Holiday shopping tips and apps for Black Friday and beyond

Holiday shopping tips and apps for Black Friday and beyond

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Gearing up for the holiday shopping wars? Don’t forget your Windows Phone—an indispensible tool for on-the-spot review and competitive price checks, discount hunting, and more. Here are a few of my favorite tricks and apps for beating the crowds and saving cash.

Shop smarter with 7.5

Before I get to apps, let’s start with some of the mall-friendly tools built into Windows Phone 7.5. I’m always amazed how much I can get done without downloading a single thing.

One built-in convenience I use all the time is Bing Vision, which taps your phone’s camera to help look up product descriptions, reviews, and prices. To start, tap your phone’s Search button (magnifying glass icon) to launch Bing, then tap Vision (the little eyeball icon). Bing Vision can recognize traditional barcodes, QR codes, and Microsoft Tags— just find it on the box and hold up your camera to it for a second or two.

But that’s not all. Windows Phone 7.5 can also recognize books, CDs, and DVDs by their jacket covers—handy when a store pastes over the original barcode with its own version. On bookstore runs, I’m constantly waving my phone over the shelves, scanning covers and checking reviews to see if a title is worth my time. The funny looks I get are worth it. Since Bing Vision keeps track of scanned items (tap History to see them), it’s also an easy way to build a list of things to buy or research later. Here’s a quick 16-second overview of the feature. Find out more on the Windows Phone website.

Another Bing-related built-in every shopper should know about is Local Scout—useful for finding stores when you’re travelling and on unfamiliar turf.  To get started, tap the Search button, tap Scout (the little downtown skyline icon), then flick to Shop too see a list of nearby stores. This how-to article explains a bit more. (One important caveat: Bing Vision and Local Scout are available in many parts of the world, but not everywhere.)

Finally, I’ve noticed that many of my friends with Windows Phones overlook the built-in Office Hub and OneNote Mobile, a perfect tool for creating shopping lists for the kids, noting where you parked, and other mall-related miscellanea. Give it a try!

Top shopping apps

OK, so now you know that Windows Phone is pretty handy right out of the box. But savvy shoppers will still want to arm themselves with the latest shopping apps. Here’s my short list of must-have options, most of which have been updated to take advantage of new features in Windows Phone 7.5 like multiple Live Tiles and fast app switching:

  • Amazon Mobile: Amazon doesn’t always have the lowest prices. But they usually serve as a good sanity check for seeing how much you might be overpaying at the mall. Their 5-star Windows Phone app makes it easy to comparison shop, check reviews, access your Amazon account, and buy stuff from your phone.
  • eBay: Another one of my go-to apps for great deals, putting in bids, and monitoring auctions.
  • Groupon: The official Groupon app for Windows Phone serves up major discounts on stuff to eat, see, and buy.
  • Shop Savvy: Like Bing Vision, this app lets you scan barcodes. But where it really comes in handy is for searching prices at multiple online and local stores, so you can make sure you’re getting the best deal. A must-have download.

Amazon MobileGroupon

Shop SavvyeBay

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  • ugg55
    23 Posts

    555ce17  Air Jordan

  • linli1234
    18 Posts

    555linli17 UGG Boots

  • Erny
    5 Posts

    Holiday discount 100% on Chili Slideshow! Got new Windows Phone? Download Chili Slideshow for FREE!

  • I tried out that wpdemo on my wife's iPhone 4 and it's pretty sweet.  Clearly, it can't take you very deep into the OS, but it pushes some of the key features while letting you "play" with it a bit.  Nice job WP7 team!  I posted the link to in on my Twitter and FB feeds.

  • I know I said it twice today, but this guy is really working hard to get us the apps we want.

  • @ Tony Dedrick

    I totally agree. A separate commercial for each specific, exclusive, feature is what we need.

  • Heard a WP ad on the radio the other day. Have seen quite a few ads on TV, espcially now that we are in the holiday season. So nice to finally see some initiative in advertising. The one's I have seen play up the social networking capabilities, which is all well in good. I think MS needs to take a cue from Apple and start putting it out there the unique features a WP provides. I also think there needs to be a focus on what apps are available. And from there, work to get some, IMO, apps and games that are essential in getting people to seriously consider switching OS'. From reading the opinions of alot of people who are not tied to a certain brand and are willing to try out others, WP's lack of certain apps and games is a big deterrent.

  • tsrblke
    327 Posts

    4:18 before you even see the phone.  I finished watching that and I wanted a cool building projector, not a Lumina.  And maybe a Deadmou5 CD.

