Black Friday Mobile Tech Shopping Guide

Retailers, gadget makers, and consumers alike anxiously wait all year long for a single shopping-palooza of a day: Black Friday. Today will officially kick off the busy holiday shopping season that will last through the end of the year, and it can potentially make or break some companies' fiscal years.

In this day and age, gadgets top the wish lists of kids. Don't just take my word for it, though. Market researcher Nielsen recently released the results of its annual survey on what the youth are yearning for. Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPad tops the list in both age brackets, but perusing the results shows a clear predisposition toward tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, and other mobile gadgetry.

Let's look at the prospects of mobile device vendors and see how they may fare.

Apple
There are two incredibly important products for Apple this holiday shopping season: the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. Both were launched within the past two months and will be incredibly important in driving Apple's financial performance in the fourth quarter. Both devices have also been plagued by supply constraints and are having trouble keeping up with soaring demand, which is a good and bad problem to have.

iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. Source: Apple. Images not shown to scale.

Apple is looking at an all-time record quarter in terms of revenue, guiding to $52 billion in sales up top. Product shortages are easing so investors could have a monster quarter on their hands.

Nokia
Struggling gadget maker Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) has also just launched a pair of new smartphones running Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) new Windows Phone 8 operating system. In the U.S., the company's frontrunners this season will be the Lumia 822 on Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and the Lumia 920 and 820 on AT&T (NYSE: T  ) . The Lumia 920 is the current flagship, and Ma Bell has scored exclusivity on the device for reportedly six months.

Lumia 920. Source: Nokia.

The Lumia family represents Nokia's future, built on Windows Phone, and the company is pricing the higher-end handsets aggressively at $100 on contract. When Lumia launched a year ago, the lineup comprised just 5% of Nokia's smartphone sales. That figure has now risen to a whopping 46% of its smartphone units.

Lumia needs to do well this quarter otherwise investors may call for CEO Stephen Elop's head.

Google and Android
With Android now powering 75% of smartphones sold worldwide, Ice Cream Sandwiches and Jelly Beans may wind up in many a stocking. Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) has dramatically expanded its Nexus brand this year with its Nexus 4, 7, and 10 devices, built by LG, Asus, and Samsung, respectively.

Nexus 4, Nexus 10, and Nexus 7. Source: Google.

These gadgets offer a "pure" Android experience free of third-party modifications from hardware vendors or wireless carriers, which appeals to Android enthusiasts. Beyond Google, Samsung continues to leverage Android with incredible success and is now the top mobile phone vendor in the world. The South Korean company's Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 will probably be hot sellers this season, along with the Nexus 10 that sports an even higher resolution than the iPad with Retina display.

HTC just launched its Droid DNA on Verizon with an incredibly high-resolution screen. The 440 pixels per inch is arguably overkill, but the new smartphone may tempt some Android buyers away from the slightly older Galaxy S3.

Amazon.com
Thanks to Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) aggressive gadget lineup that spans a wide range of price points, its Kindle Fire HD tablets are destined to be a hit this quarter. The e-tailer has now expanded its tablet strategy and started shipping a larger version as well as one equipped with 4G LTE.

8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD. Source: Amazon.

By now, investors know not to expect official unit sales figures from Amazon, but they can expect Amazon to tell them later on that the Kindle Fires were the "No. 1 best-selling item" and that it sold "millions." Of course, the company will also go on to sell many a stocking stuffer, since it is the e-tail king and all.

Microsoft
With its brand-new Surface tablet, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) is hoping to get in on some tablet action this season. However, the device has gotten a lukewarm reception and a "modest start," according to Steve Ballmer. Looking at Nielsen's figures, the Surface ranks pretty low on kids' wish lists, with only 3% of the 13+ age bracket interested in the tablet.

Surface RT. Source: Microsoft.

The company's Xbox 360 remains the top gaming console in the U.S., so it should sell well. For example, last holiday quarter Microsoft saw Xbox 360 unit sales skyrocket over threefold sequentially from 2.3 million to 8.2 million. Gaming consoles are a relatively low-margin, low-unit business though, so Microsoft's financial upside there could be muted.

