People say that mobile devices will be the key platform of the future, but there are quite a few things you can do already with good old SMS. The launch of Mobsaver this week got me looking around at a number of similar services for price comparison by text message and here’s what I found. Even with a web enabled mobile device, being able to quickly send a text message to one contact number and get information back from a variety of sources is very appealing. These services are smart, simple uses of affiliate links, APIs and ubiquitous mobile devices. The short reviews below appear in order of my most to least favorite ones. There are other options that work outside the US, but for this write up I tried only systems that work in the US or return prices in US dollars.
TicTap will accept messages containing UPC codes, ISBN numbers or search keywords. When I searched for a particular audio CD, TicTap sent me back new and used prices on Amazon, the number of reviews that have been written there and the average number of stars given by reviewers of the CD.
TicTap can also be asked for recommendations of products similar to the one you are looking at just by putting the letter r in front of the item’s number. Your search results are all saved on a page tied to your mobile number and on that page you can request that an email alert be sent to you if an item falls below a price you set. Your searches can be viewed later by RSS, meaning you don’t have to log in or check on the system’s page for your account. TicTap says that its prices are synched with Amazon every 24 hours, so I don’t know how well the alerts would work for high demand products, but it’s interesting none the less.
I’m also encouraged by the fact that this service is in active development, having just released a WordPress plug in for contextual advertising, for example.
MobSaver got me thinking about all these types of tools and it’s got a lot going for it. Its very simple and usable, though it doesn’t seem to work well with Verizon (Verizon’s fault, it appears). An ISBN or UPC message to MobSaver will bring back results from both Amazon and eBay. New and used prices are returned from Amazon and the range of prices currently available from eBay.
Smarter searches by product model numbers. That could be confusing. I couldn’t get any results back from this service. I wish they would just use UPC codes like the two above. This is only one of many services this site provides.
Two other options I found were UpSnap, which appeared to return a list of local stores related to my search terms, and Scanbuy Shopper, which requires software to be downloaded. I like the ability to SMS one contact in my phone and quickly get back helpful information.
Ringfo does a text to speech search in Amazon by phone call. It’s funny to hear a robot say “be sure to check Ringfo for a list of your items,” to remind me to click the affiliate links.
I would love to be able to search Craigslist by SMS, but at a certain point it makes more sense to use a mobile device with a browser. This is a very logical way to combine affiliate links with ubiquitous mobile phones and I expect that increasingly sophisticated services will become available if services like these prove able to make a profit.
One risk, of course, is that users will cost the services the price of sending the SMS messages and will then buy online directly without using the affiliate links provided by the services above. That makes it all the more imperative for them to add extra value to their services, like the email price alerts and who knows what else in the future, that will bring shoppers back to the service they texted.
For more mobile coverage, make sure to check out MobileCrunch.