While the Internet has certainly revolutionized shopping, that doesn't mean that it has made the process all that much easier. Sure, there are more sites to buy things than ever before, but it can still be difficult to find the best deal -- and sometimes the best deal is the one that's sitting on the store shelf right in front of you. Thankfully your iPhone can help you comparison shop quickly and get your shopping done more easily, so that you can get on to more important things -- like playing Angry Birds.
When you first launch the app, you're asked if you will allow it to use your location; it isn't mandatory, but it will allow ShopSavvy to find local deals for you. Icons at the bottom of the screen allow you to navigate to other parts of the app, such as scaning a bar code, viewing your search history, searching for items by name, or setting up your account and shopping lists. The list feature is particularly handy, especially for groceries and for birthday and Christmas shopping lists. Each item is pictured, and a single tap will take you to the price comparison page for that product. You can add items by scanning them, and you can also share your lists via Facebook, Twitter, email, or text, and even by Instapaper and ReadItLater.
When you find the item you're looking for, you'll see local and online deals, as well as a product photo. If you're lucky, you'll also find user reviews for the product as well, with the ability to filter the reviews by whether or not the reviewer liked the product. You can add your own as well, which will help other shoppers benefit from your product experiences.
Unlike some of the other scanning apps, ShopSavvy allows you to buy from directly within the app using your ShopSavvy Wallet. It's also a more integrated experience overall; once you choose the store for the item you've scanned you can call the store with one tap, get directions, browse the retailer's web site, share the price with friends on Facebook or Twitter, email or text, and even check out the store's price matching policy from within the app.
ShopSavvy is comprehensive and extremely easy to use; my only major complaint is that there's no way to enter a bar code manually if it won't scan. Other than that small issue, ShopSavvy is my top recommendation for code scanning apps. It also handles QR codes, making it good multipurpose app for your iPhone.
This app is designed for those who aren't exactly sure what they're looking for, but do want to make sure that they get the best deals every time they go shopping. It's location-based, and when you launch the app you'll see all of the closest deals, arranged by distance from your current location. When I tried it out, I saw several deals for the mall about 2.5 miles from my office, which I expected, but as a scrolled down the list I found quite a few deals for other local malls and outlets.
You can view a local map with all of the malls and deal locations; tapping on one takes you to the deals for that location. Mall maps are included, though they show only the anchor stores and other main features like ATMs and restrooms, not every single store (like PointInside).
Viewing deals and/or following specific merchants earns you Armadealo points; they aren't working at the moment, but the FAQ says that they will be redeemable in the future. You can share deals with your friends on Facebook, which earns even more points. The app is easy to use and provides some valuable discounts; since you don't have to actually be at the mall to see the deals you can plan your shopping trips accordingly.
While not technically a comparison shopping app, Amazon.com does seem to sell just about everything a person could possibly need. Though the company recently came under fire from local businesses for encouraging its customers to visit local stores, scan an item, and then purchase the same item with a discount from Amazon, no one can deny that Amazon often has the lowest price.
With the Amazon iPhone app, you can search by keyword or you can also scan an item's barcode or take a picture of a book, DVD, music CD, or video game and have it almost instantly find the item in Amazon.com's vast inventory. The photo feature is particularly impressive; I tried it out with a variety of titles and wasn't ever able to stump it.
If you're not looking for a specific item, one tap on the home page takes you to Amazon's daily deals. Once you sign in, you'll have access to your shopping cart and wish list too. You can make your purchases from right within the app, and Prime members have access to the free two-day shipping that adds up to a great bargain if you buy enough from Amazon to make it worth the $79 annual fee.
Sometimes you're not looking for the absolute cheapest price, but the best value. One great way to save money in these tough times is to buy in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's Club, whether you're stocking up for yourself or sharing large purchases among several friends or families in your neighborhood. You have to be careful though, because sometimes those bulk purchases aren't really a great deal, such as when the unit price is the same or even higher for a particular package.
While you can certainly do those calculations yourself with a calculator app, CompareMe simplifies the process and makes it faster and easier. Just a few taps to enter the quantity and price of the two items you're comparing, and you get a super fast answer on which one is the best deal. It's perfect for bargain hunters, especially since not every store lists the unit price on shelf tags, or even if they do, the unit price is often missing from weekly sale tags. It's a small price to pay to ensure you're getting the best deal on your weekly trips to the grocery store or in any other situation where two different quantities can be directly compared, and much faster than going to your calculator app and doing it manually.
This app has the best scanner that I tried, working flawlessly (and fast!) on every single one of my test products. That's somewhat ironic, considering that this app also allows you to enter UPC codes manually, because that feature isn't really necessary considering how well the scan by camera feature works.
Unfortunately it doesn't provide the comprehensive results that I received with some of the other apps, such as Red Laser and ShopSavvy. It returned only one result for the Tazo Zen K cups, for example, where ShopSavvy found 22 online retailers and 10 local stores where I could purchase the same product.
You can star your favorite products and view your scan history, allowing you to create a shopping list of sorts, but there aren't any other special features such as local deals or user reviews. Even though it has the best scanner, it's hard to recommend Quick Scan Pro when it costs 99 cents and the other scanning apps are free.
The second of the scanning apps in this roundup, Red Laser works with both UPC and ISBN bar codes as well as QR codes. Icons along the bottom allow you to navigate between your scanning history, manual searches (typed, spoken, and even photographic), the scan by camera feature, your personalized shopping lists, and the QR code creation tool. The actual scanner works well, slower than Quick Scan Pro but faster and more reliably than ShopSavvy.
Once you find the item you're looking for, you'll be presented with local and local search results, though you may be disappointed in the results you get, depending on the product. Tazo Zen K Cups are sold just about everywhere, from Kroger to Target locally and on a variety of web sites, so I was surprised to see that Wal-Mart was the only option presented by Red Laser, for both local and online shopping.
Results with books and DVDs were much better, including everything from eBay and Half.com to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, plus eleven local stores and even public libraries, which was a nice surprise--and a good reminder that I need to visit the library more often.
You can create your own personalized shopping lists that are easily shared by email, Facebook, Twitter, or text, which is perfect for sending your forgetful spouse or significant other to the store--you won't have any worries about whether they'll come back without something important, or with the wrong item entirely, since each item's photo is included on the list.
While Red Laser isn't as feature packed as ShopSavvy, it is easy to use and the interface is well thought out. You can even set it up to scan immediately on startup, if you find that to be the first thing you always want to do when you start up the app. Hopefully future updates will include deeper search results and more retailers; until that time Red Laser will have to settle for second best scanning app honors, though it still has earned a permanent spot on my device.
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