Mobile World Congress is the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) of the cell phone industry. The annual event, which takes place this week in Barcelona, Spain, drew more than 67,000 attendants in 2012. And while not all of the smartphones shown at MWC make a stateside debut, many of them do get picked up by local carriers.
This means smartphone fans can expect an influx of new phones in the coming months.
But just as we saw with CES releases, there are plenty of bargains to be had if you know when to look for them.
Using the dealnews archives and previous price trends, we tracked the phone deals on last year’s hottest non-Apple handsets in order to estimate how long you’ll have to wait for this year’s crop of models to go on sale. (Note that in all cases, the below examples require a two-year contract.)
Major Android smartphones see deals weeks after debut
Samsung is the reigning champ of the Android market. To date, the company has shipped more than 40 million units of its popular Galaxy S III smartphone. The phone, which made its U.S. debut in June, initially sold for $200. However, we listed the S3 days before its release with a pre-order price of $150. Two months later (and at the height of its popularity), we listed the phone again for $99 — a 50 percent price drop. By November 2012, the phone was being offered free, and we now consistently see it for a penny with Sprint or essentially free with Verizon, if you factor in a gift card at Dell.
Like the S3, the HTC One X (which was unveiled at 2012′s MWC) dropped 60 percent in price just three months after its debut. While we saw no pre-order deals for the One X, the phone’s price gradually decreased until mid-November, when we listed it for a mere penny.
We saw a similar scenario play out with Motorola’s DROID RAZR MAXX. A month after its release, the phone made its dealnews debut at 33 percent off its full retail price. Four months later the DROID RAZR MAXX sank to 50 percent of its original price, and by November it was being offered for free.
While there’s no magic formula that accurately predicts when you’ll see price drops, in the case of the HTC One X and Galaxy S III, both smartphones saw 50 percent price drops just three months after their debuts. (The DROID RAZR MAXX took an additional month to hit the magic 50-percent-off mark.) And if you can wait until November, you’ll likely find many of the year’s most popular smartphones offered for free.
Smartphone deals aren’t exclusive to Android
Proving that smartphone deals aren’t just for Android phones, the Nokia Lumia 900 (which Engadget dubbed Nokia’s Windows Phone messiah) saw the quickest and steepest price cut of any phone in 2012. Days before its release, we listed the phone free from AT&T. In the following months, the phone was even offered with a $100 credit, giving consumers a $100 profit when “purchasing” this free phone.
Other popular Windows phones that experienced similarly steep discounts include the HTC Windows Phone 8X, which hit the $0 mark a month after its release in November (and is now available for a $50 profit at Dell), and the Nokia Lumia 920, which was discounted by 50 percent the day after its release (also in November).
All three Windows phones debuted with a $100 price tag, and in the case of the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Lumia 900, each hit $0 not long after release. The Lumia 920 has yet to be free, but its price was slashed by 50 percent the day after its release, and a month later it fell to 80 percent off.
Wait at least three months before buying
While these are just a handful of phones, the truth is that many popular smartphones are deeply discounted soon after they hit shelves. In the case of Android, you could see 50-percent-off bargains as early as two months. Windows Phone 8 handsets experience faster and more aggressive discounts, potentially hitting the $0 mark mere days after debuting. While many of this month’s announcements may take a while before they debut in the U.S., rest assured that once they do, the deals will be right behind them.