Best Android Apps to Start Off 2014 (SHOPPING)

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All these apps are free.  This article is one of a series of articles about the best Android apps available as of the beginning of 2014.  Click here for the main article that includes links to this article and links to all the other categories of “The Best Of” apps for beginning 2014.  This article is for the shopping apps category available at the beginning of 2014.

Amazon

2014-02-03 00.47.08The Amazon app [phones] [tablets] (not to be confused with the Amazon App Store, also reviewed below) is a native front end to the Amazon online store (not the app store).  This provides most of the features in the web site (if not all of them… I’ve, by no means, researched each and every feature of this massive web site).

This app is useful for obvious reasons in addition to the fact that you can be browsing in a brick and mortar store, like Wal-Mart, pick up an actual item off the shelf and scan its barcode into this app and it’ll tell you what you can get it for on Amazon.

I won’t go into extreme detail of what this app does.  If you’re familiar with Amazon.com, you already have a good idea.  You can, of course, track your Amazon.com orders with this app too.  Not much has changed from my review of it last year.  It’s still a good, solid app and I highly recommend it, even if you don’t purchase anything from them, at least you can do some comparison price shopping while walking around inside other stores.

 

2014-02-03 00.52.30Amazon App Store

Download Here.  One of the great things about Android is that you’re NOT locked into just ONE app store, like you are with iOS and Windows Phone.  You don’t have to root or “jail brake” your Android phone to install another app store.  It’s perfectly legitimate to do so on Android and is activated with just a simple settings change on any Android phone or tablet.

The Amazon Android App Store is a direct competitor to the Google Play app store that’s pre-installed on almost every Android device made (with the exception of the really cheap and crappy Chinese Android products).

This app has been improved significantly from this time last year.  It still has some issues though.  For example, it still doesn’t have a “What’s New” section for each app.  Apps are not updated nearly as often here as they are in the Google Play Store.  Installing an app seems to take significantly longer and they do NOT install in the background.  You HAVE to wait until the app finishes installing before leaving the App Store, or next time you come back to the App Store, you’ll find (even days or weeks later), that it hasn’t finished installing your app yet.

One thing I really like about the Amazon Android App Store is their Free App Of The Day.  Every day, they GIVE AWAY a PAID app.  In other words, it’s an app that’s NOT free on any other day, but on THAT day, you get it for free!

To Install It:

On your phone, go to Settings –> Security –> Unknown Sources

and make sure it’s checked.

Then go to this URL to download it to your phone (or Google search for “Amazon App Store”).

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Amazon Price Check

2014-02-03 00.59.01This app [Amazon App Store] [Google Play] lets you scan barcodes while in a real store and compare the prices to Amazon… Not sure why this is a different app from the Amazon app, which provides the same functionality.

Ebay

2012-12-31 18.42.002014-02-03 01.04.41

This is a nicer and more responsive native app [Amazon App Store] [Google Play] than trying to use the ebay website from your mobile browser.  If you’re familiar with ebay, you already know what you can do with this app.  If not, just look at these screen shots and those should pretty much tell you what you need to know.  On the left is my screen shot from last year (logged in).  On the right, from this year (not logged in).

Best Buy2012-12-31 18.43.472012-12-31 18.44.45

[Google Play] This is a front end to the Best Buy web site and is very useful when you’re in a physical Best Buy store.  If you’ll notice, most products have a ticket on the shelf with a price, a small description, and a 2D QR bar code.  Scan it with this app and you’ll get the full details of the product.  No significant changes from last year’s review, though I’ll point out that I now seem to lose my logon and have to continuously log on.  Since my passwords are long and complex and stored in LastPass, this is very frustrating.

You can also check the balance of your Best Buy gift cards by simply taking a picture of the back of your gift card.

If you’re a RewardsZone member (and if not, WHY NOT?), you can check on your RewardZone points and even display your RewardZone points on your phone to the cashier at checkout to redeem your points, instead of printing them out at home and bringing them in.  You’ll save ink, paper, time, frustration, and money… an the “green” Nazis will sprinkle their happy happy fairy dust on you.