    Perhaps there was more leading up to that they cut for the purposes of the video?  Dunno.

    Anywho, I'm with Rodney, where are the blog posts?  Thanksgiving is over, The Titan sold out during AT&T's online Blackfriday sale (go WP7!)  Don't leave us hanging here!

  • Oh yeah, for anyone who missed the Nokia / Deadmou5 spectacle yesterday, here's the link:

  • Along those lines, I think the Nokia / Deadmou5 event yesterday was EXACTLY what we need!  And the Giant Windows Phone needs a few siblings so it's not just one continent at a time...  Go big, go a little irreverently, catch the attention...  because if my daughter's any indication, the youth aren't educated about these things, and don't particularly WANT to be educated about them.  They just want what's cool, what's now.

  • @ djmikebrady

    That's funny, but that's the way it goes. You know you should have slipped the kid next door a $20 to tell her WP was cool. She would probably be looking into one as we speak.  That's why it's so important to appeal to the younger crowd. MS has their work cut out for them. I don't think these family oriented commercials are bad, but, are they going to appeal to the under 25 crowd? They need bar scenes, skate parks, sports related scenes, and it's got to be sarcastic or defiant. It's sad that American youth needs this, but that's the way it is, so MS may want to incorporate a little of it, responsibly...IMO

  • @Rodney - it's great to hear that you're finding more and more associates willing to give WP7 a chance!  I've gotta share this exchange with my oldest daughter, who was home from college over the holiday weekend.  She has an LG Android phone (I think the Optimus) and was complaining about it on and off all weekend long.  Finally, I took the bait and said something like "so you don't like your phone?" and she said:  "No, I hate this thing.  I totally should have gotten a droid."

    I tried to ride the fine line between mocking her and educating her as I explained that she did indeed have "a droid", and that the brand "droid" is simply Verizon's marketing name for their Android phones.  Being 18, she tried in vain to make me wrong, and then finally just said, "Doesn't Sprint have the iPhone now?"

    Sadly, because of the fact that I've got wp7 and have been very vocal about loving it, I'm sure she won't go for it... but my wife is joining the WP7 nation on Christmas Morning!  :)

  • Man! The  website is something else! I can see how it is going to bring a lot of awareness to WP. It's great! You can tweet your request, or simply just re-tweet others request. It took me about 60 sec to make 15 tweets for apps. Great work.

  • @ mehsdomi  & to Micheal Stroh or team WP7

    Yes! This is good! Thanks for making this site available. Can you add links to your site on your post like..  ....Make sure they don't contact any of the other text so they are guaranteed to stand out as a link. Anyways, we need to get this out to the WP community fast. Great work man!

    And, to Michael or others, we need to have a monthly Blog posting showcasing all of the sited dedicated to the WP community. Can we get something like this going? Some of these guys need help with getting their WP sites off the ground. It's the least we can do to show appreciation and support for these guys.

  • mtcerio
    9 Posts

    Dan, I fully agree with you. I would use Bing Vision for item barcodes, before buying, rather than QR codes, but at the moment it does not work here in the UK.

    Also, the Amazon app advertised here is not available in the UK (whilst is).

    A bit annoyed by all these features, that are advertised to everybody, but not available for all.

  • @Rodney, I totally agree.  I saw the original one demoed last year and it was awesome!  The site says it's coming to other, maybe.....

  • But, @enahs, that's NOT what you said.  You specifically referred to VOICE COMMANDS.  What you are really talking about is SEARCH KEYWORDS, which are specific to Bing and work regardless of whether you are typing or speaking.  TellMe isn't even player, other than as a transcribing tool.  And I think the link @tsrblke provided should help you with that.

  • I created to pressure big businesses and developers through mass "Retweets" to show the WP7 community is alive and strong! We want the same app support Android and iOS has!

  • We need this app!

  • Oh! Today I talked to two store reps. One at Target, and the other at Radio Shack. BTW, neither store had a single WP device.

    The boy at Target was really nice and he had a real unbiased attitude towards WP. He said it was cool and should do very well with time. He did say that it is much better than WinMo. He actually uses Android on Sprint, and loves the customization that's to offer, but he actually admitted that Android doesn't control their eco. as they should. He commended Windows Phone for being "middle of the road" when compared to A&G, as far as freedom and consistency is concerned. He said they used to have WP devices, but they pulled the Focus because it's old and never got any new phones.

