Being engrossed in the world of tech can prove to be an expensive pastime, but it doesn’t have to be. Sure, some enthusiast products will always be a little pricey, but a few must-have gadgets are super easy to find discounted — so much so that you should think twice before paying full price for them.
We’ve all be there before: getting price-gouged for a set of throwaway earbuds at the supermarket, or paying extra because you waited until the last minute to buy all of the tech you need to stay occupied on a long flight. That sort of thing just happens sometimes, if not to you, then to someone close to you. The items below consist of a mix of cheaper alternatives to more expensive products and products that are commonly available for less than their suggested retail price.
Sony’s noise-canceling 1000X M3s, and Apple’s AirPods aren’t likely to budge in price, but if you aren’t after the latest or most popular headphone models, the selection of more affordable headphones is packed with decent options — no matter the form factor you’re looking for.
Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge
Looking for USB-C / Lightning headphones?
2018 brought along something that 2017 desperately needed: good, cheap USB-C headphones. Both OnePlus and Google made respectable efforts with wired headphones that can plug into your phone’s USB-C charging port for far less than $50.
Moving away from USB-C to the Lightning port found in iPhones, and Apple’s own Lightning EarPods included with each iPhone (and available for $30) are still the best, cheapest option for iOS users.
Of course, if you’re one of the lucky ones whose smartphone has a 3.5mm headphone jack, finding a cheap set of headphones is simple. These Panasonic earbuds review favorably at Amazon and usually cost less than $10.
Looking for cheap noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones?
If you’re serious about sound quality and best-in-class noise cancellation, you can expect to pay a lot for headphones. But hope isn’t lost if you want over-ear Bluetooth headphones that merely check the boxes for a price that’s far easier to digest. For a bit less than $70, TaoTronics’ noise-canceling headphones are wireless and boast 30 hours of battery life. As is true for most things (especially so for tech), you get what you pay for, so don’t expect stellar sound or comfort that rivals more expensive options.
SD / microSD cards
Flash storage is probably the tech category that sees a discount most commonly, and the price drops can be steep. If you’re after a full-sized SD or microSD card, you’ll get an amazing value if you buy online versus at your local retailer. For instance, the same $20 or so paid for a 64GB microSD card (for your Nintendo Switch, Chromebook, tablet, or Android phone) at a brick-and-mortar store could get you a 128GB model online. The rule holds true no matter what capacity you’re after. You’ll just pay far less online.
In the case of SD cards, or any sort of storage, you owe it to yourself to buy before you absolutely need it, so that you have it when the time calls. You can always hook up a family member or friend with extra storage if you find yourself having more than you need. We won’t tell if you re-gift some storage around the holidays, either.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Cables for your smartphone, computer, or camera see the highest mortality rate of all tech. You rely heavily on them, they go everywhere with you, and they’re unfortunately pretty fragile. If you lose a cable or it breaks, it can be expensive to replace, but not if you’re already prepared with a replacement.
Braided USB-C and Lightning cables are more durable than those covered in a standard rubberized wrapping. They can withstand more abuse from sharp objects or just being twisted up in your bag, and strangely, they are usually cheaper than a replacement from your device’s original manufacturer. Anker makes both USB-C (Android, some Windows and macOS laptops, 2018 and newer iPad Pros) and Lightning (iPhones, iPads) that are affordable and durable. If you have a Surface, there’s no reason to pay upwards to $80 for Microsoft’s official USB-C adapter: you can pick up a cheap USB-C cable with a Surface Connector attached for less than $20.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Whether you’re away from a power outlet on the bus or on vacation, you don’t want to run out of battery. Investing in a portable battery pack can help you keep your devices topped off, and if you buy one with enough capacity, you can keep someone else’s stuff charged, as well. FAA regulations put restrictions on the watt-hours (Wh) of battery packs, and it caps out at 160Wh per battery in a carry-on at the time of writing. To give some perspective, even RavPower’s huge 26,800mAh pack (pictured above) with USB-C Power Delivery that’s suited for fast charging your USB-C phone, laptop, and the Nintendo Switch falls well below that mark. If you want something smaller and slimmer, check out Anker’s PowerCore Slim battery.
These batteries go on sale frequently. And in terms of value and features, they are almost guaranteed to beat whatever you have access to at a moment’s notice when you’re desperate for a charge.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales
The gap between affordable midrange smartphones and expensive flagship options has been closing, and 2018 made that more apparent than ever. Whether high-end phones are worth their raising prices depends on who you ask, but you certainly don’t need to spend a lot to get a good phone.
If you want the best specs in a smartphone, the OnePlus 6T is currently the phone to beat. Starting at $549 unlocked, it’s the price to beat for a flagship phone, too. It boasts the modern Snapdragon 845 chipset, 8GB of RAM, and sports an in-display fingerprint sensor, all of which are features commonly found in phones that cost hundreds more. The OnePlus 6 is $429 and is largely the same as the 6T, and it may be a more appealing option if you can settle with slightly less RAM and don’t need Verizon compatibility. In addition to a nice price drop, there’s a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and 3.5mm headphone jack in this model.
But if that’s even too much, our recommendation for less than $250 goes to the Moto G6. The OnePlus 6T works with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, though if you’re looking for broader compatibility, the Moto G6 works with all carriers in the US. Moto’s budget-friendly phone doesn’t put up anything close to the numbers that the OnePlus 6T can, but in the case of its price, $250 (less, if you’re a Prime member) just can’t be beat.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.