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12 best free iOS 7 holiday shopping apps

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Buy holiday gifts without even leaving the sofa? Now you’re talking. Just grab your iPhone or iPad. Throw a log on the fire. Download any (or all) of the following 12 free shopping apps for iOS. These apps have all been updated, and in many cases improved, for iOS 7.

Gloat over all the hapless analog shopping going on in the world, with people fighting for parking spaces, standing in long lines and elbowing each other in department stores. (They’ll help if you get off the sofa and visit the mall, too.)

James A. Martin is an SEO and social media consultant and writes the CIO.com Martin on Mobile Apps blog. Follow him on Twitter @james_a_martin and on Google+.

Device: iPhone, iPad
Current user rating: 3 stars (220 reviews)
Most recent version (as of Nov. 20, 2013): 3.0.3

Like most consumers, you’ve probably “showroomed” — entered a retail store, checked out a product, then bought it for less money online. Frequently, Amazon.com has more competitive prices than brick and mortar stores, and the online retailer seemingly sells everything. Using the Amazon Mobile app, you can scan a product’s barcode in store — the retailer will love you for it! — and find out Amazon’s price. If Amazon is less expensive, you can click to buy it from them right there. Or you may be able to get the retailer to match Amazon’s price. Either way, you win.

Device: iPhone, iPad (finally)
Current user rating: Current user rating: 3 stars (66 reviews)
Most recent version: 2.9.1

Reviewers have complained for years that there’s no iPad version of the Apple Store app, but on Nov. 20 Apple released a separate Apple Store iPad app, which provides a pleasant way to read about and buy products. With the iPhone app (in some countries), you can scan an accessory in a brick-and-mortar Apple store and pay for it on the spot using your iTunes account. That convenience alone may be worth the download, especially if you’re in a crowded Apple store and all you want is earbuds. The apps also let you order from Apple.com and ship to your home.

Device: iPhone, iPad
Current user rating: 4.5 stars (95 reviews)
Most recent version: 2.0

With people camping out in front of Best Buy the night before Thanksgiving, they don’t call it Black Friday for nothing. The Black Friday app from Brad’s Deals should take some of the craziness out of your Turkey Day deal-hunting. The app clues you into the latest, just-leaded specials from major retailers. You’ll have tons of Black Friday circulars stored on your iPhone, which you can browse one page at a time. The app also lets you create a Black Friday shopping plan of attack and buy products from any of the ads. Some ads are rendered in small images, though you can pinch and zoom to enlarge.

Device: iPhone
Current user rating: 4 stars (99 reviews)
Most recent version:2.0.2

Forget points — the ibotta app helps you earn actual dollars. Fire up the app at a participating national grocery or home improvement retailer, scan a select item and you’re on the way toward earning dinero. The app works with some national chain restaurants, too. You can filter offers by categories, such as Household, Personal Care, and Blu-rays & DVDs, though the selection of retailers may leave something to be desired.

Device: iPhone
Current user rating: 4.5 stars (27 reviews)
Most recent version: 9.3

Know how some retailers give you a loyalty card that slips onto your keychain? The idea is to make their card easier to carry and access. Before long, you’ve got half a dozen of those laminated cards on your key ring, and they all love to jab you when your keys are in your pants pocket. Get rid of those cards with Key Ring Reward Cards, an app that stores a barcode for each of your loyalty cards. The cashier can then scan the stored barcode. You don’t need to hand over the plastic card. Your key ring will thank you.

News: Square Launches Support for Customer Loyalty Programs

Device: iPhone
Current user rating: 4.5 stars (7 reviews)
Most recent version: 2.6.2

Pounce claims to be the only mobile app that lets you instantly buy products from the digital versions of newspaper circulars. You scan an image of the desired product; if it’s in the current circular, you can click to buy it at the discounted price. The latest version includes some helpful new features, such as the ability to save product images. The app is straightforward and easy to use, though at the moment it only includes print ads from a handful of national retailers, including Macy’s, ToysRUs, Staples, Target, ACE Hardware and BabiesRUs.

Device: iPhone, iPad
Current user rating: 4 stars (68 reviews)
Most recent version: 4.0.1

Shopkick is among the more popular iOS shopping apps, probably because it rewards you with “kicks,” or points, for shopping. Heck, with Shopkick you can earn points just by entering a store. Checking out a nearby Best Buy, for instance, could earn you 100 kicks. You can redeem points for retailer gift cards. The downside: Some reviewers complain that recent updates have made the app harder to use. Also, Shopkick turns shopping into a points-collecting game of sorts, so you have to be into that sort of thing.

Analysis: 5 Things You Need to Know About Geofencing

Device: iPhone
Current user rating: None
Most recent version: 2.1

Shop O’Lot takes a slightly different approach from its competitors. It combines geolocation and a scoring algorithm based on your shopping profile. With that data, it serves up products you’re more likely to want when you’re in a specific retail store, as opposed to making you wade through a bunch of stuff you don’t like. One downside: Event though you can log in with your Facebook account, the app will still make you create an account — though it does so in order to get you to pick product categories of interest.

Study: Geolocation Apps Draw Users, Despite Privacy Concerns

Device: iPhone, iPad
Current user rating: 5 stars (29 reviews)
Most recent version: 2.0

Recently overhauled for iOS 7, Shopular is probably the top user-rated iOS shopping app (it currently has a 5-star rating). The geolocation-aware app will pop up deals on your phone as you cruise through the mall or shopping center. The developer says it’s able to do this without sucking your iPhone battery by using cell towers and Wi-Fi, not GPS to locate you. You can customize offers by selecting favorite national retailers, including a few not seen in most other apps, such as retro men’s clothing retailer Penguin.

Device: iPhone
Current user rating: 4 stars (1,911 ratings)
Most recent version: 2.4.3

Printed coupons are tedious to clip, a chore to sort and a pain to carry. SnipSnap alleviates this burden while still letting you reap the financial rewards of coupon mania. Tap to select favorite categories. From there, tap the “Discover” button to browse coupons by Top Stores, Featured Users (SnipSnap is very social network-friendly), Top Coupons, and Top Bundles. Also, when you’re in a store or at home, you can snap a photo of a printed coupon. The app converts the text, images and barcodes into an offer you can redeem right in the app. SnipSnap also reminds you when you enter a store where you’ve redeemed coupons.

Device: iPhone, iPad
Current user rating: 3.5 stars (12 reviews)
Most recent version: 9.2

Want to cover all your Black Friday bases and still get deals all-year-long fed to you via DealCatcher.com? Then TGI Black Friday is the app to download. Along with push notifications when a new Black Friday ad is posted, you can search, sort and compare more than 10,000 deals in a ton of categories and from many national retailers. The app also helps you make a convenient shopping list. Some reviewers have reported crashes and glitches after a Nov. 15 update, however.

Blog: 3 Must-Have Black Friday Apps

Device: iPhone
Current user rating: 4.5 stars (13 reviews)
Most recent version: 1.36

Pick your favorite national retailers from among about 100, such as Best Buy, Costco, Foot Locker, Gap and REI. Select your favorite categories, including men’s clothing and electronics. Zoomingo will send you instant sales alerts (via push notifications) related to your favorites. You’ll get alerts for Black Friday ads when they’re posted, too — particularly useful for those stores you follow. You can create shopping lists, browse sales items by retailer, and, yes, earn points redeemable for gift cards. Some reviewers have complained of crashes after a recent app update, however.

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