December 7, 2006

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Extreme price shopping
Use the Internet on your phone
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

You’re at the mall.

It’s five minutes ‘til closing. You’ve just spied what you’re sure is a killer deal. You’re ready to pounce, but doubt creeps in: is this as great a price as I think it is? Can I get it cheaper online? Is the product really any good?

In days past, you’d be stuck. But if you have a cell phone, you have so many options it’s not funny. And they’re all free.

• Visit a Web site: Using most Web sites on a cell phone is like stuffing yourself into a PowerWheels Barbie Jeep and driving from the Interstate right into the bumper car arena of an amusement park.

Thankfully, some sites have established stripped-down Web sites, optimized for viewing on tiny little cell phone screens without a lot of clutter to slow down your load time. Price comparison sites are no exception.

You’ll obviously need a fairly recent phone with a Web browser and a plan that lets you use it. As well as a little patience, because this still won’t be as easy as sitting at your full-size keyboard.

The simplest site is probably atpgw.com, which seems to be short for “At PriceGrabber Wireless.” Enter a product and you get a list of online prices, as well as a clickable phone number for ordering on the spot. Just the short address is a point in its favor.

Google’s mobile price comparison tool is at wml.froogle.com. Here, you only get a list of prices and retailers.

If Google has it, Yahoo! has to have it too, so shopping.yahoo.com redirects you to a phone-friendly site. Here again, all you get is a list of prices and retailers, in a slightly more cluttered arrangement than Google’s.

Using any of these sites, a part number will get you a better match than a generic product name.

• Download a program: You’ll need a data plan again, but this time you’ll save a little program on your phone.

SCANBUY Shopper (wap.scanbuy.com) lets you enter the barcode of any retail product you pick up. It then shows you prices, reviews and specifications if available. The app wasn’t quite supported on my model of phone; I downloaded a version for a similar model and the program was too big for my screen and couldn’t make an Internet connection. If your model is supported, though, give it a shot.

Slifter (mp.slifter.com) takes a slightly different approach by searching local brick and mortar stores as well as online retailers. Again, the program ran on my phone but was unable to connect to the Internet. Hey, it was free after rebate and I’ve dropped it about 50 times, I can’t complain.

• Send a text message: For those of you without the Web on your phone, you can still check prices through SMS text messages. Free services, but your provider may charge for text messages, yada yada.

Mobsaver shows you only Amazon and eBay prices when you text an item’s UPC barcode number (or ISBN for books) to save@mobsaver.com. TicTap does the same for just Amazon when you text the UPC, ISBN or part number to 763-807-3927. They also have a mobile Web site at m.tictap.com. Basically, these guys are sucking up referral fees.

Smarter.com gives you results from all over the Web when you text a part number to 610-SMARTER. Their Web site has a more robust comparison functionality and a “wallet-size tip sheet” that’s conveniently centered on an 8.5” x 11” PDF for you to print.


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