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It’s silly to underestimate how smartphones have changed the way we live our lives. From how we consume and create media, to how we communicate with our friends, it seems like the past decade has revolutionized the world over. Among the changes, one of the largest might be how we shop. The decline of the popularity of malls throughout America seems tied directly to the rise of online shopping, and with smartphones, buyers now have the option to browse in-store, to compare prices immediately, and to shop elsewhere to save a buck. Truly, the 21st century has seen not just a revolution in shopping, but a renaissance. There’s never been a better time to be on the lookout for a deal than right now.
Of course, not every shopping app is the same, and with each offering something a bit different, you might want to download a few to keep on your phone or tablet at all times. From big-box apps that show you maps of their stores to auction sites for picking up products on the cheap, there’s plenty of selection in shopping apps. So take a break, and go “shop” over at Google Play to pick up a few of our highlights below.
You can’t talk about the best shopping apps for Android without talking about Amazon. By now, everyone knows what Amazon is, but if you’ve avoided the mega-online network, you’ve definitely made a mistake. Not only is Amazon one of the best ways to shop for electronics, movies, books, and so much more—they also have one of the best paid online services with their Prime membership available for an annual charge of $99. While this may sound steep, what you get in exchange for your Benjamin is one of the best values you can find if you’re a regular consumer of media or online shopping utilities.
The basic Amazon app is organized like many other shopping apps, with targeted deals and recommendations on its front page. Above this, you’ll find a search box, a voice-search button, and the ability to scan photos of items or barcodes for comparison shopping. This is one of the best features included in the Amazon app, as it allows you to shop physically in a big-box store, while still guaranteeing you’ll get the best deal on a product. While the service works best on barcodes, it also allows you to scan images of DVDs, Blu-Rays, video games, and similar products to search even without a barcode. In my testing, this system worked well enough. Scanning a 3DS cartridge without the case returned unrelated 3DS games, but scanning the box art gave me the exact game I had been holding in my hand. I tested the service out on a number of barcodes as well, and so long as the product wasn’t a locally-purchased object (something you wouldn’t be able to find online, for example), I had no problems finding results for items like vitamins, allergy medicine, and a bag of chips.
The app’s appearance isn’t quite as modern as I’d like, but it’s good enough to work well in daily usage. Sliding open the menu to the left of the screen reveals most of the options you’d need for a shopping app. Assuming you’re logged into your Amazon account, you can easily view your browsing history, recent orders, and wish lists without scrolling through endless options. The “shop by department” link is what most people will use to do their shopping. It gives you nearly every option and category you could want in a store, from appliances and arts and crafts to video games and wine. Seriously, Amazon is the Walmart of the future: they have everything, and more, and then even more.
Browsing through options is easy enough. You select a department—I selected computers, for example—which gives you a list of featured items in that department, such as “computers powered by Intel and Microsoft,” before listing the best-selling items in a single category. From there, you can select both your sorting and filtering options. Sorting is available by featured items, highest rated, low-to-high or high-to-low pricing, and filters, of course, will depend on the department you’re interested in.
There’s plenty more to Amazon when you add in all of their Prime membership offerings, which you can browse and peruse to your heart’s content by selecting “Prime” from the menu I mentioned earlier. Amazon Prime offers so much, it’s impossible to break it all down here. In addition to exclusive deals only made available to Prime subscribers, you’ll get Prime Video, Amazon’s Netflix competitor, Prime Music, Amazon’s Spotify competitor, Prime Reading, a sort-of Netflix for Kindle e-reading, Prime Photos, a photo-backup and printing service—and of course, Prime delivery, which offers free two-day shipping on nearly every item in the store. For most people, the savings and efficiency offered by delivery alone are worth the cost of a Prime subscription; for everyone else, you should be able to justify it considering the rest of the offerings.
From right in the app, you’ll gain access to most of these features, including the Prime Video section, which includes feature films and shows you won’t be able to see on Netflix or Hulu. I’m not just talking about their exclusive shows like Transparent—Prime Video seems to offer more recent Hollywood films than any other service, including (at the time of writing) Manchester by the Sea, Everybody Wants Some!!, Hello My Name is Doris, and Interstellar. Years ago, Prime Video seemed like an after-run, but their service has grown exponentially since it arrived on the scene a few years ago.
