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Holiday Shopping Apps for the iPhone and iPad

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Discover how to get your holiday shopping done from virtually anywhere, using a selection of popular online shopping apps available for the iPhone or iPad. In this article, Jason R. Rich shows you how to find unique gift items or save money on popular products as you use specialized online shopping apps that are available from the App Store.
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The holiday season is upon us, yet if you’re like most people, finding time to get all of your holiday shopping done can be a huge challenge. Thanks to a handful of specialized online shopping apps that are available for the Apple iPhone and/or iPad, however, it’s easy to get your shopping done from virtually anywhere-and often save money in the process.

The concept of secure online shopping certainly isn’t new. Most retail stores now have an online presence that allows you to shop from that store using any web browser, such as Safari, from any computer or wireless device that’s connected to the Internet. However, from the App Store, you’ll discover easy to use apps from many popular companies that make shopping even easier.

All of the apps featured here are available, for free, from the App Store. Using one or more of these apps, you’ll be able to find unique or otherwise hard to find gift items, and/or have the opportunity to save money on popular, more mainstream products that you might otherwise buy at the mall or from Wal-Mart, Target, or a major department store, for example.

As you browse the App Store, you’ll discover many proprietary apps from popular retail chains and department stores that also allow you to shop directly from your iOS mobile device that’s connected to the Internet via a Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G (LTE) connection. To find these apps, launch the App Store app and type the name of the store you’re looking for, such as Best Buy, Target, Toys R Us, or Sears, into the Search field. You’ll then be able to find, download, and install that store’s app.

Unlike when shopping from the App Store, iTunes Store, iBookstore, or Newsstand, when shopping using a proprietary app, it is not possible to pay for your purchases using an Apple ID account. Instead, you’ll need to link a major credit card or debit card to each shopping app and potentially store that information within the app. Once this is done, the payment information will be saved, making it much faster to make your purchases with a few taps on the iPhone or iPad’s screen.

Apps for Finding Unique Holiday Gifts

The following apps will help you find, shop for, and purchase unique gift items or products that aren’t typically sold at the mall, major department stores, or Target, for example.


This app offers a selection of unique and often quirky merchandise that changes on a daily basis. You’ll often discover items being manufactured and sold by smaller companies, artisans, and inventors, as well as gourmet food items that are suitable for gifts. The FAB app is very easy to use and offers descriptions and photos of the items offered each day. The one drawback to shopping from FAB is that the order processing time is often several days to three weeks, so plan accordingly.

Catalog Spree

This single app gives you instant access to literally hundreds of popular, full-color mail order catalogs, and makes them interactive. Once you select a catalog to view, you can swipe your finger to turn the pages. However, if you see an item you want to learn more about, simply tap on its description or photo(s) to obtain more detailed information. Then, you can place an order for that product directly from the Catalog Spree app.

In addition to offering the latest editions of mail order catalogs from well-known companies, like Toys R Us, Macy’s, American Girl, L.L. Bean, and Eddie Bauer, for example, this app will introduce you to catalogs from lesser-known companies that offer a plethora of unique gift and holiday items. When shopping using the Catalog Spree app, the end result is the same as shopping from a traditionally printed mail order catalog. The prices are identical (there are no extra fees for using this app), and the same shipping and handling charges, if applicable, will apply.

The free Catalogs.com for iPad app offers similar functionality to Catalog Spree, but features a different selection of mail order catalogs, as well as special offers that often include free standard shipping for some orders.

Meanwhile, the SkyMall app offers a digital version of the popular shopping catalog you’ll find aboard most commercial flights. Like the printed catalog, the SkyMall app offers “highlights” from popular mail order catalogs, plus an assortment of other products. The benefit to using this app is you can often earn frequent flier miles for your purchases. Plus, if you’re traveling on a flight that offers fee-based Wi-Fi, you can access the airplane’s Wi-Fi hotspot for free to do your shopping from your iPhone or iPad. The Holiday edition of the SkyMall catalog/app is currently available.