    The associate at Radio Shack asked me. "What phone are you looking for?" I told him "don't worry about that" jokingly, after seeing that they didn't have any WP devices. I originally came into the store to get a extra data cable, but nowadays I always take a look at every stores phone selection hoping to see some goodies. Anyways, the boy says that they used to have the HTC Arrive, and some other phones, but they took them away and never replaced them with the new ones. He said "I want to switch from Android to WP, but Sprint doesn't have any devices except the Arrive, and I don't want that. I was really shocked and that kind of made my day. I told him that Nokia was to release some devices early next year. He said "but doesn't Nokia use Symbian?" I straitened him out, and he promised me he would definitely upgrade to WP. His reasons for wanting to switch from Android to WP are that he loves Zune. He says its the best audio experience on any device. Also he likes PC and cant wait to get Windows 8. Come to think of it the guy at Target said that WP works really good with PC and anybody that uses Xbox should love WP.

    What I see is a lack of phones in stores and on every carrier. The associates are slowly, and I mean slowly, starting to warm up to WP, but they don't even have any devices to push! With the right associate at bat WP should be a easy sale, with over 90% of people on PC/ Xbox. I think that PC might be the strongest tool to "connect" new users to WP. They already have the mother-ship of the ecosystem, they just don't know the star fighters exist. Awareness is key, and with it the rest will fall into place.

    Also, I found a long lost buddy today on and guess what? He was posting from his HTC HD7. It seems to be getting better and better by the day.

  • Are these guys still on vacation??

  • tsrblke
    327 Posts

    I think y'all are looking for something found in Bing help:

    (It's worth noting since this is the mobile version of bing not all of those work).

  • @ enahs and Scuba

    Where is this list of commands located?

  • enahs
    20 Posts

    @ScubaDog yes I understand all that. My point is, in the search there are the movie times, stocks, weather, and such that are more deeply supported then just showing the results and launching a webpage. This stuff is not documented well anywhere that I can find.

  • @enahs, If I understand your post, what you are talking about is BING, not TellMe.  TellMe simply receives your statement and then transcribes it as text into a Bing search.  That's not the same thing as an actual interactive command, e.g., Siri's ability to set an appointment and invite attendees via a conversational command.  In other words, if you opened up Bing and TYPED IN the exact phrase you said, you'd get the same response--TellMe is simply a speech-to-text input function, nothing more.  Hopefully I've clarified the relationship for you.

  • @enahs, what are you talking about?  Movies?  There is no command for movies in TellMe.

  • enahs
    20 Posts

    @scubaDog, I know that. But read my post. Those things are NOT in that list at all. That list is incomplete, and so is the website, that is my point. Find me in that list where it says anything about movies.

  • @ scuba dog

    Yeah, the best of both worlds is what I expect. WP can easily beat Siri at voice command.

  • On the Siri vs TellMe discussion, I think I've posted this before, but while there are aspects of how Siri works that I like, I much prefer a "Star Trek experience" to  the "HAL 9000 experience".  I don't want to come up with the "right" coversational phrases for my phone (I've read about PLENTY of missteps with Siri and how any glitch in the cloud chokes Siri).  Simpler is better, in my book.  If I can give my device a direct command or ask a direct question, then that's how I like it.  I'm a Lean/Six Sigma guy, so I hate waste in any process.  And, in many ways, Siri is waste.  I'd like to see something in between where TellMe is now and Siri is now.

  • @enahs, you can ask your Windows Phone.  Just press and hold the Windows button and say, "Help".  It will then open up the voice help command and literal talk you through ALL of the voice commands.  Just let it run.

  • @ Tony

    I posted a video of Siri above, which shows how fast and responsive it is.

  • I have fun just playing with Tell me for no reason at times. However, I find it to be hit or miss having to repeat things numerous times. Can't really compare it to Siri seeing as I've only used the application in a AT&T store for a few minutes. It was fast and found most things on the first try. Hopefully, tell me is improved upon

  • enahs
    20 Posts

    Hey Michael, can we get a more proper list of what is supported in voice commands. The standard things listed in the phone or the Microsoft website is not all, by far.

    I have discovered:

    If you say a sports team you get a list of upcoming games and last scores.

    If you say "movie times" you get a list of local movie times, which you can click into and browse movies or local theaters, reviews, etc etc.

    If you say "movie times at [theater name] it takes you directly to that theater.

    If you say "stock [company name] you get stock quotes (eg "stock microsoft").

    If you say "weather" you get your current weather. If you say "weather [city name]" you get the weather in that city.

    There are all what seem to be undocumented features in the voice commands! Perhaps you can get with the developers and get a list of what other goodies they have? Maybe even turn this into a post!

