holiday shopping

What to Know Before Buying a Phone During the Holiday Shopping Season

NBC 7 Responds looked at some tips for phone sales as the holiday shopping season begins

NBC Universal, Inc.

This week is the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season as Prime Day kicks off. The holidays are a popular time for people to buy new products like phones, game consoles, and tablets. So, what should you know before upgrading your phone this year?

"We've seen a couple delays but most of the brands are powering through this pandemic by introducing a lot more smartphones," said Scott Peterson, an analyst at the market research group Gap Intelligence. "One thing that is really propelling this is the onset of 5G."

On Oct.13, Apple is unveiling its latest iPhone. Peterson said as new phones roll out, more and more of them are offering 5G features. That's because it is now considered a necessity.

"A lot of mid-range smartphones can now boast what was once a premium connectivity feature," said Peterson. "Consumers are not going to rush to it because it has 5G, but if your phone does not have 5G, no one will touch it with a 10-foot stick."

A smartphone doesn't even have to be that expensive to offer a few 5G features. Peterson said cheaper options are becoming increasingly available, even though 5G networks are not widely available.

"These vendors are finally starting to deliver on their promise for lower-cost 5G phones," said Peterson. "Honestly, the U.S. carriers have no interest in promoting any phone if it doesn't have that 5G logo on the side of it."

So far this year, smartphone sales are lower. Peterson says people aren't upgrading this year as quickly as they have in years past.

"Carriers track upgrade rates," said Peterson. "That's the frequency of which folks come in to get a new phone, and they are across the board low for all of the U.S. carriers."

Peterson said if you do want to upgrade, that means there are some fantastic deals out there. He says many stores are offering discounts and other deals on smartphones during important shopping periods, like this week's prime days.

Also, look online for special offers and deals, check the newsletter-type emails you get from tech stores and see if they have slashed the prices of any smartphones. Peterson said right now, it's a buyers market for smartphones.

"Whether that be an upgrade, whether that be an added line, or whether that be switching carriers completely, all the best deals are going to be on the line this holiday season," he said.

So expect some aggressive marketing of new smartphones and deals this holiday season. Peterson said to also be open to looking at other brands and types of phones if you are in need of an upgrade.

"We are hanging onto our handsets longer because we are prioritizing other things in our budget," Peterson said. "That's why the carriers and the vendors have done a great job at delivering new phones that are upgrade worthy for a lower price tag."

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