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I pitted Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing shopping search engines against one another to determine which of the three provided the best savings on five frequently purchased tech items – an Asus Nexus tablet, a TechNet subscription, a Microsoft Surface Pro, an iPhone 5 and a Galaxy Nexus S3. Here are the results.
The first of the three major search engines to adopt a price comparison engine was Google when it started Froogle in late 2002. The service has since been rebranded as Google Shopping. Yahoo followed Google’s lead by purchasing the price comparison service Kelkoo in 2004 (it sold Kelkoo in 2008). Microsoft showed up last, initiating Bing Shopping after purchasing Jellyfish.com in 2007 – at the time, their service included a rebate, remitting a percentage of each purchase back to the buyer. Unfortunately, they no longer offer that service.
However, for those of you seeking to find great deals on all sorts of gadgets, check out Tim’s run-down of the best online shopping sites around. Alternatively, try reading Tina’s excellent guide to Internet shopping.
In reviewing the three online shopping sites, I used three main criteria:
- Did it produce the lowest price, relative to the original MSRP?
- Did the search results produce errors?
- Does it factor in shipping or sales tax?
Additionally, I used five different tech-related products to benchmark each service. I threw in the Surface Pro for the heck of it, as it did not sell very well at all and in theory there should be some excellent deals on it relative to the MSRP.
- Asus Nexus 7 16GB (MSRP: $199)
- Microsoft TechNet Subscription Standard Edition 2010 Renewal (MSRP: $150)
- Microsoft Surface Pro 128GB (MSRP: $999)
- Apple Unlocked iPhone 5 GSM 16GB (MSRP: $649)
- Unlocked Samsung Galaxy S3 GSM 16GB (MSRP: $549)
Bing Shopping uses a fairly straightforward, aesthetically clean interface. Aside from a single ad, displayed on the right-side of the screen, nothing really distracts from the primary objective – shopping. After navigating to the front page of the site, you’ll see three core features – filters, where you filter searches by price and discounts; price comparisons, where you can compare across retailers; and graphs showing the price of a product over time.
- Asus Nexus 7 16GB (MSRP: $199): The lowest price came out to $230, but with shipping hit $243. The pre-shipping total actual exceeded the MSRP by over $30. Bing failed to include the prices offered at Google’s Play Store, which is $199.
- Microsoft TechNet Subscription Standard Edition 2010 (MSRP: $199): The lowest price for a TechNet renewal came in at $199.99 Canadian dollars, which translated into $196.67 in US currency, with free shipping. Ironically, Microsoft’s own search engine came up with prices $50 greater than the price you would pay directly from Microsoft’s online store!
- Microsoft Surface Pro 128GB (MSRP: $999): The most humiliating thing about Bing Shopping is that it couldn’t even find its own product – the Surface Pro did not show up in any search.
- Apple Unlocked iPhone 5 GSM 16GB (MSRP: $649): The cheapest price that Bing Shopping found came in at $699.95 – nearly $50 greater than what you would pay directly from the Apple Store.
- Unlocked Samsung Galaxy S3 GSM 16GB (MSRP: $549): Bing’s engine found a deal on the S3 for $539.99, with free shipping – a full $10 less than the MSRP. The site only had Canadian prices, so at current exchange rates, it’s actually $529.87 – more than $20 below MSRP.
For whatever crazy reason, Bing’s prices came mostly from Canadian retailers. It didn’t seem to index any products from large companies, such as BestBuy, Amazon or eBay. This strongly indicates that Bing Shopping is in some kind of Canada-only beta phase and their service isn’t yet ready for prime-time.
Yahoo Shopping favors a more compact display than either Google or Bing. Its strongest features include real-time search suggestions – for example, whenever you type in a searchable term, such as “iPhone 5”, Yahoo autocompletes the rest – price comparisons & price-filtering, where you can search by specific criteria.
- Asus Nexus 7 16GB (MSRP: $199): Yahoo found a Nexus 7 for the same as the MSRP, however, with free shipping – this is technically cheaper than the price at the Google Play store.
- Microsoft TechNet Subscription Standard Edition 2010 (MSRP: $199): Yahoo found a TechNet license for $169.99 – $29.01 less than the price you would pay directly from Microsoft. It’s from Amazon Prime, meaning free shipping if you have the Prime service.
- Microsoft Surface Pro 128GB (MSRP: $999): The cheapest price for the Pro, with free shipping, came in at the same as any brick-and-mortar at $999.
- Apple Unlocked iPhone 5 GSM 16GB (MSRP: $649): The cheapest price for an unlocked iPhone 5 came in at $749. With shipping, it was $775 – a great deal more than what you would pay at Apple.
- Unlocked Samsung Galaxy S3 GSM 16GB (MSRP: $549): The Galaxy S3 failed to show up in Yahoo’s search – however, the S3 showed up in the paid for ads. While it technically failed in this area, the price from the lowest sponsored ad came in at $529.99, with free shipping – about $20 less than the MSRP.
Google Shopping has been around the longest out of all the price comparison websites, so in theory its prices should be lower than all the others. However, as of 2011, Google began charging retailers in exchange for listing their products. Assumedly, this would reflect negatively in their prices.
Overall, Google Shopping centers around their core function – search.
- Asus Nexus 7 16GB (MSRP: $199): Unlike Microsoft, Google managed to find its own store. However, including shipping, it came in at $212.99.
- Microsoft TechNet Subscription Standard Edition 2010 (MSRP: $199): Google Shopping had problems differentiating between the various versions of the TechNet subscription. However, after some digging, the lowest price produced reached $171.99 including all other prices – this being $28 less than retail.
- Microsoft Surface Pro 128GB (MSRP: $999): The lowest price equaled the MSRP, with free shipping.
- Apple Unlocked iPhone 5 GSM 16GB (MSRP: $649): Google had problems distinguishing between the iPhone 4 and the latest model. The first results that show up are actually for the iPhone 4. Also, no results from the Apple store show up, apparently because they don’t pay Google to list their products. The price came in at 649.50 with free shipping – about equal to the MSRP.
- Unlocked Samsung Galaxy S3 GSM 16GB (MSRP: $549): Google’s price for the S3 came in at $429.99, however, with tax and shipping, the price reached $441.58. Quite a bit lower than its competitors.
Google Shopping differs substantially from the services offered by its competitors in that it incorporates its own search technology and text ads. Even after charging vendors for listings, it still comes out significantly ahead.
Clearly, Google Shopping dominates over both Bing and Yahoo. The folks from Mountainview dug up prices much lower in all categories, included shipping, with few errors. While both Yahoo and Bing possess useful features which Google should take note of, the overall experience offered by Google Shopping renders the competition impotent in comparison.
For the hardest to please of deal-hunters, I strongly suggest using my tips on how-to get better deals on everything. Not only does my method get lower prices than even Google, it’s also easier to use. Seriously.