At some point in our lives, most of us have probably experienced seeing something that was not in a particular place earlier. Furthermore, there may have been times where it took a few minutes to register with your brain that there is something different than before. So it was with us yesterday.
We were using the Droid Pro we reported on early last week to find shopping apps in the “Android Market.” Using the search bar as we tilted the phone sideways, a keyboard popped up on the screen. We typed our search parameters into the box and hit “Go.” The results came up, and then it hit us. We used an on-screen keypad to type with the Droid Pro!
We try to do as much real world testing with smartphones as we can. As such, two weeks ago, when we first got the Droid Pro, we loaded up our social networks and email accounts, and began carrying the phone with us everywhere we went. One particular night found us between meetings trying to answer emails with the Pro, only to find that the on-screen keyboard would not activate, forcing us to read and write in portrait mode as opposed to the much preferred landscape mode, lest we try to type with the phone tilted sideways. Just for the record, we did try, and it is not easy to do.
As such, we lamented in our November 28 review of the Droid Pro, that it did not have an on-screen keyboard. Since then, we have tilted the phone into landscape mode more than a few times. Most times the keyboard pops up as soon as you touch the text box, but there have been a few instances where multiple taps are required. If you experience this problem, simply tap the text box until the keyboard appears. It is there; it just likes to play hide-and-seek from time-to-time. We have made the necessary corrections to the November 28 article, and we regret the error.
Now, on to today. With the holiday shopping season in full swing, we thought it would be a good time to look at some shopping applications available for Android based devices. In addition to downloading every barcode scanner app we could find, we also accessed a few similar articles from gizmodo, lifehacker, and mint. We found that two of our most user friendly shopping/scanner apps appeared on their lists as well. What they did not address however, we will today.
The two apps that seem to garner the most attention are “Shopper,” which is “Google Shopper,” and “ShopSavvy.” We also checked out “Cnet Scan and Shop,” which appears to be a clone of “ShopSavvy.” More on this later. Apps that have similar functions include, “ixMAT Scanner,” “Barcode Scanner,” “MobileTag,” and “theFind.”
Apps we eliminated immediately are “Codecheck,” which was written in German, and not very useful, unless of course you want to brush up on you German. Two apps, “Barcode Reader,” and “i-nigma” that try to interpret barcodes, yet both failed on all of our test items. Perhaps the most frustrating of the group was “pic2shop,” which worked once, then dropped scan mode forcing you type in the UPC code. We removed, and re-installed this app three times, each time getting the same result.
We tested a number of packaged food items we have laying around. Our goal was to find the app that would tell us where to find the best local price on any of the following goods; Barilla pasta, Maxwell House coffee, Pennsylvania Dutch Noodles, Log Cabin Syrup. Our theory; if we can find grocery products, we can find anything.
What were hoping to find was a list of pricing for local grocery stores in the area. The phone knows our location through GPS, and there are a number of programs, Google Maps being one of them, that can easily find and display local retailers. Unfortunately, all of these programs were tied into some type of “Internet Search Marketing” affiliate program, meaning that no local results were to be found for food items.
Most of the apps, including “Shopper,” “ixMAT Scanner,” “Barcode Scanner,” “MobileTag,” and “theFind,” will give you web based results of mainly online retailers. Amazon was a very popular landing spot for most. If you are given an option with any of the above apps, it is either “Web,” or “Google.”
Only “ShopSavvy,” and its clone “Cnet Scan and Shop,” give you a choice after obtaining the product code for “Local” options. They also give you “Web,” “Add to Wish List,”and “Alert when price is.” There are however, no results for “Local” if you are searching for foodstuffs. Body care product searches did give us two “Local” options on a few hits; Walmart and Walgreens, both national retailers. Mostly, we received a message announcing that both apps are still building their inventories, and we should check back later.
What we would like to see is a shopping/scanner application that identifies the product, and then gives the user local options. For instance, if you are in your local grocery store, and they are asking $3.98 for a 6-pack of 24oz. Pepsi, scanning that item with your smartphone should be able to tell you if, and where it is cheaper elsewhere. This gives you, the consumer, the choice of whether to leave that 6-pack on the shelf, with the intent of purchasing it for less at another store.
What we have now is what the application makers, and particularly Google want you to see in an effort to drive their advertising revenue. They are of little help to the consumer.
With the emergence of GPS and database driven inventories, we can see no reason why this cannot be accomplished. Linking a mapping program to a variety of local retail inventories – particularly when those inventories are published daily on the web – should not be that much of a stretch. Granted, every app we tested was of the free variety, but even the “for pay” apps we ran across made no mention of enhanced local searches. Someone needs to step up here.
And yes, we would gladly pay a few bucks for an app that could save us some money on our grocery bill; wouldn’t you?