 

2012-12-31 18.45.502012-12-31 18.45.20Game Stop

I no longer recommend this app.  It tracks too much of your information.  I’ve uninstalled it.

2014-02-03 01.14.42FedEx

[Amazon App Store] [Google Play] The FedEx app is highly useful when you’re tracking a packing you’ve either sent or are expecting to receive (such as one you ordered with say, the Amazon app).  The screen shot to the right pretty much sums up what this app does.  It’s short and simple… It does the things you expect and nothing fancy.

 

2014-02-03 01.16.432014-02-03 01.17.35UPS

[Amazon App Store] [Google Play] The UPS app is similar to the FedEx app.  It does the same thing, except for UPS shipments.  No surprises here.  New this year (since my review last year) is the “UPS My Choice” feature.

QR Droid & Barcode Scanner

2014-02-03 01.24.382014-02-03 01.25.23[Amazon App Store] [Google Play] Both apps “QR Droid” and “Barcode Scanner” let you scan those 2D barcodes you’re seeing everywhere.  They usually represent a URL and it’s extremely convenient to scan them in places like BestBuy on product tags on the shelves or on movie posters or even on web sites on your desktop computer to load up the URL on your phone.  Installing QR Droid also gives you the ability to create your OWN QR Codes.  For example, you can send a contact from your contacts to it and it’ll display as a QR code on your screen.  Someone else can scan your screen with their phone and receive your contact.  If you’re on a web page, you can share the web page to the app and it’ll produce a QR Code with the URL encoded in it.  You can save it and e-mail it or publish it on your website, or show it on your screen to let someone else scan it.  But, since we’re in the “Shopping” apps category here, you can use it to scan 2D QR Codes in stores to get more information on the products and to even compare prices.

 

2012-12-31 19.07.39Kroger

[Google Play] The Kroger app is a master app for all the stores shown in the screen shot:

  • Kroger
  • Baker’s
  • CityMarket
  • Dillons
  • Food4Less
  • Food4Less Fremont
  • Foods Co
  • Fred Meyer
  • Fry’s
  • Gerbes
  • JayC Food Stores
  • King Suupers
  • Owen’s
  • Pay Less Super Markets
  • QFC Quality Food Centers
  • Ralphs
  • Smith’s

2014-02-03 01.28.25Kroger is the parent company for all these grocery stores.  This app works with all of them.  If you have a customer loyalty card at any of these stores (and if you don’t, WHY NOT?) they all work at all those stores.  This app will let you browse coupons and add them to your card.  When you check out, if you’ve put any of those products in your cart, when you swipe your card at the register, all those coupons are applied.  You can check your fuel points too and see the weekly ads.  This is a MUST HAVE app if you shop at any of these grocery stores.

CraigsNotifica

That’s not a typo.  That’s actually what it’s called.  This app is dropped from last year’s recommendation because it appears it’s no longer available.

Google Shopper2012-12-31 20.37.39

Google went on a rampage last year, axing many apps.  Google Shopper was one of them.  So, this is no longer available.  But see “Google Offers” below.  But, here’s my review from last year:  Google Shopper integrates with “Barcode Scanner” (reviewed above).  Scan any barcode and this app will find multiple sources for that product.  This is probably the best way to find the best price on anything.  Use this when shopping in any physical store to decide whether or not it’s worth buying that product in your hands now, or somewhere else.

Google Offers

image2014-02-03 01.33.05

New on this year’s list, Google Offers, I believe, is somewhat of a replacement for Google Shopper.  I have chosen to NOT install it because you have to enable both GPS location services AND location history.  That’s too much for my personal taste, but if you don’t mind your personal location being tracked and recorded, then this app can provide you some savings.  From their description:

“Now with Google Offers, you don’t have to pay to get offers. No need to buy them, just save offers to your account and redeem with your phone when you shop.

