COMMENTARY Maybe you're one of the people who avert their eyes when passing holiday displays that are up before Thanksgiving. However, Black Friday is again around the corner. If you're going to shop -- and you know you probably have to -- you might as well make it as efficient and inexpensive as possible. Here are some apps to load on your smartphone so you can make technology work for you (and they all have Android and iPhone versions, so you needn't feel left out -- unless you have a Windows Phone device, in which case, sorry, but we can't help you). Oh, and all these weapons of mass shopping are free.
You're in a store, see something, but wonder if you could find it any cheaper elsewhere. RedLaser can tell you that and more. You scan the regular product barcode and the app checks such Web locations as Google Product Search and Half.com for competitive pricing on the same product. Another option locates the same product in nearby stores. Not only does it scan regular bar codes, but the 2-D versions called QR codes. Companies are using these more often to provide additional information or sometimes special content.
Amazon's (AMZN) Price Check for iPhone or Android lets you scan a barcode or even speak the name of a product and check on Amazon Marketplace for comparative pricing. Although that's a limited view of alternate sources, the app is worth having as a research tool. You get product descriptions and details as well as user reviews and ratings.
The Coupons App for iPhone or Android delivers real-time coupons and daily deals at stores, restaurants, and gas stations. So, if you run low of human or auto fuel in the middle of dashing from one bargain madhouse to another, at least you can save a bit. Voice recognition keeps your eyes off the screen and head up so you remain on the hunt even while calling in assistance. Using a coupon is easy: Display it on the screen and show it to the cashier.
While out shopping, wouldn't it be nice to know if there was a killer daily deal available for someplace nearby? Or maybe you suddenly realize that you already had a coupon but didn't bring it out. No matter -- bring both Groupon and LivingSocial with you on your phone. Yes, we've taken a tough view on daily deals as businesses, but they're still a great way to save money. You can look for new deals or redeem the ones you already have without having to print a single sheet of paper.
Bring on the Black Friday Madness
Last, but not least, if you plan to wade through the rivers of people at retail locations on the Friday after Thanksgiving (or starting at midnight if you're a diehard), you should have as many details of store specials as possible. Once again, dealnews.com makes its Black Friday App list of "leaked" national chain Black Friday ads available.
Smartphones won't make the aggravation and expense of shopping disappear, but it will make them a lot more bearable. Think of it as your own early gift to yourself.