Shopping isn’t what it used to be for iPhone owners. With the Internet in your pocket and the functionality of some great iPhone App Store applications at your fingertips, you are now much better equipped to make intelligent purchasing decisions, whether shopping online or at an actual store.
Below are five ways you can improve your shopping experience using your iPhone:
1. Keep track of what you need with a shopping list app
Let’s face it, your memory can fail you and sometimes you’re in too much of a rush to look for a pen and paper to write things down. Instead, use the classic Notes app or download an application from the App Store that will keep track of things for you.
If you’re pressed for time, write your list as you wait at stop lights on the way to the store (but don’t do it while driving, for safety’s sake). Jotting your list down on your iPhone ensures that you don’t waste time and gas to make a return trip because you forgot something.
If you want something more advanced than Notes, try the Shopper app, which you can download for $4.99 from the App Store. Shopper lets you organize your shopping lists based on categories.
You can also add prices for tracking your budget, notes and photos if necessary. The Shopper iPhone app is a powerful tool that helps me stay organized and is worth the price in my opinion. Visit MidCentury Software to see demos of the software.
Alternatively, you might be interested in the Grocery Gadget app, which is free for a limited time; or ShoppingList which costs $1.
2. Search for product reviews on Safari
Use Google or Amazon to find out how other people rate the item you’re considering. Sure you can ask a salesperson at the store for their opinion of a product, but don’t rely solely on that.
Yes, some employees are honest of course, but sometimes store reps make commission if they sell you something, so how can you be sure that they are not just trying to make a sale, or that they don’t have too much pride to admit they don’t know anything about the product you’re asking about. Verify that you are not wasting your money by going online and searching for product reviews.
Amazon.com has an iPhone version of their site that is simple and easy to navigate, so looking for other people’s experience of a product can be done in a matter of seconds, especially at 3G speeds.
3. Do some comparison shopping on the web
Let’s say you’re looking to buy a new camera and you see one you like at Circuit City. Before you take the plunge, go online and see if Best Buy, for example, offers the same item at a better price. Perhaps you can even find a better deal on Amazon or eBay, if you’re willing to wait for shipping.
4. Research food safety with the Food Additives app
If you are a health-conscious grocery shopper, maybe you’ve come across foods containing additives you wish you were familiar with. Sure you could search Google and try to come up with some info on these additives… or you can use the handy Food Additives iPhone app.
The Food Additives app gives you access to a searchable database that will tell you about the origins of many additives, as well as potential risks, symptoms and whether the additive has been banned in any countries. Each additive in the application also has a Wikipedia link pointing to additional information.
Now you can confidently avoid additives that might pose a danger to the health of you or your family. Not bad for $3.99.
5. Use the Balance app to track your purchases
Balance is a simple iPhone app that lets you keep track of deposits and withdrawals from your bank account.
Not only does it save you paper and the inconvenience of carrying around a checkbook — who uses those anymore anyway? — but if you check your Balance before making an impulsive purchase, it could serve as a reminder that you’d be better off saving your money.
I would have been happy to pay for such a useful app, but it’s free through the App Store.
Update: I’ve discovered a new app for budgeting that is much more useful and comprehensive: Moneybook for iPhone
*Bonus Tip* – Use iPhone’s camera to get opinions from house mates
Say your roommate or spouse is at home and asks you to pick something up at the store for them. When you get there, you see two similar items and you don’t know which one they’d prefer. Uhhh, what to do?
With the iPhone, it’s easy. Snap a photo of the items in question, touch “Email Photo” and problem solved. (Of course, this would be easier if the iPhone did not lack support for MMS — just one of several things wrong with the iPhone.) But you can tell your recipient to check their email and get back to you.
These 6 tips can help you use your iPhone to save money and shop more wisely, which could be especially important today if you live in the US or another country where the economy is slow and the price of gas is high.
So how has iPhone made you a smarter shopper? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.