Time to bid goodbye to 2011, as exciting a year in technology as any I can remember. Last week I told you about my favorite products of the year; now let’s talk about the technology trends that helped make it so memorable. Cheap Tablets
I’ll remember 2011 as the year you no longer had to pay a minimum of $500 for a tablet. Witness the blazing success of Amazon‘s $199 Kindle Fire, which proves that not everybody needs or wants a 10-inch tablet (the Fire is a 7-incher)–but plenty of people want a tablet that’s affordable.
Indeed, thank the Fire for helping spark a tablet-pricing free-fall. Over the past couple months, I’ve seen 10-inch models from the likes of Acer, Motorola, Samsung and Toshiba selling for as low as $250 (though those were mostly refurbished units). And you can routinely pick up the 7-inch Lenovo IdeaPad A1 for $200. It will be interesting to see how much longer Apple can cling to the $500-and-up price point for its iPads.
The big news on Black Friday came from Best Buy, which offered a Sharp 42-inch LCD HDTV for just $199.99. Granted, supplies were very limited, and you had to camp out for even the slight chance of scoring one. But the deal reflected one of the big trends of 2011: cheap TVs.
During the last couple months, I routinely saw 46-inch models dip below $500, 42-inchers in the $350 range, and 32-inchers priced at $200. Needless to say, 2011 was a very good year to buy a new TV. Will the trend continue in 2012? You never can tell. Just look at hard drive prices, which skyrocketed seemingly overnight after flooding in Thailand caused shortages. (That gets my vote for worst trend of 2011.)
Discount Smartphone Carriers
Tired of being gouged $70, $80, even $100 per month for your smartphone? Finally, you have alternatives. Virgin Mobile was already undercutting the competition with contract-free plans starting at $35, and this year raised the ante by adding the comparatively powerful Motorola Triumph to its smartphone lineup. (Find out why I called it the best no-contract smartphone you can buy.)
But the big news came from Republic Wireless, an upstart start-up offering an LG Optimus S Android phone for $199, plus $19 per month for unlimited voice, data, and texting. And that’s without a contract, folks. The only “catch” is that the phone makes calls over Wi-Fi whenever possible. Read more about this incredible deal over at CNET.
In 2012, the big-four carriers may face even more low-cost competition from the likes of FreedomPop, a start-up promising free 4G service. Will there be strings attached? Almost certainly, but hopefully these little guys will force the big guys to lower their astronomical rates.
All you do is start your shopping at one of these rebate portals, click through to the store you want, then buy like usual. In return, you’ll get back a few percentage points–and sometimes more than a few–in the form of cold, hard cash. (Well, a cold, hard check or PayPal deposit, anyway.) If you shop online a lot, this can really add up.
Well, that wraps it up for the Tech-pert in 2011. I wish you all a safe, happy, and healthy new year, and look forward to seeing you back here in 2012!
What were some of your favorite technology trends of 2011? What possible trends are you hoping for in 2012? Share your insights with us in the comments!
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, “How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.” Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.