  • @tsrblke

    I look at everything both ways. Instead of having it this way or that way, I would rather have Tellme function with direct commands, and also be able to be more conversational. I think sometimes when we here of a feature being updated we tend to think that we won't be able to use it the way we currently like to. Although this is sometimes the case, I think that if Tellme gets more conversational then it still will understand direct commands, you will just tell it the way you want to speak to it, and others can use it how they please. It's all about choices and options right? I think that's what will make WP successful. Being able to appeal to more people, and the attitude that WP can do what the others do and more will give it the upper hand. As long a WP doesn't become to unorganized, and start to conflict with itself, like Android, then I don't think there should be a limitation to functionality. But, I do agree with you. If they implement Tellme with a more conversational way of understanding and communicating then it better work fluently.

    I have seen how fast and responsive Siri works and personally I think that it does have the upper hand on Tellme right now. I'm just being realistic and unbiased when judging the two overall. MS will have to make Tellme much smarter and faster in order to convince the majority that it's better than Siri. Like I said before, I love innovation, but you have to stay competitive. And, that means it's not always the best idea to always be different and defy what other are doing.

    Here is a video of Siri at work. "Tell me" if Tellme is even half as fast. I think its good that Siri gives the information instantly without sending the guy to search like Tellme does. We could use some of this functionality.!

  • tsrblke
    327 Posts


    Eh, that looks like thy caught the siri bug.  So much of it probably is aspirational, and may not work (like finding and reserving halls?  I didn't know they were on open table.) I'm not trying to be a downer, but as you know, I'd prefer a powerful command framework based piece of voice command than a "conversational" one that does well in demos but fails outside of those.

  • Here is a look at some future WP screen shots, mostly conceptual Tellme functionality, but it's a glimpse into what Apollo might look and be like. This seems to be an official MS video.

    Desktop version ...

    Mobile version .....

  • ......Nothing funny needed. Just be cool, and sophistocated. The firm that does Lexus commercials should be doing WP.

  • Yes MS! Listen to Darkurious. All we want to see on WP commercials is a phone filing the screen for 30 seconds. Say what it is, show what it does, and repeat.

  • tsrblke
    327 Posts


    Yeah you nailed that one.  The current "It all starts with Windows 7" commericals are confusing.  In fact I think they actually say "It all starts with a Windows 7 PC" the phone is clearly an afterthought.  (Bad marketing, bad!)

  • Bushman
    12 Posts

    And also the fact that Android and Apple's App stores are now crammed around 500,000 each they need an app serach engine over there  - marketplace seems to be the only app store left to develop apps for. Now push for range of Mango Phones to bring choice to the consumer. Tiles are very interesting.

  • I'm deeply saddened by the low sales of Windows Phone but at the same time, I'm disappointed with Microsoft's Marketing department. You need to put the phones in consumer's hands to get a sale AND there needs to be a heavy flurry of television ads, which I don't see. The failure isn't the phone, it's MS Marketing.  Advertising saturation is the key!

  • tsrblke
    327 Posts

    I will say I find Bing Vision frastrating sometimes.  Since it's looking for almost anything, it sometimes takes longer to handle QR/Barcodes than I'd like.  Maybe it's because I'm not putting them in the right place/size?  Dunno.  I still have a dedicated barcode scanner I use a lot because of that.

  • DanGB
    1 Posts

    I'd just like to point out that the Amazon Mobile app is USA only. (poor show)

  • Dont forget the little guys, BlackFriday app for Windows Phone

  • prachie
    1 Posts

    Great list. I'd add's new app---they let you know if anything you buy goes on sale, and how you can get that money back (often, its as easy as going back to the store!). Check them out @thatssavvy

  • This is the kind of stuff we need. I don't care about the device or it's specs, it's the way the device is being presented. This is appealing and will definitely excite the male, and appeal to the female, crowd. I would like to see WP showcased as this kind of cutting edge cool type of device at least sometimes, instead of the G rated, have a nice day, mickey mouse, family phone all of the time. It's no wonder that Android, even with it's so so UI, is still attracting customers. People like cool!... Personally, I think that WP can do better than this. I would take the stylish, exclusive, sophisticated, GQ, Robb Report road instead of Androids B list Mission impossible spin off. Never the less, I applaud Androids marketing team for thinking "cool"

    Watch this online flash demo and you will think, "man, they really got the right idea".

  • That was supposed to be "Hoping"

  • @Dan

    I think you have to set your search location in the phone settings to USA.

