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This week’s best deals on phones, tabs, wearables, and accessories: September 28 – October 4

Have you had enough of the shameless iPhone 6s and 6s Plus marketing propaganda, revolving around 3D Touch “breakthroughs”, “7000 series” aluminum, and the sales records Apple will inevitably crush if we don’t properly do our jobs of recruiting iFans onto the “dark side” before it’s too late?

Deals

You’re not seriously going to fall for the avalanche of build quality-lauding drop, bend and even water immersion tests, are you? Clearly, you can’t take Cupertino’s flagships for a swim, and the fact they don’t curve under mild pressure is hardly a selling point.

As far as robustness go, we know a dozen Android-powered handhelds made of metal that probably resist free falls and contacts with tough surfaces at least as well as the new iPhones, and some cost half as much. Don’t get us started on the countless super-affordable iPad rivals, or the Apple Watch “killers” that will soon support iOS if you really must own one of those.

Without further ado, here’s another installment in our never-ending weekly deal saga:

This week’s top smartphone bargains

 

Samsung Galaxy S6 – $530 factory unlocked blue topaz; $534 white pearl

Galaxy S6 blue

You know the drill. We’re going to keep recommending a member or two of the S6 – S6 Edge – Edge Plus – Note 5 quadrumvirate every week until you all make up your mind, the Galaxy S7 comes out, or Samsung stops discounting these models. Whichever comes first.

A halt to price trims? It’s not very close-by, as the standard GS6 used to cost $650 three or four months back, and gradually dropped ever since. Any chance of seeing it go below the $500 mark? It’s all possible with Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the horizon, but a Marshmallow software update could help the non-edgy, non-phablet powerhouse stay in the limelight.

Samsung Galaxy J5 – $218.99

The humble J1 wasn’t the greatest family pioneer in history, and the J5 sits miles behind the Note 5 on the Galaxy totem pole, yet at 220 bucks, it’s not half bad. It’s got 5.1 Lollipop goodies pre-installed, a quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor under the hood, 1.5 gigs of RAM, a 13 megapixel camera around the back, and get this, a 5 MP selfie shooter equipped with LED flash, always ready to light up your face.

Asus ZenFone 2 Laser – $233

asus_zenfone_2_laser

Everybody loves the 4 GB RAM configuration! But this photography-centric 2 gig version, with the same arched design, LG-homaging rear controls, 5.5-inch 720p display, octa-core SD615 chip and, most importantly, laser autofocus camera, offers pretty remarkable bang for your buck too.

Oh, and did we mention you also receive 4G LTE connectivity for US GSM networks (including AT&T and T-Mobile) for less than $250? How cool is that?

Sony Xperia Z3 – $459

Now that it’s becoming clearer and clearer 4K resolution is a gimmick on a screen smaller than, well, 15 inches, are you ready to give the Z5 Premium and Z5 the cold shoulder, admit the Z4 doesn’t exist, and settle for the Z3?

It’s relatively inexpensive, waterproof (to a certain extent), a multitasking champ, courtesy of 3 GB memory, not to mention an excellent choice for shutterbugs, with a 20.7 MP main cam in tow.

LG G Flex 2 – $49.99 with Sprint pacts

LG G Flex 2

We don’t often speak highly of on-contract phones, but when you can skip a less-than-extravagant dinner in town for two, and score a curved Snapdragon 810 beast with the savings, it’s worth we bend our rules a little. Remember, LGs are microSD-expandable, so storage isn’t a problem, and the 13 MP rear camera on the G Flex 2 sports a dual LED flash system, OIS, and laser autofocus. A-mazing!

Tablet deals and steals

 

Google Nexus 9 – $318 with 16 GB internal storage space; $340 in 32 GB config

Nexus 9

They say the search giant’s glamorous press event tomorrow won’t be about any new stock Android-running tablets, but do you really want to risk losing the N9 to a prospective N8? There’s no telling when Big G will pull the plug on the HTC-manufactured 9 incher, which reportedly didn’t do so well at the box-office.

