This Friday, commonly referred to as Black Friday, marks the beginning of the 2009 holiday shopping season in the U.S. Some people love braving the crowds for holiday deals. But if you don't and you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, any of the free apps below will help you shop from wherever you happen to be.
The Amazon Mobile app (iTunes link) lets you use your iPhone or iPod Touch to search, shop, compare prices, read reviews, and make purchases on Amazon.com. Existing Amazon customers get complete access to their existing shopping cart, wish list, payment and shipping options, order history, 1-Click settings, and Prime membership benefits.
One experimental feature, Amazon Remembers, lets you snap a photo of a product while you're out, so that you can refer to it later. In addition, the app will try to find the product in Amazon's catalog.
The B&N Bookstore app (iTunes link) lets you use your iPhone or iPod Touch to search books, DVDs and Blu-ray, CDs, toys and games, home and gift items, video games, and practically anything that B&N sells. Locate retail stores and browse additional store features such as cafes, event schedules, children's story times, author appearances, and free Wi-Fi.
The app also makes interesting use of the iPhone's camera. Take a photo of the front cover on a book, DVD, or CD, and the app will find it for you. Once the item has been found, you can get information about it that includes editorial reviews, customer ratings, and a chance to reserve a copy for pickup at your local store. You can use the Discover section of the app to get ideas for gifts this holiday season.
Best Buy Weekly Deals
The Best Buy Weekly Deals app (iTunes link) brings you the latest weekly deals from Best Buy and lets you browse or search its inventory. You can access product ratings, reviews, accessories, and large product images. The app also lets you manage your BestBuy.com shopping cart and complete the purchases on a mobile version of Best Buy's Web site. Like all the other apps we've written about, this one has its own tool (called IdeaGiftr) for finding gifts. This app is definitely worth a look if you want to catch the Black Friday bargain sales at Best Buy this year.
Best Buy - Gamers Club
If you know someone who's an avid gamer, you might consider the Best Buy - Gamers Club app (iTunes link) that offers a lot of what the Best Buy Weekly Deals app offers, but concentrates specifically on gaming.
eBay's app gives you nearly 100 percent of the eBay experience on your iPhone. It's not as feature complete as the Web site, but it works well enough. You can search for items to purchase or bid on, place bids, watch items, and purchase items all from your iPhone. Once the sale or auction is complete, you can even pay for your purchase on your iPhone.
Target mobile app
Target's iPhone app (iTunes link) lets you search for products at your local store, check their availability, and even find out where the item is located inside of the store. Like the Best Buy app, this one lets you browse the weekly deals available at Target.
Additional features include referrals to other store locations if your store is out of stock on a particular item, plus gift suggestions based on gender, age, price, personality, or occasion.
Toys "R" Us Big Book Favorites
The Toys "R" Us Big Book of Favorites iPhone app (iTunes link) helps you to find toys by category and popularity. You can use the app to make a list of your favorites and share the lists you create via e-mail. Product details are readily available including images, descriptions, prices, and customer reviews.
The app includes features that help you to save money on your toy and electronic purchases at Toys "R" Us and includes the usual store location features that we are used to seeing in all apps of this type.
You might want to hide this one from your children, especially if you are keeping your toy shopping list on your iPhone.
The Wal-Mart mobile app (iTunes link) is by far the least useful of all the apps and a disappointment coming from a retailer as large as Wal-Mart.
The app's sole focus is on the sale of Wal-Mart's electronics. If you want to see more, the app will refer you to Wal-Mart's full Web site that fortunately is available in a mobile edition. We were surprised to find that this app doesn't begin to touch the surface of the inventory available at Wal-Mart and doesn't offer a way a way to browse Wal-Mart's current weekly sales and specials. However, it does remind you how many days are left before Christmas and helps you locate stores.
Are you armed with your iPhone or iPod Touch and ready for the holiday shopping season? Do you have any other Apple mobile device shopping tips you would like to share? Tell us about them in the comments.