Five free comparison-shopping smartphone apps

These apps will help you save time, money, and aggravation as you track down the items on your holiday shopping list.

Smart shopping is always a good idea, but when times are tight, doing your homework and making good purchasing decisions are even more important. Turn your mobile phone into a shopping assistant and get the best deals -- and the closest locations -- on the items you really want to buy this year. Here are some popular (and free) mobile apps that can help you find the best deals online and in your local area.

1: Price Check by Amazon

Price Check is a free app available for iPhone and Android phones. This app is super simple to use. Just scan a bar code, speak the product name into your phone, or take a picture of the item, and you'll get a quick check of prices on that product while you're standing in the aisle. You can compare the in-store and online costs (this app is offered by Amazon, after all), and you can read what customers have said about the item you're thinking of buying.

2: RedLaser

RedLaser is another free comparison shopping and QR code reader (and writer) that lets you compare prices and get reviews of products you're considering purchasing. You can check the prices of items on the fly, find deals on eBay and, locate the lowest price for the product in your local area, scan items you want to save for a later shopping trip, and much more. RedLaser is affiliated with eBay and is available for iPhone, Windows Phone 7, and Android phones.

3: Pic2shop

Pic2shop claims it is the "original barcode scanner" available in the App Store, with a super-accurate barcode reader and a database with tens of millions of products. If you're using the Windows Phone 7, iPhone, or Android phone, you can use Pic2shop to comparison-shop online and locally and to find where that item you want is in stock and who has it for the lowest price.

4: Goodzer

Goodzer is a local shopping comparison guide that enables you to search for the product you'd like to buy and locate all the stores nearby that carry it. For example, you'll be able to see whether the shoes you want are in stock (you're not shopping for yourself, are you?) and even display a map that gives you directions to the store. Right now, a mobile app is available only for the iPhone, but you can get to the Goodzer Web site to get the same information on any Web-enabled smartphone.

5: ShopSavvy

ShopSavvy has been around for awhile, and luckily for shoppers, it's improving with age. This free barcode scanner/comparison app, available for iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android phones, enables you to scan for price and availability in both online and in-store locations. ShopSavvy allows community input, so the database grows exponentially as shoppers add more barcodes and reviews to the system. You can also check the Seals section to grab a Groupon offer of the day and get info about sales promotions, rebates, and more.

Other good apps?

What are your favorite shopping apps? Share your recommendations with TechRepublic readers.

By Katherine Murray

Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 P...