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Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Gift Shopping: Apps for your Smartphone & Tablet

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Christmas Gift Shopping: Apps for your Smartphone & Tablet
by kenlo on 05-12-2011 10:00 - last edited on 05-12-2011 01:44

As Christmas approaches, many of us are once again beginning the annual search for the perfect gifts for our friends, family and loved ones. With today set to be one of the busiest days for online shopping in the UK, we look at how your smartphone or tablet can help with your Christmas shopping: from the process of finding the perfect gift to comparing prices and tracking your deliveries to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas Day.

Finding Christmas Gift Ideas: Applications for Inspiration

It’s not always easy to know where to start when buying for Christmas. Social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter are a great place to start – and with the smartphone applications you can access this information wherever you are. What have your friends been talking about recently? Have they listed information about their favourite books, albums and TV shows on their profile page? Any clues for what they want?

If you’re stuck for ideas, there is a wealth of tablet applications which will help you find inspiration straight from the comfort of your sofa. For clothing, retailer ASOS provides a free ‘ASOS Magazine’ application for iPad and Android tablets. The application is updated monthly and features the latest fashion trends. The application links back to the ASOS website where items can be purchased. Net-A-Porter is another fashion retailer offering a similar application for the iPad: many of the items they sell are higher-end.

If you’re looking for a gift this Christmas which is something different and a bit more special, applications such as ‘Cool Hunting’ and ‘Fancy’ showcase everything that’s new and up-and-coming.

The 'Cool Hunting' application for iPad is a fully interactive guide to the latest technology, designs and styles. It’s fast to swipe from idea to idea in the application and the images and videos attached to each idea make this an easy and immersive application to find out what’s new.

The ‘Fancy’ application for iPhone & iPad is similar: it’s a crowd-sourced guide to gadgets, art, fashion, food and more. All of the content in ‘Fancy’ is user-generated: other users of the application provide photos of things they own and link back to the retailers where they bought the products. Many of the products are from small and independent retailers around the world meaning you can be sure to find something different and unique here.

Shopping from your smartphone or tablet

Many of the UK’s top retailers have a dedicated mobile version of their website for shopping directly from your smartphone or tablet. This includes eBay, Argos, Tesco, H&M, Amazon and more. When accessing these websites from your smartphone, you should automatically be redirected to the mobile-optimised version of the website. Providing you have a registered account with the retailer, it is normally possible to add products to your shopping basket and possibly even to checkout straight away from your mobile device. However, many people prefer to wait until they get home before checking out from their home computer.

If you’ve bought stuff online, you’ll want to know where it is and whether it’s been dispatched. To track the shipping progress of your package, it is possible to type your tracking number straight into Google or the browser address bar on your smartphone (UPS & FedEx only). This will take you to the Google website which will display the current status of your package.

Applications for shopping on the high street

Many of us prefer to shop offline: it’s always nice to be able to see and touch what you are buying. Unfortunately, it is more difficult to compare prices between different retailers on the high street and to read reviews of products from other shoppers. Several smartphone applications will allow you to get the best of both worlds: they allow you to compare prices and read reviews whilst shopping on the high street.

ShopSavvy is a free application for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. It makes use of the camera on your smartphone to scan product barcodes and allows you to compare the prices of the same product at online retailers and other local retailers. Tapping on the name of the online retailer will take you straight to their website where you can order the product online or read customer reviews. Online prices are regularly updated from the retailer’s own websites but the collection of offline prices is crowd-sourced: it relies on what has been submitted by other users of the application.

If you’re looking to buy a book, music album or DVD, Google Goggles (a free application for Android and iPhone) allows you to bring up more information on that product by taking a photo of its cover. For example, taking a photo of Jamie Oliver’s cookbook brings up a Google search result for the book: you’ll be able to find the book’s webpage as well as reviews from critics and blogs around the web. The “Book Search” functionality takes you to the Google Books website where it is possible to read excerpts, compare prices and see further reviews. The results you’ll get will vary depending on what you’re taking a photo of: taking a photo of a music album cover may take you to YouTube page where it is possible to preview certain songs from the album before buying.

Some of us prefer to shop on the high street as we don’t want the hassle of waiting around at home for our deliveries. If you live in London, some retailers such as Amazon can now deliver to lockers which are located in shopping centres and other public places. You’ll be able to pick up your delivery from the lockers at a time which suits you. With the combination of this service which allows shopping centre pick-up and applications such as ShopSavvy and Google Goggles, you’ll be able to get the low prices of shopping online and the convenience of shopping offline at the same time.

Future of Shopping – Xmas Shopping in 2015

Whether you’re doing all your shopping online or on the high street this year, there are a range of free applications for your smartphone which can help you to find the perfect gift for your loved ones – some of these applications help to provide a spark of inspiration whereas other applications will help you find out more about the products you’re browsing.
In the coming years, there will be new ways of shopping using a mobile phone.

Earlier this year, Tesco launched a virtual grocery store on the subway in South Korea using QR codes and this Christmas, John Lewis have just brought the concept to the UK with a virtual QR code on the side of a Waitrose store in Brighton.
Another trend that we may see in the coming years is payment for goods in-store using our mobile phones. These mobile phones will make use of Near Field Communication technology.

How will you be doing your Christmas shopping this year? Will you be shopping on the high street or online? How do you think we’ll be doing our Christmas shopping in the future?

The gift of giffgaff

If you’re looking for a gift that keeps giving throughout 2012, why not give your friends and family the gift of giffgaff too this Christmas? They’ll be able to use one of our great value giffgaff goodybags and giffgaff gigabags to get their smartphone and tablet online from just £5/month. If you introduce them to giffgaff, they’ll get £5 of free credit and you’ll get £5 in payback too. Even better, you’ll both be able to call and text each other for free throughout the year.

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