'Tis the season for shopping, beginning with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and continuing on to the all-important gift-giving holiday season.
Whether you're shopping for family, friends or colleagues — or hey, even yourself — your smartphone can be an invaluable companion as you wander the aisles at your favorite retailer or shop online.
Barcode that bargain
With apps like Red Laser, ShopSavvy and UPC Price Check, for example, all use your smartphone's camera to take pictures of product barcodes and within a second or two you'll see which retailer has the best price online or at retail around you, via the smartphone's GPS technology.
Scan a barcode of, say, a $20 DVD in your hand, and you might see it's only $13 down the street at another store -- and you'll also get turn-by-turn directions there, if you like. Or you'll see that same movie as low as $10 on the Internet, with links to buy it on the spot.
Some apps can also take a picture of the product packaging itself to give you competitive prices, reviews, related videos and other information. SnapTell for iPhone and Android devices can be used to take pictures of DVDs, Blu-ray discs, video games, books and music CDs — to get the information you seek on the spot.
Push it good
Other money-saving apps work a little differently. Imagine one day you're walking down the street and you feel your smartphone vibrate while it's in your pocket or purse. You pull it out, glance at the screen and see there's a special on sweaters at Old Navy across the street. Apps like Push A Deal and Deals.by are just two examples of free shopping apps that push hot deals to you based on your geographical location.
You can also select the kinds of deals you're interested in — such as fitness apparel, restaurants or consumer electronics -- and you'll be notified about sales, coupons and giveaways at retailers you happen to be near. These apps use the smartphone's GPS chip to establish your exact location — and of course it works in different cities, states and countries such as Canada.
Don't be camera shy
Finally, you might not buy that new blazer or blouse if your friends give it thumbs down once you try it on. But what if they're not with you? No problem if you have a smartphone that can handle Skype video calls, such as iPhone or Android.
Not only can you make calls to any Skype user in the world for free (except for cellular data costs, of course) -- but you have the added benefit of video, too. If you're able to join a store or mall's Wi-Fi network, you can also use FaceTime on Apple's iOS devices.
Therefore, even if you're shopping solo, pull out your smartphone and video call someone using an app like Skype or FaceTime, so you can model the clothing for them right then and there. Or at the very least, snap a pic and send it to a friend for their advice.