These days, a wide array of consumer prices, including food, gas, healthcare and college education, are on the rise. When it comes to electronic gadgets, consumers have grown accustomed to falling prices, which has to do with a number of factors that include intense competition and the rapid pace of technological innovation. With that, here are five products that are still seeing rapid price declines and that consumers should consider waiting to buy. (To learn more, check out Most Anticipated Tech Products Of 2012.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
The flat-panel television craze first started with plasma TV sets and quickly evolved to LCD technology. Just as quickly, LED sets started hitting the marketplace, and more recently the industry has tried to keep the innovation going with 3-D televisions. Intense competition and rapid supply creation over the past decade has worked wonders for consumers, who were awarded with all-time record lows in the prices for many sets during Black Friday late in 2011.
A CNNMoney article just before Black Friday detailed that the average price for a 32-inch LCD TV set had fallen from $725 back in 2008 to only $200 three years later. With the rapid and continued price depreciation, it may pay to wait even longer to buy a new set, though the older plasma and LCD technologies could already be compellingly low.
The television set craze is just settling down after a decade of hyperactivity, but the craze for tablet computers is in its early stages. At an introductory price of roughly $500, Apple helped demand skyrocket with the introduction of its sleek iPad application, and competing providers are just starting to roll out rival products that offer a more compelling combination of affordability and functionality. Back in September, Lenovo announced a $199 tablet based on the competing Android operating system, and Amazon has also rolled out its Kindle Fire, also for $199. It may be difficult to see prices fall further for these competitors, but it is surely to put pressure on iPads at the higher end of the market, and all players will undoubtedly be pushing increased functionality at a lower price point.
Amazon was one of the first players to release an electronic device dedicated to digital book reading. Its Kindle device debuted for about $140, but has seen prices plummet as Amazon released the Fire to offer the benefits of both an eReader and more basic tablet functionality. With the roll out of the Fire, it lowered the price of its introductory Kindle to $79. This has put incredible pressure on rivals, including Barnes & Noble's Nook, which is now offering a color edition for $99 with the purchase of a New York Times subscription. eReaders will likely see similar dynamics to tablets, with the lines blurring between the two and affordable low-end devices continually putting pressure on the more expensive versions. (For related reading, see 13 Things You Pay For That Your Library Has For Free.)
In the case of GPS devices from the likes of Garmin, TomTom and Magellan, consumers are being offered free GPS capabilities on their smartphones and tablet computers. This drop in demand is the primary culprit for lower prices for the leading GPS gadget. One survey detailed that devices priced at $160 had fallen to below $100 last year. The threat of extinction should easily keep a lid on price increases and possibly help prices fall even further. One wild card is the pressure to make using mobile phones while driving illegal, which could help pave the way for the return of GPS devices in vehicles.
Blu-Ray Disc Players
Much like GPS devices, the DVD player has experienced serious pressure from technology shifts. Streaming video from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, is threatening the way in which consumers used to purchase a hard copy of a movie and file it away on their shelves. Additionally, gaming devices, including Sony's Playstation 3, already include Blu-ray players, which is the most current generation of DVD player. With this shift in buying habits, the Blu-ray disc players have plummeted in price. Recent estimates suggest prices will fall well below $100 per player, with a potential price closer to $80 for many players.
The Bottom Line
With many of the above products, the lower end of the market may already be at such a point where the risk of a significant future price decline is minimal. However, in the higher end of the market, especially in the case of televisions and tablet computers, consumers may want to hold off on purchases as prices could plummet dramatically. Certain buyers may still be tempted with paying up for the latest and greatest gadget, but others have grown accustomed to the fact that falling prices are inevitable when it comes to consumer electronics. (If you are interested in tech, check out Top Tech For Your Buck.)