Getting the timing wrong on a pricey tech purchase can be maddening. Buying a gadget only to have the new model come out a few weeks later seems so unfair. So we're going to give you an up-to-date look at what technology is and isn't ripe for the picking.
WINDOWS: Wait Until Fall
New laptops with Intel's brand-spanking Ivy Bridge processors will come out this fall. They'll run faster and have better battery lives. In addition, Windows 8, the new operating system from Microsoft is rumored to be releasing in October and will come pre-loaded on all new PCs. It's much easier and cheaper to get a new laptop with the OS already installed, rather than upgrading from an older operating system, so wait on this purchase.
MAC: Buy Now or Wait Until July
The Macbook Air and Macbook Pro lines were updated June 11th with faster Ivy Bridge processors and starting prices of $999 and $1199 respectively. Apple also introduced a new Macbook Pro with an eye-popping screen. The Retina Display Macbook boasts 2880 X 1880 resolution, as well as new quad Core I7 Ivy Bridge processors and a starting price tag of $2199. Apple will be releasing a new operating system in July called Mountain Lion, so while any Macbooks purchased now will get a free upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion, it might be easier just to wait and have them install it for you. One other reason to buy now: Apple products only go on sale for one day a year — the Friday after Thanksgiving, and that's usually only a 10% discount — so waiting (unless you buy that day) won't save you any money.
TVs: Wait Until Fall or After The Holidays
TVs are incredibly seasonal. New models debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, arrive in stores during the summer, and begin the discount process on Black Friday in the fall. Historically, prices are lowest right before Christmas and right after the Superbowl. This year, there are no major innovations in play. At CES, I saw 4K, high-resolution screens, but there isn't much content available to watch at that resolution yet. Next feature development: 3D without glasses. Unfortunately it was spotty at best and not something I recommend. Finally: advances in remote controls; basically gesture control to change channels by waving your hands around. None of those features will really motivate buyers, so manufacturers and retailers will be incentivizing us to buy with slashed prices and discounts. Hold out as long as you can.
If the rumors are right, a new iPhone will debut this fall. It will certainly have a better processor, better camera, and faster connectivity. It will probably have a bigger screen that is probably a higher resolution. One thing is certain: since the iPhone 4s was only a refresh of the phone's innards, the iPhone 5 will have significant design changes and mark a substantial overhaul of the product line.
[Related: iPhone5: Worth Waiting For?]
Android Phones: Buy Now
Since there are so many manufacturers of Android phones, a new one is always coming out. Recent debuts include the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy 3. They run the newest version of Android, called Ice Cream Sandwich, and no major innovations in Android phones are expected anytime soon.
Windows Phone: Wait for the Next Operating System
Windows phones like the Nokia Lumia 900 for $99 have had very positive reviews. I generally like the phones, and the price is incredible. But there's one problem. Microsoft will reportedly release a new version of the Windows Phone Operating System later this fall. Current phones running the code-named Mango version of Win Phone won't be able to upgrade to the new "Apollo" OS. So any new features or improvements that come out won't be available for current Win Phone owners.
iPad Buy Now
The iPad 3 (officially just called "the new iPad") debuted in March. It won't get a refresh until at least next spring. If it goes on sale at all, it will be a 10% discount on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
[Related: The New iPad: Is it Worth the Money?]
Android Tablets: Wait until End of June
Android tablets haven't seen a lot of iterations over the past few months, but rumors are emerging from a show in Taiwan last week that ASUS and Google will be launching a Nexus Tablet by the end of June. Speculations are that this will have a 7-inch screen and a price tag under $250 to compete with the Kindle Fire.
Kindle Fire: Wait until the Fall
At $199, it's hard to imagine a better time to buy the Kindle Fire, but hold on. The device from Amazon came out last winter, just in time for the Holiday gift-buying season. It looked suspiciously like the ill-fated Blackberry playbook, and I postulate that it was rushed to market with a cannibalized design. I fully anticipate a significant refresh of the device, and knowing Amazon, they will keep the price under $250 — especially if Google and Asus are rolling out some 7-inch competition.
Special thanks to the kind folks at Felipe's Market, Sunnyvale.