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Forget your girlfriend, your mobile phone is fast becoming a better companion in times of crisis — you know, when you need to score the best deal on that sexy gadget or you’ve left your wallet in the car.

New data from Nielsen shows that nearly one-third of U.S. smartphone owners (29 percent) now turn to their devices for shopping dos and don’ts. And our new-found love affair with our phones is so promising, most of us are ready to close the deal — 71 percent of app downloaders said they’d like to use their phone to pay at the register.

Mobile shoppers, according to Nielsen’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report, are most keen on comparison shopping while in stores and browsing products on their devices. During the third quarter of 2011, 38 percent of smartphone owners turned to their cell phone for both activities. Thirty-two percent used their device to read up on product reviews, 24 percent searched for coupons, and 22 percent actually purchased a product from their mobile pal.

While just 9 percent of mobile shoppers indicated that they used their phone to pay at the register (we’d hazard a guess that a majority are Starbucks customers), 71 percent of app downloaders said they were interested in using their smartphone as a credit card. And iPhone owners showed even more interest; 75 percent expressed interest in paying by iPhone, and 39 percent said they would be extremely or very interested in using an app for that purpose.

These high percentages point to a mobile wallet future we’ve all seen coming and suggests that early entrants like Google and PayPal have large opportunities to capitalize on consumers’ mobile payment desires.

Nielsen’s findings also fall in line with other recent studies, including one from Pew Research Center that found 52 percent of adult cell phone owners used their phone for shopping-related activities over the holidays.

The data serves as further evidence that brick-and-mortar shoppers and mobile shoppers are no longer two disparate entities.

Photo credit: Roger’s Wife/Flickr

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