BreakingModern — The December holidays happened just a few weeks ago, and now Valentine’s Day, another gift-giving fest, already looms right around the proverbial corner. Buying presents for people is a perennial experience anyway, what with birthdays, weddings, graduations and other events popping up throughout the year. Here are 10 apps that can help to make the whole shebang easier and more fun, from anywhere and at any time.
Below, you’ll find apps for choosing, buying and sending everything from high-ticket items like jewelry and electronics to candy, flowers, personalized gift cards and photo e-cards. Sometimes, you can even gain some financial rewards for yourself along the way. For the full lowdown, read on.
Sweet Jar (Free for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS)
From candy hearts to chocolate samplers, Valentine’s Day has gone hand-in-hand with sweet treats for at least 200 years. But as we all know quite well, candy can also make a great gift for Christmas, Mother’s Day and lots of other special occasions.
Sweet Jar is an app that lets you create an assortment of real candies out of a wide selection by dragging and dropping virtual candies into a virtual jar. You can then produce your own custom label and get a candy-filled physical jar delivered pronto by postal service. In a word, yum!
“This app is a fantastic Idea. Not only does it have a fun-loving atmosphere, it is also very practical. The experience on the app is phenomenal and the candy is top class. This is definitely worth downloading!” writes Raymond Loff, one of many satisfied users, in a post on Google Play.
Note: Although Online Postal Communications’ Sweet Jar app is a free download, it’s not to be confused with Sweet Jar Free, a game from developer Fox Hideous.
1-800-FLOWERS (Free for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS)
Red roses on V-Day and poinsettias at Christmas are traditional mainstays. 1-800-FLOWERS gives a contemporary twist to these and countless other flowery gifts with its mobile apps for Android and iOS devices.
The user interface isn’t fancy, but it lets you get the job done fast. You can order floral arrangements — or other last-minute items such as cookies or chocolates — by occasion or category. Then, once you’ve placed your order, you can track it to make sure your gift gets where it’s going on time.
Gift List Manager — GLM (Free for Android on Google Play)
It’s useful, if not essential, to create lists and budgets before plunking down money (or bitcoin or any other currency) on gifts for friends, family members and co-workers. Gift List Manager (GLM) is widely seen as one of the best apps for Android in this space.
You can handily build a gift list for V-Day, Christmas, Hanukkah or any other event. You can also view cumulative totals on what you’re spending and keep tabs on what you still need to buy.
A paid, ad-free, “Pro” version, available for $2.99, adds cool extras like the ability to take and store photos of gifts, select custom backgrounds for various occasions and share gift lists via email, but the free version gets the basic job done.
GiftPlanner (Free for Apple iOS)
On the iOS side of the house, Andrew Milham’s impressive GiftPlanner app allows you to sort your gift list by event, date, store, people, price or status.
GiftPlanner also stands out from the pack with differentiating features, such as gift-idea sharing through Twitter or Facebook, printable “gift list reports” for use as in-store shopping lists and “bookmarklets” for sending web pages directly from your Safari browser to the app and importing these pages as “new gifts.”
Smoopa Shopping: Never Overpay (Free for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS)
Especially on costlier items like clothing, jewelry and electronics, it’s important (if not essential) to make sure you’re getting the best price out there. Whether you’re buying these goodies for yourself or as gifts for others, it’s also nice to get rewarded.
Smoopa’s app lets you save items to wish lists and “collections” — and helps others to discover your finds — while you’re shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. You can then browse, search or scan product bar codes — right in a store, if you want — to compare prices.
The app provides you with color-coded advice as to whether or not you can get a better deal online. Price comparisons are currently available for websites such as Best Buy, Walmart, Target, JC Penney and Macy’s, for example.
“Shoppers may earn up to $2,500.00 of rewards in a calendar year,” said Mendel Chuang, CEO of Smoopa, in an email to BreakingModern. But the CEO also suggested that, for that kind of money, you need to do quite a bit of shopping and sharing!
“For scanning barcodes in retail stores, shoppers are rewarded for helping others and contributing local pricing information. These rewards can range from five cents to $2 per item. Shoppers can create collections for just about anything, including books, electronics, movies, music, toys, apparel, accessories, shoes, office supplies, housewares, sporting goods, video games, beauty supplies, baby gear and more. For each collection that is featured on our homepage, they will receive a $2 reward,” Chuang explained.
