Your smartphone can help you scan bar codes, build shopping lists, share great deals with friends—and even get in on reward programs
Consumers armed with smartphones are invading retail outlets, relying on connected handsets to find both the best prices and the products most recommended by their friends. Of the $447 billion that U.S. shoppers will spend this holiday season, $127 billion will be influenced by mobile apps, so we are rounding up some of the best mobile shopping apps to help you shop a little smarter. Here's a list of seven useful shopping apps for smartphones this season: 1. Price Check by Amazon (iOS). As the king of online retailers, Amazon.com (AMZN) has a wealth of pricing data that consumers tap into for comparison purposes in a brick-and-mortar store. Amazon's newest app uses the iPhone's camera to scan the bar code of a product so you don't have to waste time typing. After snapping the bar code, Amazon's app returns both its own price as well as prices from other online merchants. You can also capture an image of any product or speak the name of it if there's no bar code to scan; Amazon will look for the product in either case. 2. ShopSavvy (Android, iOS). Similar to Amazon's Price Check, ShopSavvy is used for scanning product bar codes and finding the best online prices. But the app goes one step further by showing local retailers on a map as well as their prices. The map is interactive, so if ShopSavvy shows a local store with the best price, one tap of the location will get you driving directions to the store. The app also taps into your social graph and online product wish lists to spotlight the best deals on items of interest. 3. Gift List (iOS). This app may not look visually stunning, but it makes up for that by providing utility. Gift List does what it's name suggests: It helps you create and manage gift lists for your friends, family, and co-workers. As you buy items on your gift lists, the app keeps track of how many more gifts you still need for each person. It helps keep your holiday budget in check, too, with a running total of how much money you've spent for everyone on your list, by individuals as well as an overall total. A paid version ($0.99) allows you to remove the ads. 4. Black Friday App (Android, iOS). Black Friday ads are already making the rounds on the Web. Instead of searching to find them, why not try the Black Friday App, which brings them to you? The software also supports the creation of shopping lists and the ability to share great deals with friends on Twitter and Facebook, two places you're sure to get product opinions from a collective mind. The Black Friday App comes from the folks behind the Dealnews app, which provides 100 daily deals from more than 2,000 online retailers. 5. Cardstar (Android, iOS, BlackBerry). Consumers often get better shopping deals with retail reward programs. That's the good part; the bad part is remembering to carry all those reward cards while out shopping. Enter Cardstar, which stores a picture of the bar codes and numbers of those reward cards so you can travel a little lighter while combatting the crowds. In lieu of the physical card, retailers can simply scan your phone display at checkout, and some stores send reward program deals to members right through the Cardstar app, so you can jump on them while in the store.
6. Shopping Goddess (iOS). Although the name suggests otherwise, even guys will get value from this app, which provides user reviews of individual stores, as well as products sold in them. There's a social aspect, too—posting reputable reviews of your own can build a list of followers who want to read your shopping expertise. Build up a high reputation, and you earn the title of Mayor at particular stores, which equates into shopping rewards of your own. Past store mayors have earned $50 and $100 discounts as well as 50 percent deals at such stores as Sony (SNE), Barnes & Noble (BKS), and Target (TGT). 7. Shopkick (Android, iOS). If you're going to run in and out of bunches of retail stores this holiday season, wouldn't it be nice to get something out the experience itself? Shopkick is what you need: The app rewards you with "kickbucks" just for visiting stores, and you can earn extra bonuses for scanning product bar codes with your smartphone. Rewards range from iTunes gift cards and movie tickets to vouchers for products in such stores as Coach (COH), True Religion (TRLG), and Sony. Also from GigaOM: Shopping Matters When It Comes to Location-Based Apps (subscription required) How to (and How Not to) Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey A Handy List of Web Worker Holiday Excuses Tivo Bets on Holiday Deals to Stop the Bleeding Seven Green Gifts for Black Friday (Cyber Monday)