the subsidized model, the carrier absorbs the brunt of a phone's full price and therefore requires the signing (or renewal) of a 2-year contract. Subsidized phones can be purchased directly from the carrier or through retailers like Amazon, Wirefly, and Walmart.
If you were hoping for deals on unlocked phones, again, your chances of spotting sales are slim; Black Friday is simply not the best time of year to shop for these phones. In the examples that follow, we'll focus solely on subsidized phones, unless otherwise noted.
Look for Hot Android Phones for $0
Android fans should be especially excited for Black Friday, as a slew of Android phones will be available for free with a 2-year contract. These deals will start to pop up two weeks before the big day from stores like Amazon and Walmart, and they will continue on through Cyber Week.
And these deals won't just be on budget, lesser-known phone models; expect to see significant discounts on flagship models from HTC, Samsung, and Motorola. Last year, for example, we saw the Samsung Galaxy S4 for $0 with all major wireless carriers, and we expect to see similar offers for the S5, and other popular models like the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z2.
Shop Amazon Early, Walmart on Black Friday, and Best Buy Later
Amongst the top vendors for smartphone deals, we noticed a trend; Amazon offers its best cell phone deals before Black Friday, while Walmart unveils its primo promotions on Black Friday itself. Meanwhile, Best Buy also has noteworthy discounts, but they mostly come after Friday as we transition into the holiday season. A savvy shopper who wants a specific model should keep an eye out throughout the week, but it's worth focusing on these retailers during the aforementioned times.
For-Profit Credit Deals Are Possible With Older Models
Occasionally, we have seen deals that include a store credit or gift card with a value that's higher than the subsidized cost of the phone; we call these "for profit" deals. And while they're a great value for shoppers, unfortunately, they have become increasingly rare in recent years.
That said, we did see a few during Black Friday 2013. Keep in mind though that these offers will mostly apply to older generation phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S4, and the credits will likely only be for the store you're buying from. If that store happens to be Walmart, or if it's a wireless carrier offering a bill credit, then that's essentially free money; if you're buying from a more niche vendor like Newegg, make sure it's a credit you can actually use before opting for that deal. For-profit deals typically surface on Black Friday only.
Great Smartphone Deals Will Continue Through the Holidays
In the event you miss out on a great deal, there's good news; the holiday season is generally an excellent time for smartphone sales, and you'll be able to find top-notch smartphone deals from November through December. However, if you see a deal on a high-end flagship model during Black Friday that is near free, know that the price is unlikely to get better if you wait. That said, if you don't see such a discount on the phone you want, it might pay to wait for a holiday promotion rather than buying a second-rate Black Friday deal.
Apple's iPhone 6 Will See Numerous Sales, but the 5s Will Hit $1
Android-based smartphones aren't the only devices to see discounts on Black Friday. If last year is any indication, this November will be a busy season for subsidized iPhone deals. Last year, retailers and mobile carriers alike discounted Apple's iPhone 5s with prices as low as $99. This year, we expect stores like Best Buy, AT&T, and Sprint to offer similar savings on the iPhone 6 with deals that take 50% off the subsidized price of the phone. Sadly for phablet fans though, we only expect minor discounts on the iPhone 6 Plus, with prices around $279 for the base model.
For even bigger savings, we recommend opting for a refurbished iPhone 5s. In September, Apple slashed the 5s' price to $99, which means we can expect to see a flood of refurbished iPhone 5s phones for as low as $1. (A similar scenario occurred in 2012 when refurb iPhone 4s deals hit $1 on Black Friday.) For more iPhone specifics, check out our complete Apple predictions page.
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