Barcode scanning on the iPhone

At last – barcode scanning on a mobile phone that actually works. Despite some glowing reviews for the application RedLaser on iTunes, I must admit our hopes weren’t high.

We’ve tried barcode scanning apps for mobiles in the past, notably on Nokia Series 60 handsets, and the results have been dreadful – lots of faffing about to get the phone’s camera to capture the image of the barcode, then a wait while the code was decoded and sent to a database, followed by a “nothing found” type message.

Given that our iPhone 3G doesn’t have a flash or auto-focussing camera, we expected the results to be dreadful…

But it’s not! This is an amazingly well done application. Even without auto-focus, the app is able to get a pretty quick and accurate result. Here’s a shot of Pete scanning in a book’s barcode (and failing to scan his feet)…

RedLaser scanning a barcode

It captures UPC, EAN and UPC-E barcodes (no, we didn’t know either), and then look up the prices on Amazon (UK, US, DE, etc) as well as via Google Product Search.

RedLaser's product results

Practical upshot – when you’re out shopping, pick up something you’re considering purchasing, say a book or DVD, scan it, and 5 seconds later, you’ll see how much cheaper the product is online.

Searches are saved for later viewing, or you can order direct from your iPhone browser. We tried it on all sorts of things – books, DVDs, water filters, teabag boxes, Maltesers and a top end over recorder that we’ll be reviewing in a future show – all with positive results.

Yup – we’re impressed. This is one of those must-have apps for the iPhone, and could save you a fortune when shopping.

Update: RedLaser featured in our 15 Oct Audio Update. Transcript available

RedLaser, from Occipital, available for the iPhone, now out, and hot, on iTunes. RedLaser


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