Sprint Nextel Corp. unveiled on Thursday a new service that allows mobile handset customers to buy and compare a wide range of products over their phone.
Called Mobile Shopper, the free service essentially replicates the experience of shopping online but on a mobile handset. The service also allows shoppers to compare the prices they see in stores with those offered by more than 30 online partners.
Customers who like what they see can order items on the spot with a credit card.
"Mobile shopping on a handset, being able to do real-time price comparisons ... is really the advantage that we see and something we think our users are going to get really excited about," said Charnsin Tulyasathien, Sprint's group manager of consumer applications and GPS solutions.
The service, provided in partnership with online provider mShopper, offers around 7 million products from retailers ranging from Wal-Mart and Target to niche players such as Dreamtime Baby or GolfTravelBags.com.
Sprint Nextel, which receives no money from purchases, views the service as another way to attract and retain its customers.
Mobile users have been shopping with their phones for some time, adding ringtones and games to their devices. Making the leap to buying electronics or clothes with a phone has taken longer, although other carriers have developed shopping services on their phones tied to specific retailers, such as Amazon.com or eBay.
But analysts said they think the market may be ready for a wider range of wireless shopping, especially once consumers get used to the idea, just as they did at the beginning of being able to shop over the Internet.
"Are we going to go through the same customer experience (lag) in the mobile world? I think we will, but it will be shorter," said Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta-based wireless analyst. "Eventually this will be one more avenue in the shopping experience."