updated 09:15 pm EST, Wed November 17, 2010
Many upgrading their older phones, camcorders
Gazelle, a company that pays cash to reuse and recycle consumer electronics (what they call "ReCommerce"), has issued its 2010 forecast for the holiday season -- based on an analysis of what their customers are trading in -- and finds a trend of upgrading as much as buying new this year. The company predicts breakout sales for set-top boxes like the new Apple TV and Boxee devices, tablet and e-reader devices and significant upgrading to the latest versions of video games, mobile phones and camcorders.
The company buys hundreds of thousands of electronic devices from consumers each year, giving it an extraordinary amount of data on consumer wants (and no-longer-wants). By analyzing the trends of trade-ins, Gazelle can predict the success or failure of new or upgraded products.
Thanks in large part to the revamping of the Apple TV earlier this year, Gazelle finds that the concept has finally entered the mainstream, with many previous Apple TV owners upgrading and consumers also checking out its main competitors, Google TV and the Boxee Box. The company reports a 300 percent increase in trade-ins over last year.
Also high on the gift list are tablet computers and e-readers, both of which also finally came into their own in 2010. The iPad will continue to dominate in the tablet space, the company predicts, but it and competitors like Samsung's Galaxy Tab are being seen less as e-reader replacements and more as lightweight netbook replacements, in part due to significantly improved models of Kobo, Nook and Kindle that have also lowered their starting price points, making them good mid-range gift choices for recreational readers. Netbooks and older-model e-readers, the company reports, saw substantial spikes in trade-ins.
Video games and consoles have seen surprising upticks in popularity as well, particularly for XBox and Playstation -- suggesting that this is the year people with older editions of those consoles have decided to replace them with newer models and the upgraded versions of games, perhaps driven by add-ons like Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Playstation Move. Ironically, the product that introduced the concept of motion-coordinated video games -- Nintendo's Wii -- is likely to do poorly this year, having no breakthrough new products for the line.
Older tape-based and other "standard definition" camcorders are also giving way to smaller, card-based and more portable camcorders like the Flip line of handheld devices, or Apple's own iPod and iPhones which also do HD video. Trades have increased 30 percent in this category, while Gazelle predicts that the latest iPod Touch in particular will prove to be the season's single most popular electronic gadget thanks to its new design and ability to cover many categories of consumer "wants," including music player, camcorder, mobile computer and camera.
On the mobile phone front, the company has seen significant trade-ins on Blackberry devices, suggesting that users are either switching to updated models or abandoning the platform for devices running the latest versions of Android, iOS or even Windows Phone 7.
Among the devices Gazelle believes might prove less popular than predicted this season is the iPhone 4. While continuing to be a popular device, the company believes consumers may hold off on buying one for Christmas in anticipation of a multi-carrier or Verizon version, rumored to be coming early next year. Similarly, Gazelle believes sales of other Verizon smartphones may be affected this season for the same reason.
The company says digital cameras have seen a sharp decline in trades this year, suggesting that other all-in-one devices that include a camera have increased the picture quality to the point where consumers don't feel the need to carry a point-and-shoot dedicated camera with them. Gazelle predicts lower camera sales at all price points and manufacturers this year.
Traditional desktop computers, as well as netbooks, are also on the "unpopular" list, thanks to the rise of "ultraportable" devices like the iPad, Galaxy Tab and MacBook Air. Overall, the company believes Apple will dominate the consumer electronic market for the holidays, with Google's Android and Microsoft's various offering (new Office, Kinect, Windows Phone 7) also contributing to healthy bottom lines for those companies.