If you want the best deal on things like airline tickets or hotel stays, you should not use your iPhone but an Android phone.
Why? Travel booking sites and other merchants quote varying prices to online shoppers depending on the device they are using, whether they are logged in, or using a desktop versus a mobile device.
A Northeastern University College of Information Science study convened about 300 volunteers to create fake accounts and attempt to book flights or make the same purchases but using different devices.
The study found that those using a desktop computer were quoted prices as much as $100 lower, in some instance, than a customers seeking the same product on their mobile device.
It also concluded that travel-booking sites for example like Cheaptickets and Orbitz quote lower prices to web surfers who login to their account versus searching without logging in.
Because Apple products users are generally more affluent, products searches yield a higher price compared to Android users searching the same product. A 2012 Wall Street Journal study found similar results. Banks delivered different credit card offerings based on the credit rating of applicant. Those in high income areas were quoted different prices than those in moderate income neighborhoods.
Though some are device-partial. The Northeastern study found that Travelocity charged users of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system $15 less for hotels than other users.
This study echoes findings a few years ago about how cookies and other customer tracking devices led to different prices depending on things like how close the user was to a competitor site.
Because of a practice called “dynamic pricing”, sites are able to switch prices at super fast speeds in response to competitors’ offerings and other factors.
Prices also vary based on which state you live. A refrigerator in the Journal’s tests cost $449 in Chicago, Los Angeles and Ashburn, Va., but $499 in seven other test cities.
The idea of an unbiased, impersonal Internet is fast giving way to an online world that, in reality, is increasingly tailored and targeted, the WSJ wrote. Websites are adopting techniques to glean information about visitors to their sites, in real time, and then deliver different versions of the Web to different people. Prices change, products get swapped out, wording is modified, and there is little way for the typical website user to spot it when it happens.
To be safe and if the option is available, online deal shoppers should also search using different devices and go with the best price.