When to Buy a Camera, MP3 Player, or Cell Phone

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Camera vendors like to introduce their newest models in January and February to coincide with big trade events, including the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) convention. As new cameras arrive, sellers deeply discount the older models--ar boon for bargain hunters who don't need the latest and greatest technology. "A lot of people don't realize that cameras are very seasonal, so February's a really, really good time to look for deals," says Richard Doble, who has written two books on photography and is the editor of Savvy-Discounts.com. Presidents Day sales tend to mark the peak of the discount season for cameras, according to Doble.

MP3 Players

The best time to buy an MP3 player is when new models reach the market, which typically occurs late in the third quarter or early in the fourth, says IDC consumer audio analyst Susan Kevorkian. Of course, the new players usually won't be discounted, but there's a pretty good chance their predecessors will be.

"It's possible to get good deals--whether on Amazon, on Craigslist, or through your local brick-and-mortar retailer--pretty much year-round, depending on which models are being sold down and discontinued," says Kevorkian. For instance, we found a Toshiba Gigabeat 60GB model advertised at Conns.com for $225, a considerable savings from its preclearance list price of $400.

Cell Phones

Cell phone customers generally get deals on a new handset when signing or renewing a long-term (typically two-year) contract with a service provider. Since the carrier doesn't want to lose your business, you're in a good position to negotiate a lower price--or no price at all--on a new phone. Another tactic is to request more minutes for the same monthly fee.

You have several ways to buy a new phone, including from an independent dealer in a brick-and-mortar store, from a cellular service provider's Web site, or over the phone with a cell provider's sales rep. Which method is best? David Wood, cell phone expert for ConsumerAffairs.com, says that an independent might offer a lower-price phone than a carrier-operated shop, but that the contract terms are often better at a carrier store. (A phone purchased from an independent might carry higher fees, for instance.) Wood stresses the importance of reading the fine print before signing a contract: "A kiosk in a mall might have a better deal on the phone, but then they might also have an additional termination fee. I've seen fees as high as $400, in addition to the carrier termination fee," says Wood, who was a cell phone salesperson before becoming a consumer advocate.

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This story, "When to Buy a Camera, MP3 Player, or Cell Phone" was originally published by PCWorld.

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