SMARTPHONE Deals: Black Friday Recap and 2013 Predictions

best of black friday smartphone

Ready for BLACK FRIDAY 2013 cell phone deals?


With Apple’s iPhone 5S (iPhone 5C) “special event” in Cupertino today, it’s clear this may have huge impact on 2013 holiday cell phone sales, especially with a new iOS 7 public release. In 2012, smartphones were a hot holiday gift (or personal buy) with more than 130 different Black Friday advertised cell phone deals, 25 deals offered a cell phone for FREE (less than $1 with an activation contract), including an iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S III deal. There were also 47 cell phone accessory deals with 27 under $20 and a deal on Cyber Monday from Virgin Mobile for an HTC One V went completely viral. But which rank as the best? Do they even stack up to current Cell Phone deals?

FatWallet tech/finance expert Bryan Marsden reviews the 10 Most Popular Smartphone Deals from Black Friday 2012.

HTC One V Android Smartphone Prepaid for $50 from Virgin Mobile– See Details.
$50 (was $150) specs: 252ppi 3.7″ screen, 1GHz Snapdragon S2 CPU, 512MB RAM, 4GB storage, microSD slot, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 5MP camera, Android 4.0

This is a budget smartphone that appealed to the cost conscious buyer– an overall solid phone for the price, andCNET’s Brian Bennett gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars. It only has 4GB of internal storage, but a card slot to add a 32GB SD card to it, to push the internal storage to 36GB. Cnet says the CPU struggles with the OS, so it’s not a speed demon, and that may have turned hardcore users off from it. Virgin Mobile dropped the price by $100 down to $50 (67% Off), and at that price it was an excellent buy, especially since it was for pre-paid service (no 2 year contract!).

HTC EVO 4G (Contract-Boost Mobile) from Best Buy– See Details.
$219.99 (was $249.99) w/Free Shipping specs: 217ppi 4.3″ screen, 1GHz Snapdragon S1 CPU, 512MB RAM, 1GB storage, microSD card slot, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, 8MP camera, 1.3 MP front facing camera, HDMI out, FM tuner, Android 2.1.

The HTC Evo was one of the first 4G phones on the market, a very popular upgrade to long time Sprint “SERO” plan users. It came with a solid camera and delivered decent 4G speeds when/where available. As a bonus, you could set it up as a mobile hot-spot and connect up to 8 other devices. The down side was the very minimal 1GB storage. Yes, it had a SD slot to expand that, but it takes much longer to access/save data or media to the SD card vs. internal storage.

When it first came out, Brighthand gave it 5 out of 5 stars. The real reason this was popular last year, was because it was a full featured 4G phone that you could get at just over $200 without having to sign a two year contract. Any time you can avoid a contract the better!

Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx 4G Mobile Phone (Verizon) from Best Buy– See Details.
$FREE (was $149.99) w/2-Year Activation, specs:256ppi 4.3″ screen, 1.2GHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, WiFi802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, micro HDMI, microSD slot, 8MP camera, 1.3MP front facing camera, Android 4.1.2.

They called this phone the “MAXX” because it has a massive 3300mAh battery that gives it a 21.5 hours of talk time, or 15.8 days of stand by power. With mixed use, you could play games, video, text, and talk on it for most of the day before having to plug for more juice. It crushes just about any phone out here for time off the plug.

At this time last year this cell phone was top of the line and PCMag gave it 4 out of 5 stars. The retail price of $650 reflected that status. With a 2 year contract, the price dropped to $150, quite common for top end phones with a contract. During Black Friday last year, Best Buy dropped the price down to FREE with a 2 year contract, and that made this one of the best deals on the list (with a contract).

Samsung Galaxy S III from Sam’s Club– See Details.
$0.96 (was $149.99)(White or Blue) w/2-Year Activation, specs: 306ppi 4.8″ screen,1.4GHz Quad core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage, WiFi802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, microSD slot, 8MP camera, 1.9MP front facing camera, FM reciever, Android 4.1.2.

The Samsung S III was the first phone to really challenge iPhone sales. With a decent camera with generous 32GB storage and expandable to 64GB (microSD card), the quad core CPU provided a smooth and quick interface. Overall it was (is) a great cell phone (Brighthand) gave out 4.5 out of 5 stars. Since the Samsung S 4 had just released, retailers could discount the S III for holiday shoppers. Just like the RAZR MAXX, and basically FREE at $0.96, it was a one of the better buys for a high end phone on Black Friday (with a contract).

Apple iPhone 4/4S (for Virgin Mobile) from Target– See Details.
$399.99-$499.99 (msrp $449.99-$549.99) w/No Contract & Free $100 Gift Card, specs: (4S) 326ppi 3.5″ screen, 800MHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, 512 RAM, 16GB storage, WiFi802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 8MP camera, .3MP front facing camera, iOS6.

Quite simply, the iPhone 4/4S are great smartphones. Apple perfected the smooth easy to use interface that integrates well with their iTunes media software. The iPhone 5 release allowed for this discount. At $399/$499 price ($50 off retail), Target added a $100 gift card with the purchases of either one of these phones, with no contract. For Target shoppers, that basically brought the price down to $299/$399 (or $150 savings), making this a very solid Black Friday deal. Trusted Reviews gave it a 8.0 out of 10 and users backed it up giving it 8.3 out of 10.

