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Holiday shopping goes mobile, social

John D. Sutter
The RedLaser app, shown here in a promotional YouTube video, lets users scan products and search for better deals.
The RedLaser app, shown here in a promotional YouTube video, lets users scan products and search for better deals.
  • Mobile devices, websites help tech-savvy shoppers
  • Barcode scanners make price-comparison easy from stores
  • Some stores offer discounts if you "check in" online

(CNN) -- One of our Twitter followers put it best:

"Using tech to buy tech :)," Kenji_O wrote in response to our question about the best methods for gadget shopping this holiday season.

It's true. In order to make the most of your consumer-electronics purchases, you'll need a few tech tools already on hand.

Here's our quick and dirty guide to apps, websites and social-media phenomena that will make holiday shopping -- especially all that Black Friday madness -- a little bit easier. It's based on interviews with several gadget and shopping experts.

Got tips of your own? Throw 'em in the comments section, or send us a note on Twitter. Our handle is @cnntech.

Scanner apps

If you own a smartphone, take it with you to the mall. Apps like RedLaser and ScanLife, ShopSavvy and Barcode Scanner use the phone's camera to scan product barcodes and then recommend cheaper places where you can get exactly the same thing.

Use that information to ask for a lower in-store price if you don't want to wait for the item to ship -- or if you're worried you might return it.

Social coupons

Will you sit and surf or dash for deals?
Deals on latest tech gadgets

Some websites, mostly notably Groupon, offer daily deals through e-mail and social media. The quantities are limited, and users sometimes have to make the purchases on a certain day of the week.

Check out Groupon's holiday page for more information.

It's also smart to follow big tech brands and retail stores on Facebook and Twitter. Some time-limited deals show up on those pages before they're advertised elsewhere. is particularly active. Target and Wal-Mart also have active feeds.

Online aggregators

Don't go to individual store websites to start your search. Compare prices across retailers by searching Google and Bing for specific products.

Aggregator sites like DealNews and DealDump also post the latest Black Friday holiday discounts.

Check-in deals

Several smartphone apps let users "check in" to retail stores in hopes of earning coupons and discounts. Some of the most popular are Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook Places, SCVNGR, Shopkick and Gowalla.

CNNMoney says that checking in with these apps can earn users serious discounts:

"In 1,500 stores around the country, Toys 'R' Us is offering a 15 percent discount for purchases over $150 to the first 3,000 people to check-in on Facebook Places, Foursquare, and Yelp. RadioShack is offering a number of discounts for checking in on Foursquare. Users receive 10 percent for checking in, 15 percent if they're the mayor, and 20 percent for unlocking the "Holiday Hero" Badge.

"After recently displaying an ad featuring Foursquare founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, the Gap just announced a Black Friday deal: users who check in receive 30 percent off any item."

Black Friday apps

For those braving real-world Black Friday crowds (note: there are plenty of discounts online), several apps can help you plan your trip and make the most of it when you're out in the lines.

A Consumer Reports blog recommends Tgi blackfriday, which lets users set up shopping lists and search for the most recent discounts.

CNET highlights an app called TheFind, which lets users browse nearby deals, based on their current GPS location. "Thanks to apps like TheFind, you can browse retailers' websites, nearby stores, and favorite shopping locations from inside a competitor's store," that tech site writes.

In a review, that site also highlights the Amazon Mobile app:

"If you're looking for one-stop shopping on your iPhone, Amazon's app is about as representative of a Web site as one can find in a mobile app," CNET says.

For you Android lovers, here's a best-of Black Friday app list for that Google-produced mobile operating system, from PC World.

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