Overall, I just can’t imagine a better service than Amazon’s app. No matter what Amazon service you’re trying to take advantage of—from pure shopping and price comparison needs to the ability to stream videos and music over your device with an active Prime membership—you’re practically guaranteed to be satisfied by the offerings of Seattle’s favorite non-coffee related company. Chances are you’re already an Amazon user, so if you aren’t using this app, you’re missing out on something great.
If Amazon isn’t good enough for your inner deal-hunter, don’t worry—eBay fills the remaining niche nicely, so long as you aren’t against buying used or refurbished items. Just like Amazon, you probably know what eBay is; Toy Story 3 referenced it nearly ten years ago, after all, so we aren’t talking about an unknown organization here. Around since the 1990s, eBay is a service that might scare off potential buyers with the added complexity of auctions. Rest assured that eBay is not only a safe and easy to use service, but in fact, a great choice for picking up goods on the cheap.
eBay’s Android app is, in my eyes, much cleaner than its Amazon equivalent, showcasing what a material design-focused Android app can look like. Much like Amazon, eBay’s home screen is styled to display recommended items for you, as well as your auction watch list. At the top, you’ll find a search bar and voice icon, but no option for scanning items and barcodes. The sliding menu on the left looks similar to any menu you’ll find on modern Android apps, and allows you to view notifications, messages, and your own personal bids and offers. Much like Amazon’s department menu, eBay offers users a categories section.
eBay’s category sections is a bit easier to navigate than Amazon’s, offering a reducing list of menus the deeper into the application you go. For example, selection “Cell Phones & Accessories” allows you to select from a dozen other categories, including smartphones, smart watches, vintage cell phones, and accessories. This amount of selection and variety makes it easier to browse eBay’s auction system, which, for obvious reasons, appeals to a different market than Amazon’s buyers. Still, if you’re interested in finding used or closeout deals, you’re more likely to find what you’re looking for through eBay’s organization.
Obviously, eBay doesn’t quite offer the same amount of functionality as Amazon. Without a Prime-like service, you aren’t going to be watching movies or listening to albums through eBay’s application. The good news—if you’re trying to sell on eBay, this app provides you with all the tools you need to create a listing. If you’re buying, you can view your bids and raise as necessary. The notification system works well, and it’s easy to view your followed members, searches, and items from the menu bar on the left. You can also view your messages, making it easy to communicate both with sellers and potential buyers.
One great function of eBay: their deals layout is far superior to Amazon’s. You can quickly and easily view offered deals, compare prices, and browse products over a dozen different categories. Whereas Amazon limits plenty of their deals to Prime members only, you’re bound to find something offered by eBay’s deal service that’s appealing. The deals section offers a front page of “featured” items, displaying the best of the best, along with tech, fashion, home & garden, automotive, and other deals. From phones and computers to gift cards and suitcases, the deals are not just cheap: they’re typically offering a pretty good product, often new and unused, from reputable sources. I’ve seen deals from both Best Buy and Target-owned eBay channels offer products on clearance at a fraction of the cost offered by their own box stores.
Overall, eBay is a great way to pick up a deal, so long as you remember that many of the products on the site are both available only by auction and in a used state. Unlike Amazon, there is a bit more thinking into picking up an item from eBay. There is always a slim chance of being scammed, but smart shoppers will be able to detect a bum deal from a mile away. If the price is too low to believe, too good to be true, or the seller is new and untested, chances are you should avoid them like the plague. Personally, I recommend using eBay in conjunction with Amazon. The deals on eBay are too good to stay away, but often times you’re better off buying a new product from Amazon. Both apps offer great services, and I’d recommend either in a heartbeat.
