Thursday, December 4, 2008

Portable Phone Price-checkers: Pricing Power to the People

You know the drill... you're browsing the aisles of your favorite big-box store looking for bargains, holiday gifts, or that impulse item you can't imagine life without. But are you getting the best deal? What if there's a better price at the store next door or online outpost?

New tools for your mobile phone make price-checking as simple as taking a photo -- and they're available for smartphones now.

Launched earlier this week, the Mobile iPhone app (free from the iTunes App Store) helps shoppers identify anything they can take a photo of, and it's backed by a team of human reviewers. Here's out it works: Load the app, select the "Amazon Remembers" function and take a photo -- of anything. Whether it's a product you're researching at the store or that gizmo at a friend's house, your photo will be identified by a team of Amazon helpers and added to your Amazon shopping list. Compare prices and look up Amazon pricing in the easy-to-use iPhone (and iPod Touch) application.

If you're familiar with the popular music-finder application, Shazam -- think of this new iPhone gem as a sort of "Shazamazon".

Taking it to the next-level, users of the T-Mobile G1 sporting the snazzy new Google operating system "Android" can use their phones as a barcode reader. Snap a photo of a product's UPC barcode and the mobile software looks up area pricing, and where you might find the item at a local retailer. The software only works, for now, on the Android platform, and, as I understand, technical limitations (the 'fixed focus' camera to blame) prevent porting this application to the iPhone -- for now.

Now for those that don't have an iPhone or G1, there are still plenty of ways to look up pricing online. Many online retailers (including have mobile-friendly versions of their website for any phone with a browser.

For lower-tech phones, give Google SMS service (text "help" to 466453) a try... text "product" followed by a description or UPC number to the Google short code and you'll get pricing information from online retailers. (The results aren't nearly as pretty or accurate as the smartphone apps above, but with some practice you can get basic information.)

Finally, you could always do what my own mother does: Call someone in front of a computer to confirm the must-have bargain you're considering.

Want to listen to this story? Hear report originally aired on KOMO 1000 News Radio 4 December 2008. Click here (MP3) to listen now.

No comments: