Mobile devices will account for 16% of US retail ecommerce sales in 2013, or $41.68 billion, according to a recent eMarketer estimate. To make their on-the-go purchases, many consumers are using apps, including branded apps from their favorite retailers.

topRetailApps_v1The following are five of my favorite mobile retail shopping apps. I’ve picked ones that combine functionality, ease-of-use, and appealing design. I’ve also considered various award-winners. And I’ve limited my selection to free apps because, hey, everybody likes a deal. While this list does not discriminate between smartphone and tablet apps, tablets are where the action is, according to eMarketer, which notes that tablets are a significant driver for mobile commerce sales growth. The researcher estimates tablets will grab $26.05 billion, or 62.5% of US retail mobile commerce sales overall this year, an increase from 56.2% last year.

1. Amazon Mobile. This is a must-have app for fans of Amazon.com’s Web site. The app supports Amazon’s 1-Click ordering, as well as Wish Lists, order tracking and product comparisons. Users can search for items by name, bar code scan or camera image. Some reviewers bemoan the lack of advanced search filters. Platforms: iOS, Android

2. ShopAdvisor. This app is for people who know what they want but want the best price. Favorite products, which can be input into the app by scanning a barcode, are put on a“watch list.” The user is alerted when the product goes on sale. The app also includes price history charts and maps for nearby deals. Platforms: iOS, Android.

3. RedLaser Barcode & QR Scanner (eBay Mobile). This award-winning app not only searches scanned barcodes and handles price comparisons, it enables fast and secure checkout from select retailers. The app also find deals and coupons from many merchants; users can sort top deals of the day or browse deals by store. Platforms: iOS, Android

4. Zoomingo. A relative newcomer, two-year-old Zoomingo has more than 1.3 million registered users. The deal-finder app aggregates sales data from big retailers, such as Macy’s, JCPenney, Target, and Nordstrom, and smaller stores; registered users also can contribute their own deal finds by snapping a photo with their smartphone. Focusing on the mall-shopping experience, the app currently sends out geo-fenced alerts about deals. In the future, the app will work with Bluetooth low energy (LE) devices, which enable indoor mapping and positioning. Platforms: iOS, Android

5. Etrade Mobile. If you accept that buying shares of stock is a kind of shopping, this award-winning app (Best Smartphone App, 2013, StockBrokers.com) makes the cut. Several years ago, Etrade Mobile was one of the first apps I encountered that took real advantage of my device’s accelerometer for displaying different content when the screen was re-oriented.  News sources in the app were recently beefed up, addressing a criticism of some reviewers. Platforms: iOS, Android

ellisfb_headshotEllis Booker is a familiar name in the computer trade press, where he held senior editorial posts at a number of A-list IT publications, including CMP’s [now UBM's] InternetWeek, Mecklermedia’s Web Week and IDG’s Computerworld. At Computerworld, he led the paper’s Internet and electronic commerce coverage in the early days of the Web and was responsible for creating its weekly Internet Page.

Most recently, Booker was editor-in-chief of Crain Communication Inc.’s BtoB, the only magazine devoted to covering the intersection of business strategy and business marketing. He ran BtoB, as well as its sister title Media Business,