When is an iPhone App as fun as an iPhone Game? When it’s Occipital’s barcode scanning App, RedLaser [App Store Link]. What is it? Quite simply, it turns your iPhone into a super-fast barcode scanner that will let you comparison shop with ease. In a store trying to figure out if their price is a good deal? Just grab your iPhone, open RedLaser, press one button and almost instantly the product’s barcode will be scanned with uncanny accuracy and a listing of online merchants (Amazon and Google Products merchants) will tell you what it’s selling for online. Of course with another touch you can go directly to that merchant’s site and purchase the product for less.
It all works incredibly fast and incredibly well. All was not so great in the past, however, as the previous versions received scathing reviews due to the barcode scanning simply not working very well. With its latest update though, RedLaser consistently scanned almost everything I threw at it with amazing speed (I literally moved the barcode within the scanner’s brackets and while still trying to position it to where I thought it would be most accurate, it had already scanned the barcode).
RedLaser worked surprisingly well even in low light, however there were a couple barcodes it just wouldn’t scan for whatever reason (despite the light) but that was very very rare. Hopefully future updates will make those special cases even more rare. In the event you can’t scan the barcode, you can simply enter it in manually–while nowhere near as cool as scanning the barcode, for the 1 in 100 barcodes it can’t scan it’s not a huge issue.
You can then email a list of all the products you scanned to yourself or anyone else (it even includes a .txt file of just the barcodes themselves if you have a use for that) along with links to Amazon or Google Products to check out on your computer later if you’d like.
Any downsides to this app? Well, if you’d never be interested in scanning the barcode of something in a store to check out online prices super-fast then you probably will have limited use for RedLaser unless they add some other features. Trust me though, as soon as you buy RedLaser you will immediately embark on a quest throughout your living quarters to find anything and everything possible with a barcode on it (and be immensely disappointed when you want to scan something and it doesn’t have a barcode on it) to scan just for the heck of it.
Please also note that I tested RedLaser with an iPhone 3G S, so I cannot comment on 3G and prior cameras being as good (but App Store reviews seem to indicate that the 3G scans just as impressively). Another possible complaint is that sometimes the product just isn’t found or that the prices are wrong. That’s somewhat hard to criticize RedLaser for, however, as it’s simply pulling data from UPC code repositories and searching Amazon and Google Products for prices. Perhaps more sources for data would be useful, but again, more updates and continued refinement will only improve on already impressive barcode scanning technology.
I suppose RedLaser could work as a make-shift inventory of stuff you have with a barcode in your house that you can email to yourself for insurance purposes, however it wont let you enter in any data manually, such as serial #s, to store along with a scanned item (unless you want to add it when emailing it), nor can you categorize items.
But that’s not really RedLaser’s purpose (although it wouldn’t be too shabby of a future feature addition in a future update)–its purpose is to help you find better prices or to confirm that yes, the place you’re shopping at does indeed have the best price. Oh, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play around with!
Panappticon Verdict: 95/100 — Astonishingly fast barcode scanning–RedLaser is a great way to price-check items in a store or to just compile a list of products for later viewing or shopping. That it’s also insanely fun and addicting to use anytime you sense that a barcode may be nearby doesn’t hurt either. Has somewhat limited usefulness beyond that, but a ton of potential for great new features in future updates.
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