It’s that time of year when our inboxes are flooded with deals for Black Friday, Cyber Week, and all the promotions that follow.
But this year, we are in a unique situation. We live in an era of scarcity caused by global chip shortages, rampant unemployment, and the impact of government-imposed lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. That has disrupted global supply chains, made manufacturing difficult and made it difficult to ship items around the world.
That’s currently affecting the types of tech products we can buy for our loved ones this holiday season. Gaming devices like the PlayStation and Xbox, which have been consistently scarce over the last year, will continue to be a challenge to find. And the list of hard-to-find items grows even longer, including Wi-Fi routers, cheap laptops, and audio equipment.
Shoppers looking to buy consumer electronics will have to change their game plans. Biggest lesson? Don’t wait until Black Friday.
“Buy early,” says Patrick Moorhead, chief executive officer of Moor Insights, a technology research firm. “Make a decision between saving a little money or getting no product at all.”
Here’s a guide to consumer electronics items that will be hard to find this year.
Gaming consoles and high-end graphics cards
Let’s start with some of the most coveted and hardest-to-buy tech products: Sony’s PlayStation 5, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, and Nintendo’s new Switch, barely found on store shelves last year.
Historically, some console manufacturers have limited production of consoles to create excitement for the products, game analysts say. But chip shortages – and demand for gaming gear soar as many people are stuck at home during the pandemic – have exacerbated the scarcity.
Many big-box retailers sell new consoles exclusively online, and when new PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch consoles arrive, they sell out within minutes. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have warned that chip shortages could lead to supply constraints through 2022.
Mr. Moorhead said chip shortages and overwhelming demand for gaming products also led to a permanent scarcity of high-end graphics cards, which people use to upgrade their PCs to run the game more powerful.
Game plan? Consider automation. Millions of people are following Twitter accounts that scan retail websites and tweet as soon as consoles and graphics cards are back in stock. You can set up your Twitter apps to send notifications to your phone as soon as those accounts post. I recommend you to follow @mattswider, editor-in-chief of the TechRadar blog, who relies on sources at retailers to post inventory updates on gaming consoles and graphics cards.
On Black Friday, new Wi-Fi routers are often heavily discounted. But we should expect less of these deals this year.
William Crockett, vice president of Tanaka Precious Metals, a components maker, said it was due to a domino effect related to the lack of so-called legacy nodes, a miniature chip used to create emotions. wireless variable in the network device. Because that component is not readily available, companies can manufacture fewer routers. That means retailers are less likely to discount routers to avoid running out of stock, he said.
Case in point: Last year, one of Amazon’s hottest Black Friday deals was a massive discount on Eero, its popular Wi-Fi router. This year, Eero is clearly absent from Amazon’s list of top deals for Black Friday.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company planned to promote the Eero throughout the holiday season. So far, only the high-end Eero Pro models have received significant discounts.
So if you or your friends and family want an internet router, buy it now. In the unlikely event that a product will be on sale this Black Friday, you can ask the retailer for a retroactive price adjustment or return the item and purchase it for a lower price.
Retailers typically roll out a ton of cheap laptops on Black Friday for under $400, including Chromebooks and laptops from manufacturers like Acer, Dell, and HP.
Expect deals to be scarcer this holiday season. Moorhead said that computer manufacturers are struggling with a shortage of USB controllers, the chips that allow computers to connect to USB ports. So manufacturers are prioritizing those parts to make more expensive laptops, which generate higher profits, he said.
The result: You can expect deals on high-end laptops, like the MacBook, but less discounts on the cheaper stuff.
There are a few rare deals out there for cheap laptops – you just have to be proactive. Last week, Walmart sold an HP laptop for about $280, according to Pete King, a manufacturer at Slickdeals, a website that tracks online sales.
“If you haven’t started looking now, you’re late to the game,” he said.
Ultimately, the chip shortage affected analog chips, the circuits that devices use to manage power. The technology products most affected by this are audio accessories like speakers and headphones, which rely on analog chips to reduce power consumption and connect wirelessly to laptops and smartphones bright.
However, the scarcity won’t affect all audio accessories. Mr. Moorhead noted that Sony and Apple develop their own chips for audio equipment, so people should probably have no trouble buying fancy headphones from the big tech companies this holiday.
That’s good news for AirPods fans, but bad news for TikTokers and Gen Zers, who are actively trying to make less popular headphones fashionable.