Smartphone downloads of apps designed to help shoppers find the product they want at the cheapest price are way up this holiday season, making it what the Wall Street Journal calls the “first app-powered Christmas.” Particularly useful are programs that utilize the camera of, say, your iPhone to scan barcodes and compare retailers' prices. Armed with this technology, shoppers can haggle for discounts—or go where the deal is.
The numbers don’t lie: On Black Friday, downloads of shopping apps for the iPhone were up 77% compared to last year. One developer says its app for the Apple phone and the Android OS was used 18 million times the weekend after Thanksgiving, up from just 1 million in 2008. But there are pitfalls, as prices can change and products can be out of stock; one app-touting company has an employee call—like, actually call—the stores to verify inventory. Otherwise, the CEO says, “you're setting up a consumer for disappointment.”