Ebates (Free for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS)
Ebates — a shopping app for more than 1,700 online stores — also combines price checking with financial rewards. Just for starters, you get $5 off on your first purchase once you’ve registered for Ebates. You can then earn up to $75 for referring up to three friends.
Beyond that, other rewards — and sometimes “double rewards” — follow as you make more purchases from participating retailers like Walmart, Home Depot, Sephora, Kohl’s and so on. You also get access to tons of online coupons in the process, along with special offers from the stores. You can compare prices either by scanning a product’s bar code or searching for an item — again, for yourself or someone else — using Ebates’ built-in browser.
“I am completely in love with this app. I just wish I would’ve remembered to open it all the time before purchases. [Definitely] worth getting if you use online shopping,” gushed Imp3rf3ction, upon giving the app a five-star rating in Apple’s App Store.
Gyft (Free for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS)
All right — maybe you’ve already discovered the perfect plant for Mom through 1-800-FLOWERS, a grand candy collection for your sweetie thanks to Sweet Jar and an awesome sweater for your brother via Ebates. If not, however, gift cards could turn out to be a viable option.
You could always pick up a passel of plain vanilla Visa, Mastercard or Amex gift cards, but this move might be construed by some as a bit impersonal. You could also make a bunch of individual gift card purchases at the fave online stores of various friends and relatives, but an approach like that can be clunky and hassle-prone. (You don’t really want to deal with the idiosyncracies of a dozen different online payment systems, do you?)
Gyft, on the other hand, consolidates and coordinates the entire enchilada by letting you buy, send, upload and redeem gift cards from hordes of different retailers, all in the same place. Users can also store their uploaded gift cards in Gyft’s cloud, just in case they ever lose their phones.
Best of all, perhaps, you can buy gift cards not just with credit/debit cards, but also with PayPal, Google Cash and Bitcoin.
GiftLy: Love Showers!! (Free for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS)
GiftLy takes gift card personalization to new levels. You can buy gift cards that will work at any retail establishment — even a local mom-and-pop store or non-chain restaurant – as long as the place is capable of accepting Visa or Mastercard payments.
You can specify how you’d like the gift you’re buying to be used. Two movie tickets for the Oshkosh Cinema? Pizza for five at Mama Mia? Why not. Yet gift card recipients can also choose to ignore your suggestions and cash in the cards instead for something else they want.
Gift cards purchased through GiftLy can be emailed or sent by snail mail. The electronic gift cards can be printed out and handed to retailers or presented instead by displaying them directly from a mobile device. Obviously enough, you need an iPhone or iPad to send a gift card from the iOS app. In contrast, GiftLy’s browser-based “mobile web app” can be used from either a PC or an Android device, for instance.
Red Stamp Cards (Free for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS)
In the end, it’s the thought that counts, right? If your gift list is getting to be larger than what your wallet can withstand, it might be time to swap out some of those watches, shirts and gift cards that you’d planned to buy for less expensive, personalized photo e-cards.
Red Stamp Cards is one app that will do this for you. After snapping a photo with your phone, you can add the appropriate sentiments and send the card electronically via email, text, tweet, Facebook or Instagram posting. This season’s themes include “Valentine’s Day 2015” and “Love is in the air,” for example.
As another option, you can order printouts of paper postcards or greeting cards and get them mailed by post to a list of recipients. While you’re at it, you can also use this app for buying holiday-themed stuff such as party balloons, cake decorations and photo-personalized coasters.
Back to the e-cards, for a moment … Red Stamp Cards lets you leave out the photos, if you wish. You can go with some other type of card design instead, which is a nice touch.
Touchnote (Free for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS)
You can also purchase personalized photo e-cards with Touchnote Ltd.’s app, albeit for delivery by postal mail only. Touting its app as “the most popular and trusted” in the category, Touchnote claims to have delivered more than three million of these cards.
Pricing ranges from $1.99 to $2.99 for a photo postcard and from $2.95 to $3.98 for a photo-greeting card, postage included, with discounts available for bulk mailings.
In an update to the Android app on Feb. 2, Touchnote added new Valentine’s Day themes, optimization for the Nexus 6 and display improvements to the photo-preview function on high-resolution devices, noted David Levantis, social, community and CRM manager at Touchnote Ltd., in another email to BreakingModern.
All screenshots: Jacqueline Emigh