Note: This article has been update to reflect additional deals. Our take so far is that while there are some specials, if you're looking for amazing deals on electronics today's sales pale in comparison to the three-day Black Friday shopping period. Plus with Amazon, it's a lot of work keeping up with limited-duration Lightning deals.—JW

Can't wait four months for Black Friday? Two of the country's biggest retailers, Amazon and Walmart, feel the same way, and they are facing off tomorrow with massive, mid-July online shopping events. Both Amazon Prime Day, which offers special sales only for Amazon Prime members, and Walmart's online sale day, which features pricing "rollbacks" on numerous items, will cover a number of product categories, including electronics, home, baby merchandise, and toys.

Amazon started promoting its sale a week ago when it announced Amazon Prime Day for July 15, ostensibly to commemorate the company's 20th anniversary. Tomorrow, special offers will be available only to Prime members who pay a $99 a year for its free two-day shipping service, which also includes access to the company's Prime streaming video and music services. Amazon promises its Prime Day sales will be bigger than what consumers find on Thanksgiving weekend's Black Friday, and that new deals will be unveiled every 10 minutes. The event, which will feature seven bigger "Deals of the Day" and numerous time-limited "Lightning Deals," kicks off at midnight tonight Pacific Standard Time (3 a.m. E.S.T.) and expires at 11:59 p.m. P.S.T.  

Among the electronics deals on Amazon Prime Day will be specials on some of Amazon's own products, including the following.

  • The Fire TV Stick will be $25 instead of $40
  • Kindle—we assume the basic $79 model—will be $30 off its regular price
  • Fire HD 7 will have a $60 savings, though its unclear if it's the 8GB or 16GB version
  • The Fire HD 7 Kids Edition will be $60 less than its regular $149 price

There will also be a several deals on TVs, though right now there's no specific info on brands and models. They include:

  • a 32-inch LED LCD TV for $75
  • a 40-inch 1080p LED LCD TV for $115
  • a name-brand 32-inch smart LED LCD TV for under $200
  • and a 50-inch 4K UHD TV bundle priced under $1,000 Note: The 50-inch set is Samsung's UN50HU8550 UHD set, plus a UHD Video pack with 10 4K movies, for $1,000. This is a model from last year, when it was $2,000.

Other deals include a $199 Chromebook, two Nikon Coolpix camera models at half their normal price, and Bose headphones at the lowest price ever offered on Amazon. Note: The Bose SoundTrue Headphones On-Ear model is on sale for $80; it's $130 to $150 elsewhere.

But you don't really have to be a Prime member to take advantage of the sale, since Amazon is offering a free 30-day trial to its service.

Walmart countered with its own special sale day, saying that its customers don't have to pay a premium to get great deals, which is true to a point, though the company started testing a Prime-like free shipping service this summer, called ShippingPass, where those spending at least $50 get free unlimited three-day shipping. But during tomorrow's online sales event, Walmart is lowering its free shipping minimum to $35, and will have special discounted prices on some 2,000 items. Walmart also offers a free "ship to store" option, where you can buy online and pick up the item at the closest Walmart brick-and-mortar store. Walmart says the sale prices will be good for 90 days.

Update: Here are some deals available from Walmart:

  • a 70-inch Vizio E70-C3 1080p 240Hz Class LED Smart HDTV. We recently bought this TV for testing, and it was the same price.
  • a 55-inch RCA 1080p LED LCD TV (LED55G55R120Q) $400. We bought and tested this TV; it was $100 higher when it was purchased.
  • a 55-inch Sceptre 1080p LED LCD TV, $400 (We think it's the E555BV-FMQR). It's more expensive now ($538) at Amazon, but it was $350 during Black Friday last year.
  • a 40-inch Changhong 1080p LED LCD TV, $220
  • an 8GB RCA 7 inch tablet, $50, with a keyboard and case
  • a 32GB Apple iPad Air Wi-Fi for $400, $50 less than elsewhere
  • 16GB Apple iPad Mini 2 for $265 (customers save $174)
  • 16GB Apple iPad Mini 2 Wi-Fi plus AT&T, $265. It's $300 at many other places.
  • a Toshiba 15.6" Satellite laptop for $377

Amazon and Walmart aren't only retailers looking to break up the high seasonality of shopping, which is skewed to the fourth quarter with pre-Black Friday sales. (The term Black Friday was coined to note the day after Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year when retailers' balance sheet traditionally went from red to black, into profit territory.) This week Target is holding its own pre-Black Friday sale in July, and Best Buy is holding a two-day sales event—both online and in stores— next week, on July 24 and 25.

As me mentioned in our update note at the beginning of this article, so far we've been underwhelmed by the electronics sales announced, despite all the hype. We expect to see more, and better, deals during the real Black Friday. And a number of the Lightning deals on Amazon are sold out, so you can only get on a waiting list. (I tried to buy a guitar effects pedal and am number 26 on the wait list, with a "poor" chance of getting it.) We found that both retailers' website are a bit slow this morning, most likely due to all the traffic, so be prepared to wait for pages to load.

—James K. Willcox

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