Mr. Softy does have its fingers crossed that Windows 8 PCs will be a popular gift.

Research In Motion
The Canadian company is most certainly going to be sitting on the sidelines this holiday shopping season. Research In Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) is launching its next-generation BlackBerry 10 operating system in January, right after the festivities die down. The only products that RIM will be offering will be its PlayBook tablet and smartphones running BlackBerry 7, its aging operating system.

PlayBook. Source: RIM.

RIM has been talking up and building BB10 for literally years, so even the most loyal BlackBerry fans that are intent on buying into the new platform are still going to wait until next quarter to do so.

'Tis the season to make or break the bottom line
Of these companies, RIM is bound to do the worst as its major product launch won't be until after the new year. Microsoft and Nokia may fare a little bit better, but their prospects are more uncertain as Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are crawling out the gate.

The big winners this holiday will be Apple, Google, and Amazon. Apple has just upgraded nearly its entire product lineup and expects new products to drive 80% of its record revenue this quarter. Google has an army of OEMs spurring the proliferation of Android along with its own Nexus devices. Amazon simply sells everything under the sun.

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Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 23, 2012, at 11:00 AM, randallo91 wrote:

    I wonder when fool.com will be able to mention Nokia without using a negative adjective like " 'struggling' gadget maker" or " 'beleaguered' mobile phone company" ... my guess is that after the next earnings report they will change their tune to "recovering" or "turnaround company".

  • Report this Comment On November 23, 2012, at 2:33 PM, emuziek wrote:

    Well, what do you expect? Fool.com doesn't own any shares of Nokia - at least according to the disclosure notices. I definitely smell the scent of apples each time I read the posts....

    <<Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Amazon.com, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Amazon.com, Google, Microsoft, and AT&T. ....>>

  • Report this Comment On November 24, 2012, at 1:11 AM, toddhartman1a wrote:

    Another new model available in December is the W30 HD - by Ramos Technology -- a 10 inch tablet for $279 that takes on the Nexus 10 and iPad with equal features at nearly half the price -- and includes the latest Quad Core performance powerhouse, the Samsung Exynos 4212. 1.4 GHz processor; as well as a high resolution, 1920 X 1200 Liquid Crystal screen (comparable to Apple Retina display).

    TabletSprint also offers a nice perk with a FREE 3G/4G 500MB monthly data plan with full internet access/VoIP calling in the U.S., with all tablets they carry --

    Each of these new models offer the latest technology and are worth checking out and comparing to other major brands --

  • Report this Comment On November 24, 2012, at 1:12 AM, toddhartman1a wrote:

    HERE'S A FEW ANDROID TABLET DEALS on new models released in November-- -- One of the first resellers to carry these new tablets is a site called TabletSprint - the Novo 7 Flame 32GB, a 7" Android tablet priced at $189 offers more features than the Nexus 7- which sells for $249... The Novo 7 Flame 32GB includes a 1280x800 High Resolution screen, a powerful Dual Core CPU/1.6 GHz, 32GB Memory, MicroSD portable storage, an HDMI connection to your TV with full 1080p (HD) that's great for movie downloads; Two Cameras - a 5 MegaPixel camera with video recording and AF & Flash and a 2 MegaPixel Webcam; Plus Bluetooth, Ethernet, WiFi and an option for 3G with a USB adapter. There's also a 10-inch version released November 15th -- the Novo 10 Hero for $225. Both these models are made by Ainol Electronics, which received a "Best Tablet of the Year" award at CNET Consumer Electronics Show 2012 --

  • Report this Comment On November 24, 2012, at 1:13 AM, toddhartman1a wrote:

    The Novo 7 Legend also launched this week and is the first quality "$100 TABLET" available from any major brand... with many of the same features as the higher end Novo 7 Flame -- TabletSprint also offers in December two new tablets with 3G Wireless built in -- the Pipo 763... a 7" Android tablet for $199, and the Pipo M8 for $279, a higher-end, full size 9.4 inch model with a 1280x800 high resolution screen along with GPS & Bluetooth.

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