Article courtesy of the Boston Globe
A few of you may have managed to navigate the sea of humanity at the mall on Friday and emerge with sacks of gifts and holiday shopping nearly done. The rest of us can look forward to days of trudging from one store to the next or hunching over the computer at work, surreptitiously surfing for that elusive deal on a Michael Kors watch or on the FIFA 2013 video game.
But in a world of smartphones and tablets, a host of mobile apps can make shopping much easier – or less painful – by finding the best prices on popular items, locating a hard-to-find gift at a nearby store, or even suggesting what to get your crotchety old aunt.
The best apps are as useful inside the mall as for shopping online. They blend barcode scanning and text input and use GPS and other location technologies so you can compare products between online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores. They also organize coupons according to your location and weed out expired deals.
Most such apps are free, available for both Apple iOS and Android devices.
One of the best is eBay Inc.’s RedLaser Barcode and QR Scanner. It scans quickly and accurately and lists prices at major retailers, online and offline, while showing how far stores with the products in stock are from your current location.
Moreover, RedLaser provides reviews and suggests products similar to those you have scanned. It archives your searches, and you can create lists of the items you’ve been scanning and looking up.
For sheer elegance, ShopAdvisor, from Boston-based Evoqu, is hard to match, with its smart and simple-to-use comparison shopping tool. ShopAdvisor also has an excellent voice input feature. Its search results are detailed and well-organized, and often surprising. I searched for “Mini Cooper” (the ride-on toy for little kids) and got a mix of online and local retailers with prices ranging from $179 to $399.99.
Among price-comparison tools, the elephant in the room is Google Shopper. As with the Internet giant’s other search tools, the app lets you sort and narrow results by distance and other criteria. Punch “Jo Malone perfume” into Shopper, and the app can limit hits to brick-and-mortar stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, or only to those stores that have the item in stock.