The app helps you discover relevant offers from local businesses and big brands, and keeps track of offers you find on Google Search, Maps, and more.

You can use them straight away, or the app will remind you next time you’re near the store. Then, all you do is open the app to show your offer at checkout—no printing needed.”

Gift Shopper Pro ($0.99)

image

[Google Play] [Amazon App Store] New on this year’s list.  This was a free app of the Day on the Amazon App Store, so I got it free.  This is a great app for keeping track of gifts you’re buying for loved ones for any holiday or occasion you need to track.  It is tablet friendly as well.

 

T-Mobile MobileLife

2014-02-03 01.41.452014-02-03 01.41.32Available for free [Amazon App Store] (and likely pre-installed) for T-Mobile customers, this app does many things, but my family uses it for a shared and immediately live shopping list.  Whenever I discover I’m out or running low on something, I’ll pull my phone out and enter it onto our shopping list.  When my wife or I are getting groceries, we’ll pull out this list on our phones and check off the items as we put them in our buggy.  What’s great is if I remember something after my wife has already left for the store, I just add it to the list, and she’ll see it while she’s shopping.  A non-carrier specific shared shopping list app that’s very popular is  “Out Of Milk” [Amazon App Store] [Google Play]

 

You Chime In

What are some of YOUR favorite apps in this category?  Let us know in the comments below.

Conclusion

This completes my list of “Best” shopping apps available to start off 2014.  There are, of course, other shopping of apps and this is, by no means, a comprehensive list.  Some of these are the apps in this category that I use on a daily basis and install on a new phone or tablet as soon as I get it.

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BEST ANDROID APPS TO START OFF 2014 (Financial Apps)

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This article is one of a series of articles about the best Android apps available as of the beginning of 2014.  Click here for the main article that includes links to this article and links to all the other categories of “The Best Of” apps for beginning 2014.  This article is for the Financial apps category, which lists the best banking, debt, and financial apps available at the beginning of 2014.  Most of these apps are free or very cheap.

Google Wallet

imageNOTICE!  Google Wallet used to be just for phones with NFC, and was also blocked by many carriers and wouldn’t install on many phones.  Google has significantly changed what Google Wallet is now.  Now, it is your Google money account.  With it you have access to transactions from the Google Play store (apps, music, movies, books, etc…).  You can also send money to friend through it, as well as make NFC payments at your local retailers (even make local purchases WITHOUT NFC!).  Google Wallet now works on just about any phone on just about any carrier.

If you enable location services (let it see your GPS), then it can notify you of nearby deals.

 

Debt Payoff Planner ($0.99)

imageDebt Payoff Planner lets you enter all of your debts, their interest rates, minimum payments due on each, what you can afford each month towards paying off debt, and it will show you the best way to pay down those debts to get it paid off the earliest, paying the least amount in interest.

It will produce payoff tables, showing you each debut, how much to apply to it, on what days.  It’s very simple to use and doesn’t require you to understand the complexities of compound interest or anything like that.  All you need to know is how much you owe on each, what their interest rates are, their minimum payments, and how much you can afford to apply towards your debts each month.  It does all the complex work for you and shows you simple payment plans.

 

aCar (free & paid)

imageaCar keeps track of your auto expenses, including fuel costs, repair and service records and costs, and can show you where you’re spending the most and will even calculate your mileage that you’re getting.  There’s both a free version and a paid version that gives you some nice graphs and reports.

Each time you fill up, enter the number of gallons you purchased, your total price (or price/gallon) and your current mileage.  It’ll figure out the rest.

This does take due diligence on your part to stay current and enter it every time.

 

adSense Dashboard (free)

imageDo you use Google ads for a side income on your websites and blogs (or perhaps your own apps)?  adSense Dashboard shows you your earnings in a nice, clean dashboard UI.