  • ......   Is There An App That You Wish Windows Phone Had?  .......

    Isn't it annoying looking at your banks website and seeing apps available for Android, iPhone or Black Berry, but no WP app? What about those daily news cast showing new apps available for the iPhone or Android? They never even mention WP! One of the worst situations is when you sign up for a new service or subscription, but you cant take advantage of the mobile features because no WP app is available, "yet"......

    There are things that you can do to help get the apps you want faster, and help increase the number of apps in the marketplace. Don't just sit back waiting and hopping that one day the app you desire will come flying into the marketplace, speak up and tell everyone "I want this app for my Windows Phone".... It's funny how it works; the more, QUALITY / USEFUL, apps that WP has, the more new people are likely to adopt the platform. As the amount of new users increase, the amount of apps increase because developers see it "worth their time and resources" to develop apps for WP. This in return brings you, I, and new users the apps we need and want. The amount of apps start to compound on themselves and everyone is happy.

    Some things that you can do to get the apps you want are simple and not very time consuming at all.

    1. You can simply send the party who you want to make an app an email. Most websites have a "contact" tab where you can find the email address or phone number so you can cry your heart out to them to develop a app for WP.

    2. Use Twitter. Search for the desired organization on Twitter, and tweet your need for a WP app. You can use hash tags to make your tweets directly searchable and more apparent, but that's another story. Search "Hash Tags" to learn more.

    3. Tell Microsoft. Use the proper channels to communicate your need for a specific app to MS. Once they know that users are dying for a app they will try their best to court developers so that one is available asap.

    4. Use Facebook. Kind of like Twitter you can search for a party and post a message to their page.

    5. Ask for your apps in online forums, and in comment sections of popular sites like WPCentral, or Pocket Now. You can even Email and ask the moderators of popular sites to vouch for you, seeing that they usually have some amount of pull in the industry.

    6. Start a Windows Phone website in the line of  "Windows Phone Most Wanted Apps" This may be kind of out there, but whatever it takes to get attention right?

    And there are a lot of other things you can probably think of. The point is to be proactive instead of just waiting for something to happen. These outlets are what organizations rely on to get feedback from consumers. If used these tools will definitely have a positive out come, and your time will be used in one of the best ways you can to help WP grow. I personally have already started to email, tweet, and post my suggestions on various websites and social media venues because I could use a little more variety in the MP. And, although I'm sure the apps will eventually come, I'm just trying to make the wait a little shorter.

  • @Dan. Sorry, not sure.

  • @Rondey. Thanks for the pointer. I'll have to check that out.

  • Bing Vision and local Scout are great!  I love the fact that B. Vision can translate languages for you, and the product look up is cool because you don't have to hold down any camera buttons, it just recognizes codes instantly, and automatically pulls up the search items. Local Scout is better than any standalone mapping service Ive ever used for finding thing to do and see. It's like Bing Maps, Bing Images Bing, Bing, Bing all in one very easy to use hub. It's amazing how well thought out both utilities are. I love my Samsung Focus and I am looking forward to "Apollo" and the devices that come along with that episode because I'm sure these services will only get better and better.

    BTW, a new app by the name of "FFFFound" by RogueCode hit the marketplace. It showcases cool and unusual photography. The app functions extremely well for supposedly been put together in a few days. It also has something that I think is cool... the screenshots looks like a potential evolution of the current Metro design language, with some cool function that I wouldn't mind seeing integrated natively in the future. Again, I just don't see how this was thought up and developed in a matter of days. WPcentral posted a article about it here...

  • I have to say, since I'm not in the market for a new phone (I'm only a year into my contract with the original Focus and I still consider it better than the new devices as far as an overall package goes) this Christmas holds no real tech draw for me.  I don't like console gaming---it's PC or nothing, for me---but I've been lusting after the Kinect.  The two downsides up to this point have been A) it depends on the XBox 360 and B) it, by all reports, sucks in a small room (let alone close up).  But I just read that it looks like a more refined version is coming out early 2012 that tunes firmware and sensors to work specifically with PCs and in "closeup mode", that being mere centimeters!  This basically means this new version of the Kinect should work nicely as a companion desktop input device.  I am REALLY excited over the potential there.  With the new SDK out for the Kinect on PCs the developers could well have a field day.  Coupled with where Windows 8 is already going, I think Windows will re-emerge as THE ecosystem.

  • Dan
    3 Posts

    Any idea when/if the full Bing Vision service is coming to Windows Phones in the UK? Only seems to read MS Tags and QR codes out of the box...