Christmas is just about four weeks away, and some of us might be thinking about or planning to purchase consumer electronics, either for ourselves or for others. For almost every device, there are numerous makes and models to choose from, along with features and capabilities. This post outlines eight tips when purchasing consumer electronics, which could help guide you to your final selections.
1. Purchase the latest version you can afford
In many instances, electronic products manufactured by reputable or desired brands can be quite expensive, and so we sometimes wish to realise some savings by choosing an earlier version of the device, not the latest release. This can be a mistake. Over the last few years, product release cycles have become shorter, to the point where the major brands launch updated models annually. Furthermore, these shorter release cycles often signify that the manufacturer might limit its support of earlier versions of the device – for software upgrades, patches, etc. – for a correspondingly shorter period of time. Hence to reduce the chances of your device becoming obsolete while it is still relatively new, do consider buying the latest version, or as close to the latest version as you can afford.
2. Consider some of the device upgrades offered
Regularly, manufacturers provide a small range of upgrade options for specific components of a device, which of course would affect its final price. One of the most common options is size of the internal storage. Again, many of us see this as an opportunity to save some money, but this could be a case of “penny wise and pound foolish”. On portable devices, for example, users frequently have dozens of apps installed, and when the Operating System is also factored in, storage can be quickly depleted. Hence, it might be wise to consider some of the upgrade options provided, although it might require a larger spend.
3. Know your requirements
It is easy to get enamoured into getting the latest release of a particular device, but it is important to ensure that that device can fulfil key functions that you have identified. For example, it is commonly believed that a tablet computer can replace a laptop or a PC. However, a tablet, by itself, is not designed for intensive data entry and manipulation. Depending on the brand, keyboards for tablets are available, and it might also be possible to connect external storage devices, thus freeing up the internal space, hence increasing the functionality of a tablet. Nevertheless, it is critical to do your research and understand the extent to which an identified device might satisfy your requirements before you purchase.
4. Comparison shop
Although this tip might seem to be a given, it does bear emphasising. Competition can be high among vendors and suppliers, and depending on the device and the seller, deep discounts or attractive packages might be available. Additionally, some vendors might sell specific makes and models, so you might need to compare features of similar devices and not just focus on price. Nevertheless, it is important to note that it may be worthwhile to pay (a bit more) to gain certain conveniences; thus it is prudent to also consider the pros and cons (or costs and benefits) associated with a proposed purchase.
5. Extra bells and whistles can be useful
This point is along the same vein as the second tip, but instead of focussing on price, the emphasis is on the features and functionality of a device. Sometimes, we are prepared to skimp on certain features, in order to manage our budget. However, manufacturers usually combine a suite of features that provide the best user experience at a particular price, and most likely, with use, you will appreciate those features.
Furthermore, should you be in the market for a device that you plan to use regularly or extensively, it might be worthwhile to consider what you might be able to gain for a little extra money. For example, when buying a digital camera, a basic point and shoot model tend to start at USD 100, but a basic digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera can be marginally more but offer better performance.
6. Make provision to “clothe the sale”
Without a doubt, purchase of electronics can be a daunting and expensive proposition, as there are a number of factors to consider and balance. With our focus being on the major purchase, we often fail to consider (and make a financial provision for) key accessories that also ought to be purchased that enhance the user experience. Depending on the device, they include:
- bags and carrying cases
- external storage devices
- chargers or docking stations for vehicles
- keyboards and/or mice.
Hence prior to purchasing the main item, do identify the accessories you might require, and as appropriate, prioritise and budget for them.
7. Purchase from a recognised dealer or retailer
Consumer electronics is a huge and highly lucrative industry. By 2014, the global consumer electronics market is projected to reach USD 289 billion (Source: Yahoo Finance). As a result, there is also a thriving market for counterfeit and inferior products. It is therefore strongly recommended that you purchase from recognised dealers and retailers.
In the online space, it is important to be especially vigilant, as fraudulent websites can be mistaken for official ones. Additionally, when you are ready to enter your credit card details, do ensure that the site is secure. Web addresses for secure links usually start with “https://…”, as opposed to “http://…”, and depending on your browser, a padlock, green text, and/or a coloured background might also be evident in the address bar.
8. Understand the warranty and return policies
Finally, for consumer electronics, manufacturers may offer full warranty for a very short period, and limited warranty for a longer period – usually up to a year. Additionally, depending on the vendor and the country, a favourable return policy, usually between 7 and 14 days, might obtain. Hence, before you complete the sale, it is strongly recommended that you understand the warranty periods and conditions, and the seller’s return policy, in the unfortunate event that you experience some difficulty with your purchase and hope for recourse.
Image credits: David Castillo (FreeDigitalPhotos.net); nirots (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)