Want Latest/Greatest or Best Price? Here’s When You Should Buy Tech Gear in 2016

Want Latest/Greatest or Best Price? Here’s When You Should Buy Tech Gear in 2016
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If you’ve got an aging smartphone, tablet, laptop, camera, TV, or other piece of tech gear, you might be thinking about replacing it sometime this year. Question is, when this year would be the best time to buy?
The answer depends primarily on the kind of gadget you’re buying and the brand(s) you prefer. Here are our best conjectures about when to buy the hardware and other tech stuff you want this year.

Mobile devices

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, the best time to get the latest/greatest and the best time to get a great deal are often one and the same. That’s because, as vendors release new models, they often keep the previous generation on the market, but at a reduced price.
Of course, we don’t yet know when the major mobile vendors will release new gadgets this year. But we can make some educated guesses based on when they’ve done so in the past.
Apple: For the past four years, the company has released new iPhone(s) in September. (In 2011, the iPhone 4S came out in October; before that, new phones came out in June.) So the expectation is that the iPhone 7 (and perhaps a 7 Plus as well) will come out this September. And when Apple releases a new iPhone, it invariably lowers the price of the previous year’s model.
For iPads, the timing is similar but later: For the past four years, new iPad models shipped in late October or early November. (The big exception: The iPad mini 4 shipped in September last year, along with the iPhone 6S.) And, as with phones, when the new tablets are announced, Apple usually lowers the prices on old ones.
There’s one extra wrinkle this year: According to the rumor mill, Apple could release a new iPhone as early as this spring. Presumably, this would be a relatively small and budget-friendly model; we’ll just have to wait and see whether it’s closer in spirit to the plastic-y 5c or the more refined 5s

Last year’s models. (Photo: Apple)
Google: The Android vendor typically releases new Nexus phones in October. That’s when it released the highly regarded Nexus 6P last year and the Nexus 6 in 2014. So that’d be our best guess for 2016, too.
LG: The rumor mill currently guesses there’ll be an LG G5 announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Spain at the end of February. Another LG phone — the LG Flex 3 — was rumored to be announced at CES at the beginning of this month, but it wasn’t. So this one is hazy.
Microsoft: The Redmond giant has dropped hints that it will release a Surface Phone to go along with its Surface Pro tablet and Surface Book laptop. Likeliest times for it to announce one? At MWC in February (with everyone else) or at its own Build conference in April.
Samsung: The Korean company typically holds two “Unpacked” events each year: One in the spring (tied to MWC) and another in the late summer (often in connection with the IFA show in Germany). Last year, for example, it introduced the Galaxy S6 at MWC in February, then the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+ at an event in August. But this year, it may do more announcements early. According to the rumor mill, we could see multiple Galaxy S7 models at the end of February.


With the rise of smartphones (and, to a lesser extent, tablets) as our computing devices of choice, new desktops and laptops don’t make quite the same splash they once did; it’s more like a constant dribble. (The big exception is Apple, because Apple makes a big deal out of everything.) 
That said, there are a few times of year you can expect to get the latest technologies and the best possible deal. But those two times aren’t as closely linked as they are with mobile devices.
One good time to get the latest/greatest is when new chips hit the market. Those new chips are often linked to other new technologies — graphics and such — so PC vendors release new machines with all the bells and whistles.
This year, Intel is expected to ship its new Broadwell-E CPUs in the second quarter. That chip is targeted at high-end machines — hello, gamers! — so expect to see some screamers then. After that, the next-generation Kaby Lake processors are expected in the last half of the year. They aren’t expected to possess any particular superpowers, but they will be new and more powerful, which means new and more powerful PCs to follow.

