How will supply chain issues affect Black Friday this year? Experts weigh in.

It’s November, you’re shopping early to get ahead, and yet you’ve already been hit with some version of the low stock, backorder, or even out of stock alert. What gives?

The short answer: supply chain shortages. The slightly longer answer is that COVID-19 related factory closures, limited shipping container availability, delays at shipping ports, and a smaller workforce of truck drivers have all contributed to bottlenecks that make getting products from point A to point B much more difficult this year. 

In other words, things are looking scarce out there.


The best Black Friday deals for 2021, all in one place

As for what that means for your holiday shopping, we’re here to give you some clarity in all the chaos. We asked four supply chain analysts to score 25 of the most sought after tech products of this season, based on their anticipated scarcity. We averaged their answers and placed them on a scale of one to ten, with one being the most available and ten portending a difficult shopping road ahead. The result: Mashable’s official Scarcity Score for 2021.

a chart that corresponds to the scarcity score, AKA a visual representation of product availability

Our scoring system runs 1-10: The higher the Scarcity Score, the harder it will be to source the item.
Credit: Mashable

Below, you’ll find the final Scarcity Scores of each product, as well as some shopping tips, so that you can go into yet another unprecedented holiday shopping season feeling as prepared as possible.

How we settled on the scarcity scores

First, who was keeping the score? That’d be analysts from supply chain research firms Canalys, IDC, 3PL Links and IPC

When scoring each item, the analysts considered factors such as the ongoing chipset shortage, what products vendors are prioritizing, the consumer demand for the product, and aspects of the product itself, such as price range. Basically, unlike “normal” shopping years, higher demand on its own does not equal higher scarcity. The scores you’ll find below are the average of each of the four analysts’ responses, which were pretty consistent across the board.

Does a high score mean you’re out of luck? 

Not exactly. You might notice that none of the products below earned a score of 10, indicating that no one item on this list is a complete lost cause. As the Canalys analyst Runar Bjørhovde wrote in an email to Mashable, “It will be very possible to buy devices, it’s more of a question to what cost and when.Meaning that, while yes, you do have a chance at getting the coveted PlayStation 5, even with its score of nine, buying it before the holidays at its actual list price might not happen for you, despite your best efforts. 

“It will be very possible to buy devices, it’s more of a question to what cost and when.”

– Runar Bjørhovde, Canalys research analyst

Our biggest tips for avoiding disappointment this year? Shop early, buy when you see the products you want are in stock (which Google shopping is making easier than ever, btw), and adjust your expectations. Manufacturers will be prioritizing flagship devices (think Apple and iPhone), so expect higher-priced items to be more bountiful and due to limited stock, more affordable products to potentially sell out sooner. Bjørhovde also anticipates less impressive markdowns overall than years past to account for inventory shortages, but of course, we’ll keep you posted on all the best deals that are out there.

Don’t expect supply chain issues to go away soon

In years past, products tend to become more readily available once holiday demand dies down. As much as we’d love to say that this is also a limited time only situation, our analysts unanimously said that they do not see shortages and delays neatly wrapping up by the end of the year.

While Canalys doesn’t expect any new shortages in the next year and the situation is slowly starting to normalize, the incredibly high demand for chipsets, the shrunken labor force at retailers and delivery services, and the overall unpredictability of bottlenecks across several industries mean that we’ll likely see shortages and shipping delays continue well into 2022, and maybe even early 2023.

“It is uncertain how the situation will look in six months, but what we know is that it’s outcome will impact our expectation on electronics markets well into 2023,” Bjørhovde said.

With that, here are the Scarcity Scores for 25 of the hottest products this year:

Credit: Zlata Ivleva / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

People love getting the latest and greatest for gift giving, and with this fall’s iPhone 13 release, the 12 no longer falls in that category. This means the 12 becomes part of that affordable product group that’s likely to sell out quicker. Our advice to shop soon already rings true here  — as of Nov. 12, Verizon is already showing this phone to be on backorder until early December and AT&T has multiple colors out of stock or in limited stock. As for unlocked 12s, at the time of writing there are none available at Amazon (though the purple model should be in stock soon), Walmart, or Best Buy. Best Buy does, however, have some different colors available through Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Read our review of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro.

Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

The new dual-screen phone from Microsoft does have a unique design. What it does not have is a price in an affordable range or a ton of hype around it. What that means for you is that if you’re looking to pick up a Duo 2, you shouldn’t go through too much strife.

Read our review of the Microsoft Surface Duo 2.

Credit: Peloton / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

Fitness products are always a popular holiday gift, and Peloton has certainly faced its own issues with supply chain shortages. With that said, people are also returning to gyms, so the demand for your own indoor bike isn’t nearly as high as it was this time last year. According to Peloton’s website, most delivery times for their basic bike option are under two weeks as of Nov. 10. 

Read our review of the Peloton Bike.