Get it while you still can therefore, and while it’s accessible to the masses, super-high-res panel, Tegra K1 SoC, 8 MP cam and all.

Nexus 7 2013 – $149

Why in the world would anyone purchase a slate over two years old, with an ancient Snapdragon S4 Pro processor onboard, and a price tag three times as exorbitant as the newest Fire 7? One word – Marshmallow.

Asus MeMo Pad 8 ME181CX-A1 – $99.99

It’s no ZenPad S, it’s stuck on KitKat, it looks… humdrum, and the cameras are crappy, but it’s larger than your typical sub-$100 7 incher, can accommodate 16 GB data internally, another 64 via a microSD card, and it’s no slouch, with Intel inside.

Toshiba Excite Go – $64

Toshiba Excite Go

The Japanese OEM is far from a household name in the business, the Excite Go is archaic and outdated, and the specs almost couldn’t be worse. But at a little over 60 clams, this remains a decent $50 Fire alternative for those who simply can’t make peace with Amazon’s Google-rejecting ecosystem.

Low-cost wearable recommendations for the week

 

Microsoft Band – starting at $137

Normally listed at $200, the cross-platform (Android, iOS and Microsoft) fitness tracker is awaiting for a sequel, and fluctuating of late between $100 and $180. There’s no question the wrist-worn gadget is a must-buy at $99.99, while for $137, it’s… reasonable.

Microsoft Band

Strongest points? A sharp 1.4-inch TFT display, built-in GPS, and wide array of sensors, from ambient light to skin temperature and UV. Fatal flaws? Design, comfort (or lack thereof), plus battery life.

Pebble Time Round – $249.99

Finally, a Pebble released directly on Amazon instead of Kickstarter. Alas, merely pre-orders are open now, with deliveries underway November 10. Slimmer, sleeker and, well, rounder than the Time and Time Steel, this bad boy compromises on autonomy and liquid protection. It’s also too “bezelicious” for some. But it’s circular. And it weighs 28 (!!!) grams.

Garmin Vivoactive – $199 without heart rate monitor

Garmin Vivoactive

Yes, the HR-bundled variant is more convenient and functional for hardcore sports users, but it’s $100 pricier as well. Meanwhile, this sub-$200 contraption “only” vows to monitor your runs, walks, swims and various other specific athletic endeavors, lasting up to three weeks on a charge with a high-res, sunlight-readable, color touchscreen display.

Huawei Watch – $350 and up

Low-cost? Not even close. Recommended? Highly, for fashionistas first and foremost, and Android and Apple enthusiasts alike. No, the Huawei Watch hasn’t shaved a dime off its MSRP following the recent public announcement, but if you hurry, you might actually receive it before long, given it’s in stock at last on Amazon.

Pivotal Living Tracker 1 (second generation) – $15

Pivotal Living Tracker 1

Little more than a glorified pedometer, the “smart” band looks a little awkward, may act out from time to time, and break easily. But if it does, you can simply skip breakfast one day, and buy another unit. It’s that cheap.

Mobile accessories on the cheap

 

Samsung wireless charging pad – $39.93 (60 percent off)

Samsung wireless charging pad

It’s not the “fast” type, but it’ll help you get rid of (a few) cables, requiring just one. And a Qi-certified handheld, like the S6, S6 Edge, Edge+, Note 5, Note 4, Note Edge, Note 3, S5 or S4.

Vtin Dew Bluetooth wireless headphones – $19.99

They didn’t make our recent list of best earbuds available today, but a sizzling hot discount puts them on our radar, where they deserve to be also thanks to their comfort-focused design, resistance to sweat, 5-hour talk/play time stamina, and 12-month worry-free manufacturer guarantee.

Braven BRV-1 wireless Bluetooth speaker – $69.99

What can we say about this muscular audio player? It’s universally compatible, of course, protected from rainfall, water jets, splashing and even immersion, capable of delivering 3-watt sound, absorbing outside shocks, and rocking on for up to 12 hours continuously.