Buyer beware: Black Friday smartphone deals not so hot

CNET explains why consumers aren't really saving that much when they go hunting for smartphone bargains this time of the year.

The Galaxy S III seems to be one of the better deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Samsung

Are you gearing up for Black Friday already? When it comes to smartphones, you may want to pause and reconsider any purchases.

As with many Black Friday and Cyber Monday "deals," a majority of the items on sale are outdated models, less-than-desirable devices, or just products that the carriers and retailers are looking to unload. In other words, don't let the Black Friday fever blind you from a deal that's not really a deal.

Smartphones are a different beast than other consumer electronic products. They are more personal than other gadgets, and are almost always with you. At the same time, these products have a short life cycle -- with many only lasting a few months before they're deemed outdated. At a time when consumers are locked into two-year contracts, getting an already year-old phone may not be the best decision.

In fact, it may leave you with a phone that chugs and struggles to keep pace with the array of apps and services that have yet to come.

Speaking of contracts, when a consumer is spending an extra $30 or more each month for the data plan for that smartphone, saving an extra $50 for the phone itself doesn't really matter.

This is different from the usual doorbuster deals, such as televisions, which last many years and don't suffer from the same relentless product upgrade cycle as phones, or even toasters, which are relatively evergreen.

CNET editor Lynn La put together a handy guide to some of the smartphone deals that are out there.

Some of the deals look good, including a drastically marked down Galaxy S III, still Samsung Electronics' flagship smartphone, available at RadioShack, Best Buy, and Sprint Nextel. T-Mobile is offering the Galaxy S III for $99.99 after rebate, and putting other Samsung devices on sale.

The One X, at first blush, looks like a good deal when sold for 99 cents on Cyber Monday through AT&T. But many of the other phones are models you've never heard of, or last year's high-end model. AT&T also has a good reason for putting its One X on sale: The upgraded One X+ will hit stores this holiday season.

AT&T is trying to get rid of phones such as the HTC Vivid for 99 cents; Sprint is dumping the Galaxy Victory for free; and Verizon is offering the original Droid Razr -- its hit phone from a year ago -- also as a giveaway. The Lumia 900, which has been rendered nearly useless with the release of the newer and incompatible Windows Phone 8 devices (including the Lumia 920), is another bad deal.

The only area where the deals make a difference is with prepaid carriers. With no contracts and monthly rates that are typically more competitive, the extra savings on the phone make a difference. Virgin Mobile, for example, is taking $70 off of the Galaxy S II 4G and $100 off of the HTC Evo V 4G.

So as you put on your bargain hunter's cap and prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, be extra critical when you look at smartphones. You'll be glad you did.

 

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