US and European companies have launched services that use mobile phones to compare store prices with those offered online. And such smart shopper services are being developed for New Zealand.
UK-based Scan has launched a price-checking service which works when subscribers send a text message containing the barcode of the product they want to buy.
If companies such as Amazon are asking less for the same product, Scan subscribers can buy it straight away by sending back another text message.
Scan buys the product and arranges delivery. The service is free, with callers just paying for the price of the call.
The messages are sent using the Short Message Service on the latest GSM phones.
Scan founder Robert Hamilton says the 160-character limit is enough for the messages to give all the information shoppers needed.
At present, Scan only deals with books and records, but Roberts plans to extend it to almost anything with a barcode.
In the US, IQ order has built up a database of information about a huge range of popular products to also offer a price comparison service.
The Arizona-based company can also take messages from palmtops and in future it wants scanners connected to mobile phones or handhelds to read the barcodes.
Florida-based BarPoint.com offers a similar service for “millions of items” by using the barcode to offer pricing, product and manufacturing information, for purchasing from retailers, e-tailers and auctions.
BarPoint executive vice-president Jeff Sass says his service allows restaurant diners who are served a great wine to see where else the wine is sold and be told other information about it.
"This is so much more engaging than a textual readout from a standard comparison service," he says.
Barpoint.Com also says its services via its Web site can work with desktop PCs as well as handhelds.
The company has formed alliances with other firms to develop its services and is looking at expansion overseas.
Spokesperson Linda Auslen says services for Europe and New Zealand are “under development” but she could not say when they would arrive in New Zealand.