Like any other industry, tech has its seasons. There are regular times of year when shiny new things arrive to replace those that have lost their lustre. Apple, for example, pretty much always releases new iPads and iPhones at certain times, and the same is true of Google with its Nexus range, and Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphones. TVs tend to be launched all at the same time, but it's different with laptops.
For the wily shopper, knowing when the latest gear is about to make an appearance can make the difference between paying over the odds for outdated tech, or picking up a bargain on the recently replaced model. Here we'll explain the best time of year to buy a smartphone, tablet, or other tech
Best time of year to buy a smartphone
One of the most eagerly anticipated purchases for most people have is a new phone. Such is the dominion these pocket PCs have over our lives that crowds will line the streets just to be one of the first to lay hands on a newly unveiled creation. We think this is a bit silly, as the internet means we can order (even pre-order) one from the comfort of our own homes without the need to queue up for hours or days.
When to buy an iPhone
Apple is a pretty easy company to predict. Its release schedule is established now, with only the odd variation appearing from time to time. For the past few years the latest iPhone model has made its debut around the third week of September. To see how consistent these release dates are we’ve listed them below.
iPhone 5 - released on Friday 21 September 2012
iPhone 5S - released on Friday 20 September 2013
iPhone 5C - released on Friday 20 September 2013
iPhone 6 - released on Friday 19 September 2014
iPhone 6S - released on Saturday 19 September 2015
It’s no great feat of prognostication then to suggest that the upcoming iPhone 7 could well be flying off the shelves on or aroung Friday 24 September 2016.
Getting a cheap iPhone is a far harder challenge as Apple keeps close control over pricing. Mobile carriers are more likely to offer deals on the previous year’s model after the new one is announced, so if you can hold onto your current model until the autumn then you’ll be in a better position to barter.
One exception to this established pattern is the recent release of the new 4-inch iPhone SE, which was announced on 21 March 2016 and will be available as soon as stocks can be allocated to the stores. It's priced aggresively, in iPhone terms anyway, with a starting point of £359 for the 16GB version and going up to £439 for the 64GB model. As the phone is brand new, and essentially features the internals of an iPhone 6S, we'd say now is the time to buy if you're after a smaller slice of the Apple. Fans of the larger sized models can rest assured that September will hold something for them.
When to buy Samsung Galaxy phones
The main rival to Apple’s phenomenally successful iPhone is most definitely the Galaxy S range. These flagship Android devices feature brilliant cameras, large screens, and top tier components, all of which has resulted in a passionate fan base.
See also: Samsung S7 vs S7 Edge review
As with most other companies in the tech industry, Samsung has a yearly routine that sees upgrades to previous handsets. The recent pattern sees the flagship devices announced at the Mobile World Congress trade show that takes place in Barcelona each February, with the handsets going on sale a month or so later. To illustrate the frequency we’ve listed the dates of the last few models.
Galaxy S5 released on 11 April 2014
Galaxy S6 released on 10 April 2015
Galaxy S6 Edge released on 10 April 2015
Galaxy S7 released on 11 March 2016
Galaxy S7 Edge released on 11 March 2016
With the latest handset having just been released you can buy one now knowing you’ll have the very latest technology at your disposal. Of course if you want to save a few pounds then we’d advise waiting a couple of months for demand to die down and prices to start reducing. Alternatively you could pick up an S6, which is still an excellent smartphone and bound to be available on some enticing deals.
You'll also like: Samsung Galaxy S7 deals
Google Nexus phones
Another popular range is Google’s Nexus. These handsets feature pure Android straight from Google itself, and often boast very affordable prices when compared with Samsung and Apple alternatives. As a general rule new Nexus devices tend to emerge around October/November, so keep your wallet ready for the pre-Christmas rush.
See also: Nexus 2016 release date and rumours
There are now so many manufacturers of mobile phones that it can be hard to keep up with them all. The best marker for release dates though comes down to the aforementioned Mobile World Congress. This trade show tends to be where major announcements are made by a wide range of smartphone companies, and new model releases usually follow in the months afterwards. Be sure to watch the coverage on our site, such as the MWC Round-up, and keep checking our Release date features, such as this one for the LG G5, so you’ll know exactly when the device you’re after is due to arrive.
Best time of year to buy a tablet
When you should buy a tablet is a little less defined than that of a smartphone. As customers are usually on a two year contract with phones, it makes sense that new models are released every year to ensure that those whose contracts are maturing will upgrade to the latest model and stay with the same platform. Tablets are more akin to laptops, in that most people hold onto them longer and only really replace them when they get damaged, become too slow to be useful any more, or simply fancy something new.
With this in mind it makes sense to decide on your budget for a tablet and then look out for any deals that come up. Black Friday is of course one to watch out for, but there are often discounts to be found online if you’re willing to put in the time to search for them. Check manufacturers’ sites as you can sometimes find promotions of older stock being sold off when new models appear. We'd recommend checking Amazon, Currys PC World and eBuyer for tablet deals.
As with phones you’ll want to follow the trade show coverage of CES (January), Mobile World Congress (February) and IFA (September), because these are where the new models are usually announced. Take a look at our round-up of the most anticipated phones of 2016 for more.
Best time of year to buy a TV
Upgrading a television usually isn’t something you’ll do very often. Until recently the average consumer would keep a TV for around five to seven years before replacing it. That figure has come down somewhat, but it’s still a fair gap for most of us. This flaccid nature is reflected in the marketplace, as manufacturers release new models in a sporadic fashion and with names that make them pretty much indistinguishable from their predecessors, or robots in badly written 1970s sci-fi novels.
This means that there isn’t really a best time to buy one, as the rate of change is so slow you’re bound to get something decent whenever you decide to take the plunge. For bargains you could look out for the Black Friday (November), or post Christmas sales as TVs often feature. If you intend to go to brave the physical stores to grab the Black Friday bargain yourself we recommend brushing up on your combat skills, as it can all turn pretty nasty. Old women and their hat pins are fierce opponents when only wounded.
Best time of year to buy a laptop
Much like tablets, the upgrade cycle for laptops in indistinct. One time of year that they do become a point of interest though is around the end of summer as students heading off to university stock up on new machines to take them through their educational adventures. This means that there are often deals available in August as the back to school promotions kick in. Look to large retailers such as Currys PC World, John Lewis, and Amazon where you’re likely to find price reductions.
It’s also worth keeping abreast of when new models come out, especially for higher end products such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Dell XPS 13, as the older incumbents can often be snapped up on good deals if you’re quick.