It's been a real seesaw of a year for tablets, with tech writers declaring the medium dead — even as tablet sales massively outpaced historical PC sales. With experts disagreeing about the future of these devices, it's no wonder that 2014 has already been a roller coaster ride for tablet prices. That's why when it came time for us to make these predictions, we examined current prices and trends from the previous two Black Fridays. And as it turns out, we could be in store for one of the best years ever for tablet deals. Read on for our in-depth analysis of each tablet platform.
This Could Be the Best Black Friday Ever for Tablet Deals
The number of tablet deals has been steadily increasing over the years. We saw 59% more tablet deals in 2013 than there were in 2012. Already we've seen nearly as many tablet offers in 2014 as we did in all of 2013, and we're just barely entering October! We've seen similar growth in Black Friday tablet deals over the past few years, so we expect 2014 to have the most tablet sales we've ever seen.
But are these deals worth checking out? Our research certainly suggests so! We expect more than 50% of the tablets we see on Thanksgiving and Black Friday to be hot enough to be marked Editors' Choice, with another 40% expected to be marked on Cyber Monday. In general, the best places to buy will be eBay, A4C, Newegg, and Walmart — in that order.
Expect Deals on the Updated iPad Air and Current iPad mini Tablets
Apple is all set to debut an updated iPad Air in October, and believe it or not, that brand-new model will likely see discounts on Black Friday. Last year, the then recently-debuted 16GB Wifi-only iPad Air was but a month old, but it still fell to $429, which was $70 (or 14%) off the retail price. Watch out for these price drops from stores like Staples, Best Buy, MacMall, and Fry’s Electronics. Just keep in mind that some deals, like those from Fry's, will require in-store pickup.
You can score a better "net value" through iPads bundled with gift cards from big-box stores. Retailers like Target and Walmart are sure to offer the new Air for slightly more than the competition, but with a sizable store credit attached. We expect these merchants to cut the price of the base model to about $479 and pair it with a $75 to $100 gift card. In Walmart's case, look for this offer to be one of those guaranteed doorbusters.
Unfortunately for deal-seekers, the iPad mini saw no deals at all on Black Friday last year. In fact, both the first-generation iPad mini and the iPad mini Retina (which debuted in late October 2012 and 2013, respectively) didn't see their first major discounts until January of the following year, skipping over Black Friday entirely. That said, retailers have been more keen on discounts for the mini in recent months, and the device should receive its third update in October. As such, we're optimistic that the iPad mini will make its Black Friday debut in 2014; look for the first-generation model to drop to $199, and the Retina to reach $299. (For more iDevice prognosticating, check out our full list of Apple Black Friday predictions.)
Crazy Low Prices on Androids You've Never Heard Of
Of course, the true doorbuster tablets will always be off-brand Androids. Earlier this year, we saw a refurbished media tablet for $6 — that is not a typo. Along those lines, we fully expect to see a second-hand Android for $5 to $10 after rebate; the cheapest new one will cost around $20. Aside from those lowest-of-the-low prices, you can expect to pay between $25 and $100 for a solid media tablet this Black Friday. These tabs probably won't have the coolest specs or be running the KitKat OS, but they're perfectly priced stocking stuffers.
Name-Brand Android Tablets Will Hit $150
If you're hunting down a top-tier, critically acclaimed tablet like the Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy Tab S, or LG G Pad, then history is on your side! The past two Black fridays have always yielded at least a few deals on that year's in-demand Androids. Prices can range drastically in this category, but expect to pay at least $150 for a popular 7" to 8" slate, while larger models could go as high as $500. For example, we saw the second-generation Nexus 7 drop to $149 this summer, which is $80 below list price (or 35% off). We fully expect this in-demand tablet to fall to that price again.
Windows Tablets Could Steal the Show
We gave Microsoft a hard time this year for giving us sticker shock with its Surface Pro 3, but even previous-generation Windows tablets aren't cheap. That's why we were shocked to discover that these slates have consistently been some of the best buys of 2014; to date, 48% of all the Windows tablets we've listed have been marked Editors' Choice. What's more, during both Black Friday 2012 and 2013, nearly every single Windows tablet we listed also earned that coveted blue star.
This dealpocalypse can actually be explained pretty easily. For one thing, the previous generation Surfaces didn't sell very well. We've also been seeing a lot of used and refurbished units, which tends to drive prices down across the board. What this means for you is that Black Friday 2014 could be the time when all these factors come together in a perfect storm of Windows tablet price drops. Therefore, we're predicting that we'll see a used or refurbished 32GB Surface RT for $120, and a used or refurb 64GB Surface 2 Pro for $310 (with a new one at $385). We're also expecting to see the current-gen Surface Pro 3 fall to $700 for the 64GB base model; that's a $99 drop, or 12% off.
Don't Look For Discounts on Amazon's Fire Tablets... Until Cyber Monday
Amazon has just refreshed its whole Fire tablet lineup, both with new budget-friendly Fire HDs and a souped-up Fire HDX. Traditionally, it's all but impossible to find a deal on recently-released Amazon tablets on Black Friday. However, last year we did see a couple discounts on the then-new Kindle Fire HDX models during Cyber Monday week, which took around $30 off. So if you're looking for a discount on Amazon's latest offerings, waiting until Cyber Monday could be your best bet.
That's not to say there won't be any Fire tablet deals around on Black Friday. The now previous-gen Kindle Fires have seen some truly delicious price drops recently, and we fully expect those trends to carry on into the shopping holiday. The old 8.9" HDX will fall to $300 (or 14% off), but the 7" model may be a better buy at $135 (25% off). Meanwhile, a used or refurb Kindle Fire HD could go as low as $55 (with new units dropping to $100), and a first-gen Kindle Fire could fall to $40 in second-hand condition.
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Marcy Bonebright is a features writer for Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared: http://dealnews.com/features/black-friday/predictions/tablets-ebook-readers/