The next generation of this chip could power your next PC. (Photo: Intel)
Meanwhile, AMD is slated to release its own high-end chip — the so-called ‘Zen’ FX CPU — at the end of this year. It too is targeted at high-end systems, which might appear as early as this year’s holiday season. But all of that is still extremely speculative; AMD hasn’t confirmed that timing.
As for when you can expect to find bargains, there are three times of year to mark on your calendar: late winter (when vendors clear out their inventory from the holiday season), late summer (back-to-school sales), and the holidays themselves. Note that PC vendors also clear out inventory just before they release new models, so there will be bargains then. In other words: You don’t have to be too particular about your timing.
Apple, of course, is the exception to all of the above. It still operates on its own timetable, independent of what everyone else is doing. But it no longer releases new Macs on any kind of reliable annual calendar. One bit of advice if you want to time a purchase: Check out the buyer’s guide on the Mac Rumors site. That guide tracks how long it’s been since Apple introduced new models in each of its product lines — iMacs, Mac Pros, Mac minis — and from that figures out when we’ll likely see the next generation.
If you want to get a deal on a Mac, remember that Apple never discounts anything — except for older technology and refurbished models. Its own Refurb Store is a great place to get last year’s models at a (relatively) low price.


For years, the conventional wisdom has been that the best time to buy a new TV is right before the Super Bowl: Everyone wants to get a big new screen to watch the big game. But while there are indeed pre-Super Bowl sales, that’s not necessarily the best time to buy.
The sales you do see this time of year may have less to do with football and more to do with last year’s holiday sales: If retailers stocked up on TVs last fall but didn’t sell them all, they might get rid of them now to make room for new models (including those announced at January’s CES); the Bowl just happens to be fortuitously timed.
If you want to score the best possible price, later in the year may be a better bet. For one thing, TV manufacturers love Black Friday and the rest of the holiday sales season. Moreover, a study by the Wall Street Journal found that, historically, prices actually hit their nadir in October. In either case, if you can wait, you should.

Lots of high-def TVs—but not a lot to watch. (Photo: Rob Pegoraro/Yahoo Tech)
If you’re looking for cutting-edge TV technology, vendors announced plenty of cool new TV tech at CES, and those sets will be trickling into the market throughout the year.
One word of caution, though: While many of those new sets offer some form of ultrahigh-definition (UHD) or 4K video, and while 4K sets have been available for a couple of years now, content still hasn’t caught up with it. (The selection of 4K content on the major streaming services is still relatively small; the bandwidth recommended for that content (25 Mbps) is still higher than most Americans get; and if you prefer discs, you’ll need to buy a new 4K-compatible Blu-ray player and then hunt down the 4K discs.)


Cameras are more like smartphones in that new releases are tied closely to some major trade shows.
In particular, says Simon Joinson, editor in chief of Digital Photography Review, new cameras tend to be announced at CES (particularly entry-level models and photo-friendly gadgets such as drones) in January and CP+ in Japan at the end of February. There’s often a second wave of announcements in the fall (often coinciding with the Photokina show, which happens every two years), with big-time launches from most vendors.

Nikon D500, introduced at CES 2016. (Photo: Nikon USA)
As for deals, Joinson says you can count on sales during the holiday season as well as early summer (coinciding with Father’s Day, graduation time, and summer vacations). Often these sales are on older models destined to be replaced in the fall. But you can sometimes find bargains on newer models about six months after they’re launched; those deals are often tied to bundles (i.e., you have to buy a camera and a new lens to go with it). The good news is that, as digital camera technology matures, the difference in features between older and newer models is narrowing, so a camera on sale can be nearly as cutting-edge as one that just came out.


Games and consoles definitely follow seasonal patterns, and the big season for both is around the holidays.
In particular (according to Yahoo Games editor Ben Silverman), the platform vendors (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) typically release holiday bundles that include their consoles and one or two popular titles. At the same time, retailers often put hot games on sale around Black Friday. Recently, we’ve also seen some console sales at the end of summer to clear out room for the holiday blitz. For PC gamers, there are two big seasonal sales, both centered on the Steam platform: one in summer, another in winter.
All that said, gamers can pick up deals year-round if they keep their eyes open. Game developers offer discounts on specific titles all the time; in any given week, some game or another will be on sale. As Yahoo’s Gordon Cameron has noted, “It’s a game in its own right to root around and look for something cool and heavily discounted.
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