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updated 8/6/2012 6:15:58 PM ET 2012-08-06T22:15:58

Nearly half of smartphone owners use shopping apps about four times a week, according to a new report released by research firm Nielsen, which has released its list of the 10 most popular apps.

Just three usual-suspect apps accounted for more than 60 percent of these frequent "shopping trips." At the top of the list was eBay with 13 million users in June, closely followed by Amazon at 12 million users and then Groupon at 10 million shoppers. In all, 45 million smartphone owners tapped their phones for shopping deals.

National retailers with physical locations grabbed their share of shoppers as well. The Walgreens pharmacy chain was the sixth most popular  mobile shopping app  with 2.8 million users, while Target attracted 2.6 million people.

But third-party apps also found a place in the top 10. What can Shopkick, Red Laser and Out of Milk tell us about the future of shopping?

Shopkick is a location-based app that offers users extra rewards for checking in at participating stores. And these aren't local mom and pop shops. Shopkicks partners include Old Navy, Best Buy and Macy's. You simply walk into a store, wait a minute for your smartphone to register location and then receive an instant reward such as a gift card or discount on a purchase, offering an edge to local stores over online options. We could see a shift back to local stores if perks outweigh the convenience of online shopping.

RedLaser offers local and online price comparisons by scanning a barcode while you're shopping, especially useful for big-city shoppers who have local options. Otherwise, if you see something you want while flipping through a magazine and the ad has a  QR code, RedLaser can tell you what nearby stores have your item in stock. If real-time price comparison continues to grow, retailers may beef up price matching policies.

Out of Milk is for Android users only and offers grocery list syncing, along with price tracking and general shopping list organization. If you've got more than one person shopping for a household, Out of Milk prevents duplicate purchases — say you and your roommate notice the milk container is almost empty. If one of you picks up milk on your way home from work, the other will see it on the app, as long as you're both diligent with recordkeeping. Smart list-keeping could reduce the number of trips to the  grocery store.

While none of the apps will revolutionize shopping in the short-term, they point to a future where shoppers are rewarded for making trips to local retailers, pricing is more competitive and needless errands are minimized.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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