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The rise of online retail has brought a number of benefits to people who have a big shopping list. Companies are usually quick to compete on price, offering deep sales on popular products. But what’s a busy deal-seeker to do, if they want to make sure they’re getting the most bang for their buck?

That’s where SnapUp comes in. This free app allows iPhone users to take “Snaps,” or screenshots of items they want to buy, and then tracks those items’ prices to make sure people are getting the best deal.

The app works with a variety of online stores, including Amazon, Best Buy and Target. It is reminiscent to some degree with Seattle-based shopping research service, which was sold to eBay last year and promptly shut down.

Here’s a video that shows how SnapUp works:

The whole process is powered by an artificial intelligence system that looks at the screenshot and translates that image into a link to the product on the retailer’s site. SnapUp makes its money by providing affiliate links that give the company a small cut of any purchases made.

SnapUp Photo3In my experience, SnapUp has been best for two things: taking a long-term look at prices for things I would want to buy if they went on sale, or making sure that I get the best price after waiting a short period of time. Despite all the talk about how much Amazon changes its prices, I’ve found that there’s actually very little change in how much the company charges for a given item in the very short term.

Users can also organize their Snaps into lists, so it’s easy to keep tabs on different categories separately from one another.

One of the great things about SnapUp is that it uses iOS 7’s background execution capabilities to start importing screenshots as users are taking them. That way, the Snaps are usually just about ready for users to take a look.

That said, SnapUp definitely still feels like a 1.0 product. There were times when my snaps were slow to load, or the app picked out an item to track that didn’t actually match the one I snapped. For a time, a couple of my snaps showed a price of $0.00, even though they had a real price when I went to look at the item on the store.

The system is very much a work in progress, but a representative for the company told me that the engineering team is aware of the bugs and is working hard to fix them. People who are interested in a totally bug-free experience might want to download SnapUp now and hold off on completely committing to it until this holiday season.

Of course, those bugs may get fixed by the time users make their way through the app’s registration queue. Right now, the company is only letting a few users in at a time when they sign up for the app, which means interested users might have to wait a week or two if they want to get access to SnapUp.

The other thing that’s missing from SnapUp is the ability to comparison shop from a variety of online stores. That’s certainly a harder challenge for the company to meet (especially since stores will have different names and item numbers for different products), but I’d be willing to pay $5 or $10 to make sure that I’m getting the best deal from around the web with just a screenshot.

Still, when it comes to online bargain shopping, I haven’t found an app that does things as automatically as SnapUp.

SnapUp is available for free from the iOS App Store.

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