With the rising costs of living putting a strain on many families – not to mention the Feds’ huge rate hike (to curb inflation) that will likely affect your credit card and mortgage payments – Americans are looking for ways to save.
In fact, Google Search says there was a huge spike for words like “cheap” and affordable” over the past few months, which reached its peak in June (so far), confirmed Colette Garcia, Global Communications and Public Affairs, Search at Google, in an email to USA TODAY.
And with gas prices up to a record $5/gallon (on average) across the country, it’s no surprise Google also says there has been a jump in search queries tied to electric vehicles (EVs).
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Speaking of tech, those who still want to treat themselves or loved ones – perhaps as a gift for dads and grads this month – need not break the bank on premium products to have a premium experience.
That is, you might not hear much about inexpensive gadgets, but they exist, and often, without much compromise.
“As consumers feel the effects of inflation in fuel and food, they are likely to look for bargains in discretionary tech purchases,” confirms Avi Greengart, president and lead analyst at Techsponential, a firm that offers research and advisory services to technology companies and retailers. “The good news is that there are deals to be had, especially in televisions and smartphones.”
The following are five such examples of “best bang for your buck” tech items.
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The only thing better than snagging a powerful smart speaker for $38 is when a smart light bulb is included in the price.
Such is the case with the all-new Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen), bundled with the Wi-Fi-enabled LIFX Smart Bulb.
Use your voice to summon Alexa, your personal assistant, to control your lights and other smart home gear (like Wi-Fi thermostats), stream music and podcasts, shop online, set alarms or request info like weather, news and sports scores. (While you can do it, you may not want to ask for stock prices until the market rebounds!).
Unlike some other smart lights, this dimmable LIFX bulb does not require a bridge or hub.
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Smart phone, smart price
For only $258, the just-announced TCL Stylus 5G is a fraction of the cost of many premium smartphones, yet manages to impress for its deep feature set.
The 6.8-inch Android phone features a 50-megapixel AI-Quad camera, 13-megapixel front-facing camera and up to 26 hours of talk time.
“TCL’s Stylus 5G has a 5G chipset from MediaTek, a large display and software features for note-taking and drawing,” confirms Greengart. As the name of the product suggests, it also ships with a stylus pen.
“Are there compromises to hit that price point? Of course, there are [as] this isn’t a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, but the Stylus 5G offers a lot of productivity for $1,000 less.”
Thanks for the memory
Starting at only $11 (for 32 gigabytes), the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Luxe USB Type-C is a tiny storage solution that lets you easily move files between your USB Type-C smartphone, tablets and Macs and USB Type-A computers.
The swivel design lets you choose between the USB-A and USB-C connector.
With capacity up to 1 terabyte, the all-metal Ultra Dual Drive Luxe USB can be easily clipped to a keyring to keep it convenient, wherever you go this summer.
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File transfer is fast, thanks to USB 3.1 Gen 1 performance with 150MB/s read speeds.
When plugged into an Android phone, the free SanDisk Memory Zone app automatically backs up photos and videos, as well as music, documents and contacts.
(iPhone users, on the other hand, could pick up the iXpand Flash Drive, starting at $16 for 32GB, which has a Lightning connector on one end.)
Don’t want to spend $179 on AirPods or don’t like the look of the white stems sticking out of your ears? (Or maybe they just won’t stay in your ears, period?)
For music lovers on a budget, NexiGo’s Air T2 earbuds ($69) are a pair of ultra-thin, lightweight and truly wireless earbuds.
Available in black, silver or rose gold, they deliver a comfortable fit, surprisingly powerful audio (with 13mm drivers) and four embedded microphones for clearer voice calls.
While they lack powerful active noise cancellation (ANC) technology – instead, it has CVC (“clear voice capture”) noise reduction tied more to phone calls — you can’t beat the price, especially given the impressive design and sound.
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Battery lasts up to 7 hours per charge and up to 28 hours with charging case.
“As the supply chain limitations on computer chips slowly eases and crypto mining is less profitable, it should also be much easier to find game consoles and PC graphics cards at regular retail prices,” says Greengart.
“However, for a real bargain, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass allows you to play games on PCs and even Samsung Smart TVs – just add a controller.”
Rather than paying $60 or $70 for each new video game, Xbox Game Pass is a $9.99/month subscription service that lets you play more than 100 high-quality games on Xbox, Windows PC or select Samsung Smart TVs (no console required) or $14.99/month for an “Ultimate” plan (both platforms).
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Follow Marc on Twitter @marc_saltzman for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out” podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Affordable tech: Phones, earbuds, more gear that won’t break the bank