Using a mobile phone for real-time price comparisons

I’ve had phones and/or PDAs with internet connections and mobile browsers for about seven years now, however I’ve never found the ability to surf the web on a mobile device to be particularly useful. I’ve never had a device with enough bandwidth or screen real estate to make the experience bearable. Every now and then, I’ll look up a restaurant’s phone number while I’m out so I can make reservations or order take out, or if I’m insanely curious about something, I might look it up using wapedia, but for the most part, I use the data capabilities of my phone far more for IM and email than for browsing the web.

That said, I was at the San Francisco International Auto Show yesterday with my family, and was reminded of the value of mobile price checking. My kids came across something called a Wiggle Car that they instantly fell in love with, and since Christmas is coming up, my wife and I decided to buy a couple and smuggle them out to the car to be gifts from Santa. The price was a little steep, though, and since I’d never even heard of a Wiggle Car before, I had no way of knowing what they were worth. While my kids test drove Wiggle Cars and my wife distracted the salesman, I used T-Mobile’s EDGE network and my Sidekick 3 to do a little research. Since T-Mobile’s EDGE network is so slow and/or the Sidekick 3’s browser takes so long to render content (I suspect a little of both), it took about 10 minutes for me to come up with what I thought was a fair price. Since it was the last day of the auto show, and since we were buying two, I actually negotiated an even better price, and now have two Wiggle Cars stashed down in my garage waiting for Christmas morning.

My phone gives me reasonable price comparison tools, however there are some better options there. I used to use an application called Piranha Pricecheck on my Sidekick 2, although it doesn’t seem to be available anymore for the Sidekick 3. It’s a Java based mobile application for comparing prices and reading reviews from Amazon. It looks like it should run on most Java-enabled phones. Once I replace my Sidekick 3 (I’m working on that), I will probably start using it again.

I’ve used wishradar’s mobile price comparison service which works well, but it’s hard to use from my Sidekick because the email service is so slow (not WishRadar’s fault — another strike against the Sidekick). I’ve actually had very good luck with Google’s SMS price checking service,which is nice because it’s much faster than trying to use your phone’s web browser. I also came across a TechCrunch article comparing three SMS price comparison services, but I haven’t had a chance to test any of them out for myself yet (though I’m certain I will this holiday season).

If you have any useful tips on mobile price comparison, any services and/or techniques you like or dislike, or any good mobile price comparison stories, please share below.

3 thoughts on “Using a mobile phone for real-time price comparisons

  1. Hi Christian,
    Sorry about the errors from WishRadar. It sounds like you were trying to input the UPC code with your Sidekick camera. It’s possible we failed to communicate this in our description, but the service was never meant to work with a photo of the UPC code. If you type in the UPC number manually and email it, you should get a response with the best price from amazon or
    Please feel free to email directly if it still doesn’t work. jason at wishradar dot com.
    Thanks again for signing up and giving WishRadar a whirl.
    Best, Jason


  2. Jason,
    My apologies. I got WishRadar mixed up with another service I tested. My problem with WishRadar wasn’t errors — it was the time it takes for my Sidekick to retrieve email which is the Sidekick’s fault — not WishRadar’s. I’ve updated my post.


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