12 Free Android, iOS Apps for Holiday Shopping

'Tis the season to be shopping, and these 12 Android and iOS apps will not only save you money, they'll save you from the stress of holiday bargain hunting.

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Credit: Shutterstock
Android, iOS Apps for Holiday Shoppers

News flash: Black Friday isn't necessarily the best time to score deals, according to new Adobe Systems research. In fact, Adobe's research says the biggest price cuts during the 2013 holiday season occurred the Monday before Thanksgiving. Those who braved Black Friday were more likely to find items out of stock. Some retailers, including Wal-Mart, decided to discontinue the Black Friday frenzy, as well.

Still, let's be clear: We're entering prime shopping season, and the following 12 Android and iOS apps — all of them free, most of them useful all year round — will help you save money. Most are traditional retail apps, but we've also thrown in a few others that can help take some stress out of your shopping trips.

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Black Friday Deals: TGI Black Friday

If I could only use one Black Friday app, it would be TGI Black Friday. Granted, the app for Android and iOS isn't the most attractive software I've ever seen. Its no nonsense approach, however, makes it easy to browse and search for specific merchandise, make lists, get more information about products, view advertising circulars, and more. I also like how it sorts items by popularity and price. TGI Black Friday doesn't offer a lot of social sharing options, but you can post your favorite deals on Twitter and Facebook.

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Black Friday Deals: Zoomingo

Zoomingo for Android and iOS is one of my favorites because it provides a broad selection of store brands — more than 100 national retailers, according to the developer — and its frequent updates mean you see the latest Black Friday sales. The developer says most Black Friday sales are available in Zoomingo before anywhere else, though I couldn't verify that claim. The app offers a strong social community, too, and you can post tips, deals and questions. You can also earn points toward weekly prizes by posting local deals and shopping tips.

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Price Alerts: BuyVia

BuyVia's shopping apps for Android and iOS are attractive, nicely organized, and easy to navigate. One of the best features is the ability to set price alerts for any product. Want to pay, say, $999 for that $1,100 MacBook Air? You can easily set up a price alert and if the price drops to $999, you're automatically notified. The app also makes it easy to compare prices at different retailers. It's worth noting, though, that you must sign in via a social media account to use the app, which may turn off some potential users.

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Geo-Targeted Coupons: Shopular

Shopular takes advantage of in-store beacons, Bluetooth, cell towers, Wi-Fi and other technologies to serve up geo-targeted discount coupons based on users' locations. After preselecting their favorite retailers in the app, Shopular users can see a handful of tempting coupons when they arrive at a mall or store. You can browse "All Deals," "Black Friday" deals or "Weekly Ads"; search by keywords; add deals to your list of favorites; and save coupons. Really, it's the geo-location trick that makes Shopular fun to use. It's available for Android and iOS.

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In-Store Assistant: Chameleon

Chameleon for iOS is a bit different than standard shopping apps, because it displays real-time inventory status and in-store locations for certain products. (Retailers must use Apple's iBeacon technology for Chameleon to work.) The app helps you find products inside Target, Best Buy, Toys-R-Us, Kohl's, Sears and Kmart. Due to iBeacon's limited range, you need to be near or in a store for the app to be of use, however. You can't, for instance, plot out your plan of attack at Best Buy while chilling on your living room sofa. Still, if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by the soul-sucking holiday throngs inside a big store, Chameleon can help you persevere.

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Coupons: RetailMeNot Coupons

If you don't begin your online purchases with a visit to RetailMeNot's website, you're missing out on promo codes that may save you significant bucks. The RetailMeNot app for Android and iOS is a worthy addition to your smartphone, too. You can specify your favorite retailers and get a "Just for You" set of offers. "Popular," "Our Best," and "Nearby" are other ways to browse deals. You simply tap a coupon while in a store, and you see a barcode to show the cashier. The app could use a little tweaking here and there, however. For example, it says there are no Best Buy stores in San Francisco, but I know of two close to where I live.

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Product Reviews: Ratings by Consumer Reports

I've been a Consumer Reports (CR) subscriber for years; it's one of the best resources for reviews of all types of products. CR's free Ratings app for Android and iOS is an excellent way to access the magazine's trusted product ratings and reviews while you're out shopping. My one complaint: As is the case with the magazine, the product models in stores occasionally don't match the ones that CR reviewed. Still, you can quickly get a sense of which products are worth your money thanks to the app's easy-to-digest interface. You do, however, need a CR subscription to access the ratings. Monthly subscriptions cost $7, and you could purchase one just for the holiday season.

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Gift Card Discounts: Raise

You'll very likely receive a gift card this holiday season. The problem is, sometimes you receive a card for a merchant or restaurant you don't patronize. (Olive Garden? No thank you.) Raise for iOS lets you sell your unwanted cards, though you do need to discount them to appeal to buyers. You can also buy gift cards from major brands from other Raise users at discounted prices. When you purchase a gift card it is sent to your smartphone instantly, so you can use it right away. The discounts can be good, but don't expect miracles — as in, say, a deeply discount Apple Store card.

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Price Comparisons: Amazon

Amazon, it appears, sells everything. Fairly often, the behemoth online retailer sells what you want at less money than other retailers. For example, I was in Walgreens the other day looking for stocking stuffers, and I used the Amazon app (for Android and iOS) to scan product barcodes. In four out of five cases, Amazon's prices were lower than Walgreens. If you find a good price using the Amazon app, you can add the product to your Amazon Wishlist or buy it on the spot. I feel (a little) guilty buying from Amazon while inside another store. This is the holiday season, though, and guilt lasts about as long as a Christmas cookie.

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Price Comparisons: RedLaser

RedLaser for Android and iOS is a perennially popular barcode-scanning app that's remarkably easy to use. You just scan product barcodes while in stores to determine if you're getting deals or being had. You can browse coupons and deals from a variety of retailers and load your retail loyalty cards for quick access at cash registers. I do have two caveats, though. The information in the app isn't always up to date. For example, while recently cruising for deals near me, the app displayed The Body Shop, a location that closed months ago. It also gave me the wrong product information a couple of times after I scanned a barcode.

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Wine Finder: Vivino Wine Scanner

At some point, most of us will buy wine during the holiday season. Vivino Wine Scanner (Android and iOS) should be your go-to app. Let's say you're in a local Safeway, befuddled by all the wine choices. Safeway's wine prices can be sweet, but it's highly unlikely you'll get knowledgeable help from a clerk. Just scan a wine bottle label, and the app identifies it in its database and shows you average prices, user ratings, reviews and more. You can also read up on wines in local restaurants. I'll drink to that.

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Parking Your Car: BestParking

No matter how strongly you believe in public transit, sometimes you need a car — and a big shopping trip is one of those times. BestParking for Android and iOS displays parking rates for garages and lots near your shopping destinations, so you can identify the best rates on a map before you leave home. You can find more details by tapping on a garage or lot, including addresses, hours and phone numbers. Heads up, though: Several of the app's most helpful features, such as the ability to view a garage's full rate schedule, are locked behind a $3 in-app purchase.