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Mobile Shopping Just A Price Check For Now

Our cell phones have become cameras and music players. So, now that more than 300 million of them in North America also can browse the Internet, how long before we use them to buy TVs and tennis shoes?

The biggest portals on the Web – America Online, Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo – have launched versions of their shopping comparison sites that mobile phone subscribers can access from their devices in what could be the first step in the next wave of online retailing.

But the companies aren't pushing transactions over the phone. For now, they're content just to provide basic price and product information and leave the actual sale to another medium.

Chris Saito, senior director of product management for Yahoo Shopping, wants consumers in store aisles to turn to their phone for last-minute price checks. "You're in a store shopping for a digital camera or piece of electronics or a pair of jeans and you want to see if you're getting a good deal. You do a search on your phone, it takes a few seconds, and you see if you're getting good deal or should just go home and buy it on a PC."

Waiting to make a purchase at a computer, rather than with a phone, will make sense until enough online retailers make simplified versions of their Web sites that fit on a tiny screen. Some, like EBay and, have started to do that. But then there's the task of having to punch a credit card number into a mobile phone.

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