Samsung Galaxy Rush from Radio Shack– See Details.
$69.99 (was $149.99) w/No-Contract Phone, specs: 114ppi 3.5″ screen, 1GHz Snapdragon S2 CPU, 768RAM, 4GB storage, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, microSD slot, 3MP camera, 1.3MP front facing camera, Android 4.0.

The Samsung Rush was, and still is a entry level budget smartphone with one of the lowest screen resolutions (ppi), and has middle of the road performance. It runs fairly stock version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Other than the lack of 4G it will do most things any other smartphone will do, just a bit slower. Fans of Boost Mobile got a good deal at the Black Friday price of $70 (from $150). However, with a better camera, sharper screen, and $20 cheaper, the HTC One V listed above was the better buy.

Samsung Galaxy S II (Sprint) from Radio Shack– See Details.
$FREE (was $100) w/2-Year Plan & Data Plan, specs: 218ppi 4.3″ screen, 1.2GHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, microSD slot, 8MP camera, 2MP front facing camera, FM tuner, Android 4.1.2.

The Samsung S II was considered a middle of the road smartphone, although still respected even though it was a couple of years old. Techradar still gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars around this time last year. Samsung updated the OS to Android 4.1, which was a big improvement over what it came with. And with a solid camera and good storage, it wasn’t a bad deal at all. However, the Samsung S III ($1 w/2 year contract) was a much better deal and cell phone upgrade for basically the same price.

AT&T Nokia Lumia 920 from TigerDirect– See Details.
$59.99 (was $149.99) w/2-yr Activation & 3GB Data Plan, specs: 332 ppi 4.5″ screen, 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 Plus CPU, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 8.7MP camera w/ carl zeiss lens, 1.3 front facing camera, Windows Phone 8

The Lumia 920 is was the best phone that no one bought (” target=_blank”>CNET both gave it 4 out of 5 stars). While people made fun of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 is easy to use, and as smooth as the competition. The phone itself was one of the most durable smartphones on the market, but it’s real claim to fame was it’s 8.7 mega pixel Pureview camera (with a Carl Zeiss lens kit). It takes exceptional photos, even in lower light conditions where the competition struggles.

At the time, the Lumia 920 retailed for $550 (no contract) or $150 (2 year contract). On Black Friday 2012, TigerDirect discounted it another $90, for a final price of $60 (w/2 year contract). While that was a great deal for a Windows phone with a excellent camera, the Samsung S III deal for $1 was better overall.

Apple iPhone 4 8GB from Best Buy– See Details.
$1.00 (was $99.99) w/2-Year Activation specs: 326ppi 3.5″ screen, 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU, 512 RAM, 8GB storage, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, 5MP camera, .3MP front facing camera, iOS6

The iPhone 4 is basically the iPhone 4S with slightly older hardware, and no SIRI. A few years old now, it’s longevity results from being able to run iOS6. It retailed for $449 off contract (as stated in the Target deal above), or readily advertised for $99 with a two year contract. On Black Friday, Best Buy dropped the price to $1 with a two year contract, a really good deal for Apple lovers. If not, the Samsung SIII, or the RAZR MAXX deals presented newer smartphones for basically the same price. AnandTech still hosts one the the best in-depth reviews of the iPhone 4 as it replaced the iPhone 3GS 3 years ago.

Motorola Droid 4 from hhgregg– See Details.
$69.99 (was $69.99) w/$100 Gift Card, specs: 275ppi 4″ screen, 1.2GHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, microSD slot, 8MP camera, 1.3MP front facing camera, micro HDMI, FM tuner, Android 4.0.4.

The Droid 4 is the smaller sibling of the RAZR MAXX. It has a smaller, but better screen, and a qwerty slide out keyboard. On the flip side, it has less built in storage, and quite a bit less battery life. This phone was better than free when you factored in the $100 gift card (it comes to -$30 after the cost of the phone). It really was a good phone, and PCMag gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars. However, even though you would have made a bit of money on this deal, there are a couple of phones on the list that were better deals (Samsung SIII, RAZR MAXX), because they were flat out superior phones, and the difference was only $30.

Smartphone Deals Predictions for 2013 Holiday

The upcoming Apple’s iPhone 5S on Sep. 10, (rumored for a Sep. 20 launch), should influence this year’s holiday smartphone purchases. With this and expected discounts on iPhone 5 (and iPhone 4S), some analysts are forecasting 30+ million iPhones to sell by the end of September, meaning Black Friday may not be about cell phones deals as much as it may be about accessory deals…at least for Apple peeps. But as predicted in our TABLET/iPAD recap, “phablets” (those really huge smartphones) are prime for a one-weekend price reduction competition (including Samsung’s Galaxy Note models, Sony Xperia Z Ultra, ZLPPO i6, and, maybe the Asus FonePad 7 will surface stateside). And we so hope these will creep into FatWallet’s Black Friday Deal Finder for 2013.

SERIES Master List: “Best of Black Friday 2012”

FatWallet’s in-depth series reveals the top products and deals from last year…some you’ll wish you didn’t miss! Featuring expert deal reviews, shopping tips and predictions for 2013, series content is based on sales and shopping activity recorded from FatWallet’s Black Friday Deal Finder (and mobile app) in 2012 which featured 27,000+ deals and doorbusters, 100+ Black Friday ads, and the hot Thanksgiving Day Deals, as well as Cyber Monday Deals from last year.

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