Just like eBay, Groupon is a bit of a different beast than anything else on this list. The app offers deals based on where you live, allowing you to select from offers for local businesses, restaurants, and tourist traps to save up to 70 percent on a product or service. The app is well designed for phones, although I found the tablet interface to be lacking. You can slide through menus to view different categories, though I imagine most users of Groupon will be wanting to check out the “nearby” section for their deals. At the time of writing, my nearby deals included 60 percent off fitness training classes, 70 percent off hairstyle packages at a local salon, and some deals on country club memberships. Obviously, the quality of your deals is really going to depend on where you live. People in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, or any other major metropolitan area are going to have far more to choose from than those in the midwest or deep south. Still, between the local deals and the national deals on goods and products, you’re bound to find something worth using here.
I consider myself a proponent of online shopping, but sometimes, whether you need an item right away or you happen to be in the area, you can’t beat the convenience of heading to a mega-chain like Walmart. Surprisingly, Walmart doesn’t just have a great shopping app—they have some awesome features built-in that you can really only get from a store with as many physical locations as Walmart. You can order products online to pick up in the store same day (I did this with a television once, and it was maybe the most convenient experience I ever had shopping), browse deals at your local store, and even look up items in your own physical Walmart. For example, once, while trying to get the ingredients for a recipe I’d never cooked before, I had to pick up a can of coconut milk, which I couldn’t for the life of me find on my own. I pulled out my phone, searched Walmart for coconut milk, and the application displayed which aisle I’d find the product in. There’s some additional features here, including a really easy-to-use photo service for printing and picking up prints of your best shots, and the ability to pay for products using Walmart’s own mobile payment system with your phone while in-store. You can even view your receipts and gift card currencies through the Walmart app, making it a really convenient one-size-fits-all for mobile phones. If you do any of your shopping at Walmart on even a semi-regular basis, I’d recommend keeping the app on your phone, just for those moments you can’t find a product you know is in the store.
Wish is a weird little app, and while I don’t recommend using it for everyday shopping, it can be fun if you have some cash to throw away on weird little knick-knacks shipped over from China. Wish offers a huge catalog of clothes, electronics, and accessories for pennies on the dollar—sometimes even free—with the catch that shipping costs are much higher than your standard couple bucks. The products are made and ship from China, and are typically knock-offs of actual products. Leather jackets can cost under $10, wireless charging pads reduced to under $10, and ties are given away for literally nothing, just so long as you pay your shipping costs. I’ve received a couple products from Wish, and overall I found the quality to be on par with the price, so you shouldn’t expect anything too amazing when you’re purchase from Wish. Those free ties, for example, are made from cheap cloth and don’t hold up to everyday wear and tear. If you are unafraid of paying for products that might be of bad quality, Wish can be a ton of fun to use and browse. You never know what you’re going to find up for sale on their service. Just stay away from any Playstation Vita clones that show a Street Fighter V screenshot. Come on Wish, who do you think you’re fooling?
No list of the best apps for shopping would be complete without RetailMeNot, the famous couponing service that promises to offer coupons, codes, and limited time deals for your favorite stores and shops. RetailMeNot offers plenty of options from notable chains, including Macy’s, Payless, Ikea, and Charlotte Russe, with several of these being exclusive to RetailMeNot users. Of course, the app also services as a hub for all sorts of deals in your area, including restaurants and malls. For example, selecting my local mall gives me a mapped layout of every store, and tapping on the names of each store (The Body Shop, Best Buy, etc.) gives me the in-store offers available to me at the time of viewing, as well as when each sale expires or ends. You can add each sale to your virtual wallet, allowing you to get alerts on expiring deals and easily access the coupons once you’re cashing out in the store. RetailMeNot really represents a great app for those of us who still like shopping in person and in a physical store. Though there are plenty of us that have moved on to the likes of Amazon and eBay, there’s no denying that the instant gratification of shopping at a mall can’t be beat, and apps like RetailMeNot can really help around big shopping times like holidays or summer sales. If you, like myself, prefer shopping from the comfort of your own house, don’t fret: RetailMeNot also offers a wide variety of online coupons and codes, so there’s something here for you too.
If you don’t see an app that should be here, let us know what it is