Credit: Zlata Ivleva / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

At a score of 4, you won’t have too much difficulty locating a Galaxy S21. While some models aren’t expected to ship until early December if you order through Samsung’s website, they’re still in stock and ready to ship at Best Buy, though colors are a bit limited, and you’ll have more luck if you’re not buying unlocked. As a precaution, you’ll probably want to get this smartphone in your cart on its way to you as soon as you’re ready to buy to be as sure as possible you’ll have it in time for the holidays.

Read our review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3

Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

The flip phone is back in this Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, and while it is a good phone, its foldable features don’t really justify its existence. So even with the chip shortage, there’s not a wild amount of demand to push this phone into truly scarce territory. At the time of writing, this smartphone was plenty available and ready to ship in a week or less from both Samsung and Best Buy.

Read our review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Credit: Brenda Stolyar / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

Here we have another foldable phone from Samsung that’s perfectly fine, but with quite the starting price at $1,800. Considering the expensive new MacBooks start at only $200 more, we don’t foresee the Galaxy Fold as the tech people will be splurging for this holiday season. So chip shortage or not, you’ll likely be able to face very few obstacles getting this smartphone in time for the holiday. 

Read our review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.

DJI Mini 2 Drone

Credit: DJI / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

Its specs and size make this drone great for beginners and those looking to not spend a ton on a drone. As an Amazon Choice product with over 9,000 reviews that can also be found on the retailer’s holiday gift guide, chances are if someone’s looking for a drone this holiday season this one will be somewhere in the running. However, as compared to similarly priced items like gaming consoles or gift guides, drones aren’t quite as in high demand, so it makes sense that the DJI Mini 2 sits in the middle of the scarcity pack. 

See our picks for the best drones with cameras.

Google Pixel Pro 6

Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

So Google made a really solid smartphone that isn’t insanely priced, at least, as far as smartphones go. While it may not share the buzz of the iPhone 13, its pricing and positive reviews could make it a favored smartphone alternative this holiday season for those not committed to staying in the Apple ecosystem. Similar to the Samsung Galaxy S21, it is in stock at the Google Store and Best Buy, though offerings for unlocked phones and certain colors are a bit more limited at the time of writing. Again, we recommend buying early to avoid potential backordered or out of stock related stress.

Read our review of the Google Pixel 6 and Pro 6.

iRobot Roomba s9+

Credit: iRobot / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

The s9+ cleans like no other robot vacuum out there, but man is it expensive — like $1,300 expensive. Its high rating will certainly make it a popular pick for those willing to splurge this holiday, but its high price will likely curb any insane demand, as there are a bunch of quality budget alternatives.

Read our review of the iRobot Roomba s9+.

Oculus Quest 2

Credit: Zlata Ivleva / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

The Oculus Quest 2 is the VR headset to get because it’s easy to use, actually works well, and doesn’t come with a ludicrous price tag. At the time of writing, it is in stock markup-free at Best Buy, Walmart, and Amazon (where it’s one of the picks for their holiday gift guide). It could very well be a popular alternative to a more scarce Xbox or PlayStation — it was definitely a top pick last holiday season. With that said, this is one of the flagship priority products, so while it may not be a breeze to pick one up at the last minute, you shouldn’t expect shopping for this headset to be too taxing. 

Read our review of the Oculus Quest 2 VR gaming headset.

AirPods 3rd Gen

Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

Much like our feelings on this AirPods upgrade, the scarcity score of Apple’s newest buds is very middle of the line. Waiting until the last minute probably won’t be a surefire way to get them, but they certainly won’t be one of the harder finds of the season. 

Read our review of the third-generation AirPods.

AirPods Pro

Credit: Karissa Bell / Mashable

Why it got this score:

Though there’s a new model of AirPods on the market, they don’t come with active noise cancellation and interchangeable tips like the well-loved Pros, so we expect them to remain a popular pick this year. While you likely won’t have to check retailers daily to snag them, we did already see their price dip early on in the sale season, so being safe about timing and proactive about saving are definitely not at odds with each other.

Read our review of the AirPods Pro.

iRobot Roomba 675

Credit: PCMag / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

This iRobot Roomba is great for keeping small spaces clean and is one of the cheapest WiFi-enabled robot vacs out there. For those unwilling to drop over $1000 on the s9+, this is a solid affordable pick — which is also why it sits firmly in kinda scarce territory. 

See where Roomba 675 falls on our list of the best robot vacuums.

Xbox Series S

Credit: Adam Rosenberg / Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

It may not have the disc drive or the processing power of its Series X counterpart, but it is a whole two points less scarce than its Series X counterpart. While that doesn’t mean you should expect to see this console in stock whenever you look it up (at the time of writing, it is very much out of stock everywhere), it also won’t sell out as fast as the Series X, which means that if you see its available, buy it while you can.

Read more about the Xbox Series S.

iPhone 13

Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable Composite

Why it got this score:

Some delay on new Apple products released right before the holiday season is to be expected even in the best of times. In Apple’s October earnings call, Tim Cook shared that “[t]he iPhone channel inventory ended below the targeted range and is currently below it.” Not even Apple emerges unscathed from the chip shortage, so you’ll definitely want to take that into consideration if you planned on waiting to place an order on the new iPhone.  

Read our review of the iPhone 13.

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