Is the price of gadgets rising? Seven inflation-busting tips

Smartphone prices have risen sharply in the UK  (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Smartphone prices have risen sharply in the UK (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Inflation has hit record highs in the UK and the price we are paying for technology goods is rising sharply, too.

Take Apple’s latest iPhone as an example. The latest iPhone 14 Pro costs £1,099 in the UK, a jump from £949 for the iPhone 13 Pro last year. Yet the price of the two models has remained the same in the US.

Figures from international analyst firm IDC show that the average price of smartphones in the UK has risen by 16 per cent year-on-year, and by 13 per cent in the last quarter alone. And, while the average price of laptops has started falling in the US, they continue to rise here.

IDC’s Francisco Jeronimo, associate vice president of devices, puts the soaring cost of tech down to the weak pound. “The exchange rate is making a much bigger impact than inflation,” he said, noting that the big tech companies often set their prices in dollars and then set prices in international markets accordingly.

Jeronimo says there’s no sign of tech prices coming down in the UK anytime soon. “Some people will probably postpone replacement of phones, laptops, and PCs in the coming quarters,” he predicted. “The situation is much worse than we were expecting three months ago.”

Of course, it’s not only consumers who might not be able to afford that new iPhone, but small business owners and freelancers who need to replenish kit for work and don’t have huge IT budgets in the first place.

If you can’t afford to meet the soaring prices of new tech, but still need to replace ageing phones, laptops, or other tech, here is our guide to keeping the cost of your tech purchases down.

Lock in phone prices

Buying phones on a contract is almost always more expensive than buying phone and data separately. That’s even more likely to be the case now that networks are cranking up prices mid-contract in line with inflation.

Three, for example, has recently changed its policy. Instead of applying a flat 4.5 per cent price increase each year, its latest terms and conditions state that: “Each April, your Monthly Charge will increase by an amount up to the December CPI Rate, published in January of that year, plus 3.9 per cent.”

Given that rate CPI rate is currently more than 10per cent, customers could be facing annual price rises beyond 15 per cent.

You can avoid much of this cost by buying the handset outright and purchasing voice/data on a monthly pay-as-you-go deal. If the network decides to put up the price, switching to a cheaper competitor is relatively simple and you’re not locked in.

Fix prices for the long term

If you buy Microsoft 365 Family (what used to be Microsoft Office 365) directly from Microsoft, you’ll be paying £80 per year. However, there are even better long-term deals to be had elsewhere.

On Amazon, you can buy 15 months of Microsoft 365 Family, with security software thrown in, for only £75. If you’re willing to commit for 27 months, you can get that for £160, which is around £6 per month. It’s highly unlikely to get any cheaper than that over the next couple of years and it will protect you against any price rises coming down the line.

To activate the subscription, all you have to do is enter a code that Amazon emails to you on Microsoft’s website. It’s very simple and you can use those codes to extend an existing subscription, too.

Look for long-term financing

It won’t save you money directly but, with inflation showing no sign of slowing, long-term, interest-free financing might make it more economical to buy now rather than wait.

For example, John Lewis offers up to two years of interest-free credit on Apple goods, unlike Apple itself, which offers financing through either Barclays or PayPal, with an interest rate of 14.9 per cent.

Amazon has also started allowing you to pay for goods in interest-free instalments. When you’re shopping on the site, look for the option to pay in monthly instalments, directly under the full price. This allows you to spread out payments across five months.

Even on interest-free deals, such as the two above, make sure you can afford to make the repayments, or you could face hefty penalty charges and damage your credit rating.

Buy refurbished kit

People often look down their noses at refurbished kit – devices that have been returned to the retailer and reconditioned – but it’s often a good way to buy pristine hardware at a discounted price.

Apple’s certified refurbished store offers Macs, iPads, iPhones, and other devices at discounted prices, for example £280 off a 14in MacBook Pro. The hardware is normally flawless, it comes with the same one-year warranty as completely new gear, and you can add on extras such as AppleCare.

Amazon Renewed is similar, but offers a much wider range of products. Again, there’s a one-year warranty on all products and there are decent discounts to be had.

Buy as the new generation launches

If you’re not too bothered about having the bleeding-edge technology, big discounts often swing in when the latest versions of products are launched.

When Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch 5 in September, for example, I picked up a Galaxy Watch 4 for £165 – just under half the price of the new model, which isn’t blisteringly better.

Refreshes on devices such as iPhones, tablets, and laptops tend to happen at the same time every year, so watch the tech news and then look for deals on earlier models.

Set alerts for discounts

Online prices fluctuate like the wind. If there’s equipment you want to buy, but you’re not in a desperate hurry, set alerts to inform you when the price drops.

The curiously named camelcamelcamel is good at keeping tabs on Amazon’s ever-changing prices. Enter the name of the item you want to buy and you can not only check its price history (to get a feel for how low it might go again) but set an email alert, meaning you’ll get a message when the item drops below the price you set.

However, my attempt to transfer my Amazon Wishlist failed, and further exploration told me that the site is unable to fulfil this function outside the US.

Haggle when contracts end

Don’t just accept price rises as if they’re inevitable, especially when contracts are nearing their end.

In the past year alone, I’ve scraped £10 a month off my broadband bill, more than £20 a month off my Adobe Creative Cloud software package, and £5 per month off my Sky Now TV subscription - all without losing any speed/software/channels.

When you’re entering the final month of a contract, always log into your account online and find the option to cancel your deal. Almost without fail, companies will offer you a discount to remain with them. If not, ring the customer-support line and speak to the customer-retention department.