You might think that with the smartphone revolution, there would be no better time for busy, on-the-go people to get their holiday shopping done.

The problem is that most stores have mobile sites that are all but unusable, with pages of images that take forever to populate and tiny buttons that require pinpoint precision just to select things like size and color. I know, I know: cue the world's smallest violin.

Luckily there's a better way. Shopping via app is not only simple and streamlined, it in most cases offers a superior visual experience and other perks that beyond those offered by both brick and mortar and web-based stores. Here's a few of the best. (Note: I use an Android phone, so the user experience and availability might be different for iPhone or Microsoft phone users.)

Amazon

I have not one, not two, but three Amazon-based apps on my phone. One is a Kindle app, another is a barcode scanner that will tell me if anything I find in the real world is available on the site, and for what price.

The third is a shopping app that is virtually identical to the Amazon home page, with recommendations for me, movies and tv shows I can watch via Amazon Prime and other categories based on my user profile. It's both faster and more inuitive than a mobile site, but the main reason I like it is that it sends me push notifications when anything I order is shipped or delivered.

Keep

I have already explored my addiction to Keep in detail, so I will just say that the app's universal cart is now available not just for iPhone users but on the Android and web versions as well, which is an enormous time saver when you are shopping for multiple people with gifts from across the internet and don't want to enter your credit card information over and over again.

 

 

 

 

ShopStyle

This website and app is perfect for comparison shopping. Looking for, say, a shower curtain? Enter it as a search term on the ShopStyle homepage and the app will scour big-name retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy's, Amazon, Anthropologie and eBay for listings that match, with filters for brand, price, store, and to show only items that are new or on sale. Save ones you like in the app or purchase via a portal to the online retailer. It's not as smooth an experience as Keep but offers a lot more options.

 

 

 

 

Store apps

Somehow the fast fashion retailers are among the most savvy when it comes to creating an enticing mobile buying experience —maybe because their target market of millennials only cares about things they can access from their phones. While their designs might be knockoffs, the Forever 21 app is in a league of its own, with a barcode scanner to check for invetory at local stores and read online reviews, a lookbook, style blogs, a full retail site, and a portal that shows user-submitted Instagram pictures of other customers in their Forever 21 finds. 

The other stores with sleek apps for shopping are all based in Europe. Versions from Asos, Mango and Zara are set up similarly to a mobile site, though with cleaner interfaces and a more fluid user experience when toggling between pages. Of the three, only Mango sends push notifications to tell me when there's a sale I should check out. I can't decide if I like this as a feature or not; ask me after my impulse-purchased sale earrings show up in the mail.

H&M raises the bar by borrowing Tinder's idea, letting users simply swipe through the current collections, Trust me, lusting over faux leather leggings is just as addictive as swiping for singles. Maybe more.

 

 

 

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