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Five High-Tech Items that Will Cost You More in 2012

Watch out: Cameras, hard drives, PCs, and mobile data will all cost more in 2012.

Every day, stories appear about a price drop for this or that tech gadget. As a result, consumers have a tendency to delay spending. After all, why buy something today that will be cheaper tomorrow?

That won't be the case for everything in 2012, though. Here is a list of tech products and services whose prices are expected to rise in the coming months. If you're shopping for any of them, you might want to buy sooner rather than later.

Digital Cameras

Smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone 4S and the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide (which won out as the best smartphone camera in our tests last year), are eating into the low end of the digital camera market. Numbers for the digital point-and-shoot camera market were down 17 percent in units and 18 percent in dollars for the first 11 months of 2011, according to the NPD Group.

By contrast, during the same period, digital cameras with detachable lenses saw a 12 percent increase in units shipped, and an 11 percent bump up in dollars. More expensive point-and-shoot cameras with large zooms also saw increases during the time frame--16 percent in units shipped and 10 percent in dollars.

Camera makers can see the handwriting on the wall. They're going to be adding features and pumping up the quality of their new cameras, and you can expect all of that to translate into higher camera prices in the coming months.

[Read: CES 2012 Camera and Camcorder Trends: Connected, Compact, and Complex]

Hard Drives

The price of storage has shown a nice, steady decline in the past, but not this year.

Flooding of historic proportions in Thailand last year has disrupted the hard-drive supply chain. Thailand accounts for up to 45 percent of worldwide hard-drive production, and the flooding has damaged more than a dozen hard-drive factories, according to market research firm IDC.

Bargain-hunting site DealNews.com says that the flooding has forced some retailers to ration hard-drive-based products over the past year--and that has reduced the number of discounts that merchants can offer on hard-drive products. DealNews predicts that hard-drive shortages will continue throughout the first quarter of 2012. IDC, however, anticipates that hard-drive prices will stabilize by June, and that the industry should return to normal by the second half of the year.

Desktop Computers

Two factors will contribute to higher prices for desktop computers in 2012.

Climbing hard-drive prices, of course, are in turn raising the prices of PCs. According to high-tech market watcher Gartner, PC makers will be unable to absorb the higher cost of hard drives, and will be passing that cost on to consumers. IDC agrees: PC prices may rise as a result of the prolonged and substantial effects of the flooding, says Loren Loverde, IDC vice president. Hard drives constitute about 7 percent to 10 percent of the total cost of a PC, Loverde notes. Gartner predicts that desktops will be the first to succumb to the upward price pressure, followed by laptops.

Along with the hard-drive trend, design changes will fire up prices. More all-in-one desktops will enter the market, and many will have touchscreens, which are more expensive to produce than traditional hands-off displays, according to NPD, which predicts a 30 percent increase in the average price of a PC.

Mobile-Device Data Plans

Although the rollout of faster data-delivery technologies usually depresses the cost of data plans for consumers, in 4G's case that development will be offset by wireless carriers' movement away from unlimited data plans, according to DealNews.

Verizon, for instance, has been busy building out its wireless 4G LTE network over the past 12 months. Not surprisingly, earlier this summer it announced that it was killing its unlimited data plan in favor of a tiered pricing model with data caps. AT&T also announced similar plans. The result? Many consumers will be paying more for their mobile data this year, especially heavy users.

[Read: Wireless Data Caps: Will They Really Cost You More?]

Shipping

If you plan to buy anything on the Internet, you can expect delivery to cost more. Postal rates are scheduled to climb 4.6 percent in 2012--provided that the Postal Service is still around to raise them. Reports also indicate that both Federal Express and UPS will be jacking up their rates on small packages by 4.9 percent.

Online shopping is growing in popularity (up 15 percent in the past year, according to ComScore). If you intend to shop for gifts on the Web this year, you might want to budget some extra shipping costs into your budget.

[Read: Six Tech Bargains for 2012]

(Reporter Agam Shah of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.)

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.


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