Going Shopping With Google Shopper for iPhone

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Android (s goog) users have had Google Shopper for over a year now. Google finally decided to port the app over to the iOS (s aapl) platform, and it became available in the App Store yesterday. We took it out for a spin to see how it performs in the real world.

Google Shopper allows you to search for an item by bar code scan, picture or voice. The results are identical to those you get by going to shopping.google.com in Safari’s iPhone browser. The key feature of the Google Shopper app is the ability to scan without actually having to type anything.

In real world tests, the program ran great. Unlike similar solutions from Amazon’s Price Check or Mirasense Scandit, the bar code doesn’t need to be “aligned” in the cross hairs. The Shopper app nearly instantly recognized the UPC and began the search.

Book searches seemed to work best with Google Shopper. Not only did it search Amazon (s amzn), but it searched a variety of online and local retailers. For example, it found the book The Price Of Everything: Solving The Mystery Of Why We Pay What We Do at my local Borders (s bgp) and reported it was in stock, as well as showing the price at other local book stores. One limitation is that it doesn’t include smaller retailers, just national chains. Online reviews are also accessible from the search results.

Product search results were flaky and sometimes included a large number of similar items with identical names. To be fair, Amazon also suffers from that same problem. It wasn’t a total negative experience, though. I searched for some vitamins and protein shakes and found a few local places that carried the items I didn’t even know about (and at a great price).

Unlike using Google’s website, Shopper won’t tell you online retailer’s shipping charges to give you the total price. This makes it much less attractive for online searches where shipping and handling charges can often negate the price savings when compared to other vendors.

Considering it’s free, it’s obviously worth the price of download and could even save you some money. Hopefully, Google will continue to port its popular apps over to the iPhone, despite having a vested interest in hoarding them all for the Android OS.

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This app feels very subpar for Google, especially when the basic routines have been around for over a year. They’ve had time to work out some bugs. When I tested it out, it gave me good results on every DVD, CD and book I tried… until I started checking older materials. Anything I tried that was printed pre-70’s gave no results. Amazon, on the other hand, identified every book I threw at them.

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