Black Friday is a great way for manufacturers to get rid of inventory—it’s like a great end-of-year purge, before the new year’s gadgets are revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.
To that end, looking at tech companies’ largest Black Friday discounts can offer insights into the products that have lingered on shelves, or those a company must sell if it hopes to corner a specific market. To assess these trends, we curated some of the most interesting deals from manufacturers—retailers like Best Buy and Walmart have different discounting motives—and outlined them here. If the door-buster sale price at your local big-box shop isn’t on par with what you see below, keep shopping. You can do better.
(For each company below, the bolded line in the chart represents the steepest Black Friday discount.)
Amazon’s goal is to sell you as many things as possible, as often as possible, and the products it’s discounting emphasize the importance of that ecosystem. The Echo is another way to consume Amazon services hands-free, the Kindle is a portal into its massive ebook marketplace, and the Kindle tablets are packed with advertising. Buying any of these devices tightens Amazon’s grip on you as a consumer. Fortunately, they’re generally very good at what they do: Kindles are fantastic (and affordable) e-readers, and the Echo has paved the way for voice interfaces at home. When it comes to its own hardware, it’s worth noting that Amazon controls nearly every aspect, from manufacturing to distribution. That means they can undercut pretty much every competitor.
Among the above, the most interesting sale is for Amazon’s Tap, an Alexa-enabled portable Bluetooth speaker. The Tap has many competitors in the Bluetooth speaker space, and fits rather oddly between the Echo (a stationary home speaker) and the Dot (which can pair Alexa to an existing speaker). The difference between the Tap’s regular price and its discounted price is nearly 10% greater than that for the Echo or Dot. This looks like Amazon trying to clear some shelves.
Ever the dramatic announcer, Apple on Nov. 22 alerted past customers via email to a “one-day shopping event” taking place on Black Friday. The company didn’t say what’s on sale, and wasn’t immediately available to comment, but the email did include a picture of an Apple Watch.
Apple posted its first yearly decline in revenue since 2001 last month—iPhone sales have stalled in recent quarters—but the company isn’t prone to large sales. So far at least, it hasn’t had to be.
Bose isn’t discounting many of its newer products, but its design language is so consistent that it may not matter. Good luck telling the difference between a brand new pair of QuietComfort 35s and a pair of heavily discounted SoundTrue headphones.
On a recent earnings call, Fitbit prepared investors and analysts for a rough winter—usually its most successful season—due to Flex 2 production issues. Fitbit’s newest device, the Flex 2 has the smallest discount among the company’s Black Friday deals. For better savings, try Fitbit’s internet-connected scale, the Aria, and its wearable notification machine, the Alta, both of which retail for $129.95 and are on sale for $99.95—a roughly 23% discount.
Google has only confirmed one Black Friday deal so far, and wasn’t immediately available to comment on any others. But the company is definitely dropping the price of its new speaker and voice assistant, Home, to $99 from $129, a discount of 23%.
Home is actually a new product for Google—it went on sale in November—but the price cut is likely an effort to compete with Amazon’s Echo. Even at full price, the Home was already $50 cheaper than a regularly priced Echo, but Amazon’s device had a nearly two-year head start; it already has millions of users. Google will be hoping that the lower price, coupled with enthusiasm for its new Pixel smartphones (which has the same voice-assistant technology as the Home) and the appeal of a seamless Chromecast connection is enough to win over prospective buyers.
Speaking of the Pixel, Google’s first smartphones don’t appear to be going on sale directly, but many cell providers will be offering their own deals.
Beleaguered GoPro is offering just one Black Friday deal: a bundle that includes its lower-tier Hero Session camera, a floating hand grip, a 16GB SD memory card, and a carrying bag—all for $179.99. The camera itself usually retails for $199.99, and the bundle is valued at $249.99.
GoPro is having a rough year: Sales are lagging, its stock has plummeted, and its first new non-camera product line—the Karma drone—had to be recalled soon after it went on sale. On a recent earnings call, the company partially blamed slow sales on an inability to shift old inventory out from its retail partners, so it’s surprising that GoPro isn’t doing more Black Firday discounts. It needs needs any sale it can get.
LG is offering discounts on more products (a lot more TVs) than we could sensibly list out. Above is a shortlist of some of the better offers from the Korean electronics giant, including on TVs and computer monitors, but many more sales are listed on its website. There are also hundreds of discounts on washing machines, dryers, ovens, ranges, microwaves, dishwashers, and even one steam cleaner. Much like Samsung, LG makes at least one of just about every appliance you could possibly want, and its new models will be introduced at CES in January. That makes now a good time to buy.
(LG also has smartphone deals, but these seem to be in conjunction with its cell provider partners. Because of the razor-thin margins on smartphones, there are rarely discounts to be had when buying from the manufacturer directly. Cell providers, by contrast, will partially subsidize the cost of the phone itself to lock a customer into a contract.)
While Windows 10 is available on hundreds of devices, Microsoft only makes three core products itself. (Let’s not even mention the phones.) The Surface Book—not to be confused with the new Surface Book with Performance Base—the Surface Pro 4, and new Xbox One S are all similarly discounted, but there’s one catch. Only the cheapest models of the Surface Book and Pro 4 are discounted; if you’re looking for a little more power, you’re out of luck.
(In the gaming world, Microsoft seems convinced that free games sell gaming consoles. Visit their website to be confronted with a deluge of Xboxes bundled with Gears of War 4 and Call of Duty 1.)
As evidenced by dozens of Black Friday posts (which, thanks for reading this one), Samsung traditionally lets the big-box stores deal with discounting. But the company’s largest Black Friday deals highlight one focal point—consumer audio. Both Samsung’s wireless headphones and its entry-level speaker are deeply discounted, while other products like smartwatches and 360-degree cameras are barely on sale.
Like LG, Samsung isn’t discounting its smartphones, including its flagship Galaxy S7 Edge. That could be because Samsung largely relies on carrier subsidies and sales; it could also be because the Galaxy Note 7’s massive failure has already left their mobile department hemorrhaging money.
Samsung also sells a slew of TVs, and as is the case with LG they come in more sizes and variants than logical to list here.