The holidays are fully under way, which means that shopping is at top of mind for many. In years past, this might have meant thumbing through the weekly circulars and braving the inevitable shopping mall stampedes, but these days, online retailers and deal-hunting mobile apps are changing the game.
For Android users, here are three of our favorite shopping apps, all of which can help you get a heads up on the best deals, not only online, but also in your area. Try them out for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Editors' note: For iOS shopping apps, check out Jason Parker's Black Friday roundup.
Updated for 2012, TGI Black Friday should be your bread and butter leading up to the big shopping day. It aggregates all of the latest Black Friday ads floating around -- some of which are leaked up to a month in advance -- and lists each of the featured items and retailers in its database.
To use the app, simply sift through all of the discounts by product, store name, or category. You can even download PDF printouts of some of the original ads. What's more, the app offers a nifty shopping list creator that lets you keep track of items you plan on buying. From a desktop computer, you can also access its database of deals at TGIBlackFriday.com.
Black Friday doesn't have to be all about waiting in the cold overnight and throwing elbows to get the good deals. Amazon proves that. The online megaretailer actually posts new, deeply discounted products on its Web site every day in the days leading up to Black Friday, and you can use the Android mobile app to stay on top of it all. Right on the main dashboard of the app there's a link to the Black Friday deals and another link to Groupon-like daily deals specific to your location. And if you're not interested in any of those, you can always use the app to shop like normal, with a product search.
If you do find yourself braving the hordes of shoppers at this time of year, Amazon's bar code scanner is great for comparison shopping. There's also a built-in photo search function, but it only works for books, DVDs, CDs, and video games. Overall, Amazon for Android is an incredibly convenient shopping app to have installed, especially for existing Amazon users.
Shopkick is an app that not only gets you the best deals but also has added features you can use when you walk into a physical store. The best part about Shopkick is that it actually rewards you for the shopping you're already doing. This makes it a great app to have at any time of the year, but we think it becomes especially useful during the holidays.
With Shopkick, you can earn "kickbucks" while shopping, just for doing things like checking in or scanning items in stores. These kickbucks can then be redeemed for instant gift cards, right on your Android phone.
Shopkick also offers you hot deals every time you walk into a participating store, and since it has a lot of big-box partners like Target, Best Buy, and Macy's already onboard, it will absolutely come in handy. Just make sure you fire it up whenever you're out shopping for the best deals -- especially on Black Friday.