 

 

 

 

You can also choose views for:

  • Overview (the dashboard)
  • Sites
  • Custom Channels
  • URL channels
  • Ad units
  • Graphs
  • Reports

Google AdSense (Free)

imageMuch like adSense Dashboard, Google’s AdSense provides you a different kind of view of your Google ad income.  Of course, it looks more like the Google Now Cards interface.

Google’s version also has notifications, much like the notification drop down in their Google+ mobile app, so if there are any notifications on your account, you can see them from the bell menu.

Quicken 2013 and Quicken 2014

image

If you use Quicken on your desktop, then you have access to the free, mobile app.  Though the mobile app is free, the desktop app (required) is not free.  There’s a version for Quicken 2013 and one for Quicken 2014.  From inside your desktop application, you have it sync with your Quicken Cloud account, then on your mobile device, you log into your cloud account and you can view all your accounts from your mobile.  Additionally, you can finally enter transactions directly from your mobile device.  This has created a new level of convenience in the Quicken software.  You can enter your transactions at the time you write your checks, rather than downloading them and going through your checkbook register to validate.

Just be aware of the MANY bugs in Quicken software!

 

Financial Calculators (Free)

image

Financial Calculators is a free app, and despite the pluralness of the name, it’s a single app, but it does have multiple calculators in it.

Most (if not all) of the many calculators in this app provide multiple fields for you to enter.  You can leave some out and it will auto-calculate the values of the others (provided you gave it enough information).

Rather than explain each calculator in this app (there are MANY), here’s a screen shot of the top of the list (there are more):

2014-02-03 00.06.19

 

Your Bank’s mobile apps

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Of course, I can’t provide a review of every single bank’s and credit card company’s apps.  Instead, I’ll explain what you can expect from most of them in 2014:  For bank apps, you should have access to your checking transactions.  You should also have the ability to make deposits from home (or anywhere) via your mobile app.  You simply sign the back of the check you received, then use your bank’s app to take photos of the front and the back, then tell the mobile app how much the check is.  The app will do OCR on the routing number and account number of the check, then make those funds immediately available to you.  No more rushing to the bank during their highly useless hours (openning an hour or to after you go to work, and closing an hour before you leave work).

 

Conclusion:

This is just a small fraction of what’s available as far as financial apps are concerned.  Search the Google Play store for your own bank’s or credit card’s apps.  They can be quite convenient.

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Quicken 2014 Bug

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I’ve reported on many Quicken bugs over the years and have reported them all to Intuit multiple times.  I’d be embarrassed to admit how many hours I’ve spent on the phone, walking them through their own bugs.  It’s all been 100% fruitless.  They don’t care or can’t comprehend that their precious product isn’t perfect.  So, I will now only report it on their website and blog about it here, hoping that maybe they’ll feel just a tiny shred of embarrassment.  And, of course, for your benefit to know that it’s not just you experiencing this bug.  It is a real thing.

So, what’s the bug THIS time?

If you download your transactions from your bank, and one of them is a deposit, then you attempt to change the name of the deposit from say, “DEPOSIT” (which the bank gave it) to the actual payer, say “John Smith”, Quicken will CHANGE THE TRANSACTION DATE to a date in the future, saying “It’s too late to make a payment to John Smith”.  Here’s an actual screen shot:

Quicken 2014 Deposit Bug

Forget that this is a deposit of only a penny (that’s a whole other blog post!)  The point is that this IS a deposit and I want to change the name from “DEPOSIT” to “Verizon Wireless”, who is the one that sent me the check.  Quicken 2014 insists that I must be setting up a payment and refuses to keep the actual transaction date that’s already there.

I even accepted the transaction as “DEPOSIT”, hoping that after it was already in the registry, that I could change the payee to the right name and it still exhibits the same bug.

Solution

I know of no solution.  As a work around, I just put “Verizon Wireless” in the memo field instead, leaving the bank’s choice of “DEPOSIT” in the payee field, which is NOT the right solution.  So, no solution, only a less than desired work around.

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