This app offers an ever-changing selection of designer clothing and jewelry items for men, women, kids, and the home, often at up to 60 percent off retail prices. Each day, the Gilt app showcases what’s available using colorful photos and detailed text-based descriptions, and then allows you to place your order(s) online, directly from the iPhone or iPad.

Apps That Will Save You Money When Shopping for Popular Products

When it comes to online shopping, a handful of companies, like Amazon.com and eBay.com, offer a vast selection of products, often at a discount. Between these two companies, you can quickly find just about anything for anyone on your holiday gift list. Using the official Amazon Mobile or eBay.com apps, you can shop from these online-based services using your iOS mobile device.

Amazon Mobile

The Amazon Mobile app gives you full access to millions of items, often at a discount. If you already have an Amazon.com account set up, you can log in using that information from the iPhone/iPad app, and then take advantage of 1-Click ordering. To save even more money, subscribe to the Amazon Prime service ($79.00 per year), which offers free and unlimited second-day shipping on almost all of your orders. You also get unlimited access to Amazon’s vast library of TV shows and movies, which you can stream from the Internet and view on your iPhone or iPad.


If you already have an eBay account, the official eBay app allows you to buy and sell items, compare prices, and utilize powerful search tools to find exactly what you’re looking for. Just like when using eBay on your desktop or laptop computer, the app allows you to place bids for auction items, or take advantage of eBay’s Best Offer or Buy It Now options.

Last Minutes Gifts Are Just a Few Taps Away


Using your iPhone or iPad in conjunction with the Flowers app, it’s possible to quickly find and send flowers, a plant, chocolates, balloons, gift baskets, or other popular gift items that can be delivered on the same day or the next day via an FTD florist.

1800Flowers: The Official 1-800-Flowers Mobile Gift Center

Similar to the Flowers app, this app gives you instant access to hundreds of gifts and flower arrangements suitable for the holidays or any occasion. Same day or next day delivery is often available. What’s nice about this app is that it remembers your payment information, as well as the names and addresses of people you often send gifts to, so placing orders is a quick process.

Take Advantage of Price Comparison Apps

If you do opt to leave your home or office and visit the mall or a retail store to do some holiday shopping, first install a price comparison app onto your iPhone or iPad, and bring it with you to quickly find the best deals.

Using the free PriceGrabber, ShopSavvy, Red Laser, Amazon Price Check, Barcode Scanner, pic2Shop, or Shop Advisor app, for example, you can use the rear-facing camera that’s built into your iOS mobile device to scan the barcode for any item you find in a traditional retail store. The app will then check the Internet for other nearby retail and/or online vendors that have the same item, in stock, but for less money.

Not only can one of these apps save you money, but many of them can help you find popular items that quickly sell out. Whether you’re buying a toy or a high-end appliance, a price comparison website is a useful tool for price-conscious shoppers.

Organize Your Holiday Shopping

If you have a lot of different people to buy holiday gifts for, or you need to keep track of multiple gift ideas for certain people, the mGifts-Gift List Manage ($4.99) or Gifts HD Plus ($4.99) app allows you to create a comprehensive gift list, keep track of what you’ve already purchased, and track how much you’ve spent on each person. In addition to helping you sort your shopping list by store to help you better plan your shopping excursions, this app can help you stay on budget.

iTunes Gift Cards Make Great Gifts Too

For the other iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac users in your life, for example, an Apple iTunes Gift Card allows the recipient to shop for music, TV shows, movies, apps, eBooks, and/or digital magazines directly from their iOS mobile device or computer. iTunes Gift Cards can be redeemed from Apple’s iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, or Newsstand. They can be purchased anywhere gift cards are sold (such as supermarkets or pharmacies), from Apple Stores, or Apple.com. They’re available in $10, $15, $25, and $50 denominations.

If you don’t have time to purchase a traditional iTunes Gift Card, you can order an iTunes Gift Certificate online and have it instantly emailed to the recipient, who can then redeem it from their computer or iOS mobile device.

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