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Smartphones top picks for Black Friday

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When the holiday stocking-stuffing season officially kicks off this Friday, tech-savvy US shoppers are in for a treat, as smartphone competitors figure to begin offering special package deals and discounts on those devices.
As they head to retail outlets and shop online on Black Friday, 25 November, and through the holidays, American shoppers may also want to add 4K televisions, tablets and notebook PCs to their wish lists. Due to a variety of market factors, it’s a great time to shop for deals specifically on those types of electronics, according to new analysis from IHS Markit.

All eyes on Samsung
Ever since mid-October, when Samsung Electronics recalled its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones due to their overheating, competitors such as Apple, Sony, Google and LG Electronics have not yet been able to capitalise on Samsung’s perceived weakness with their own offers. However, things may soon be different, bringing good tidings to smartphone shoppers, says Jusy Hong, analyst for IHS Technology.
“While the US smartphone market has shown a definite stagnation for a couple of years, it promises to pick up and Black Friday may mark the start of that turnaround,” Hong says.
Samsung’s Note 7 incident may benefit Apple in a big way. Apple’s iPhone shipments declined from 48 million in Q3 2015 to 45.5 million in the most recent quarter. However, Apple is expected to enjoy strong demand in Q4, partly making up for Samsung’s missteps. The iPhone 7 Plus, the LG V20 and the Google Pixel XL are all high-end, large-screen devices that compete directly in the space vacated by the Note 7.
Still a market leader, Samsung is shifting its efforts to push its existing portfolio in place of the Note 7, says Gerrit Schneeman, senior analyst for IHS Technology.
“The Galaxy S 7/edge devices had successful launches earlier in 2016, and they appear to be refocusing their marketing and production efforts on these devices,” Schneeman says. “Samsung is also bringing some elements of the Note 7 user experience to Galaxy S7 edge devices, trying to use as much of its new user interface on older devices to update them with new functionality.
“Importantly, Samsung has a history of supporting its devices with incentives for buyers,” Schneeman says. “This includes, for example, a Gear VR headset in the purchase package. Such packages are likely to be the focus for the company during the holiday season to drive sales of the Galaxy S7 devices.”

Shoppers A-OK with 4K
There has been talk – and early adoption — of 4K TV technology for some time now, but 2016 was the year 4K hit the mainstream. Also known as Ultra HD, 4K refers to a resolution of 3 840 x 2 160 pixels. That’s four times the 1 920 x 1 080 pixels found in a full HD TV.
According to Paul Gagnon, senior manager with IHS Technology, shipments of 4K TVs more than doubled during 3Q 2016, rising to more than 3.3 million units as manufacturers and retailers gear up for a strong holiday season push. And, just in time for the holidays, shoppers will find 4K to be less expensive and to feature larger screen sizes than ever, Gagnon says.
“IHS Markit is forecasting that in Q4 2016, North America 4K TV average prices will drop by more than 20 percent compared to Q4 2015,” Gagnon says. “This despite a sharp increase in LCD TV panel prices in recent months as Black Friday promotions were negotiated prior to the cost increases.”
As prices continue to fall, the popularity of larger screen sizes continues to rise. The average TV size will grow to nearly 45 inches in Q4 2016, with 55- inch 4K sales expected to be very strong and promotional prices well below $600 for the holidays.

Bargains on tablets, laptops, too
Discerning holiday shoppers in the hunt for tablets should look for strong offerings from two “A” companies: Amazon and Apple.
Amazon’s 7-inch, Fire Tablet is crossing over into stocking stuffer territory for Black Friday at $33. Users who want a larger screen and higher resolution for their Prime movies can pick up a Fire HD8 for just under $60.
Apple may not be launching any new tablets this holiday season but is still poised to lead the market, with discounts of $100 and more available across the Air, Pro, and Mini lineups. The steepest discounts will come on the older products, but for those users waiting for a better price on the Pro, Best Buy is promising a $125 discount on the 9,7-inch models.
According to Rhoda Alexander, analyst for IHS Technology, tablet sales are down year-on year, but Windows-based versions are surging, on track to increase 32% in 2016, thanks to strong demand for detachables.
With an updated Pro 5 reportedly scheduled for launch in early 2017, Microsoft and its retail partners are clearing out existing inventories of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, with discounts as high as $400 on Black Friday.
As for laptops, some of the biggest holiday bargains are going to be on larger, clamshell editions, with HP, Lenovo and Dell all offering sub-$300 deals across a variety of 15,6-inch models. From Acer Chromebooks for $99 to a 15,6-inch MSI gaming notebook and a wide variety of products in between, PC vendors are working to lure smartphone users back to laptops as well as to desktops.