CR Shopper by Consumer Reports
Price: $9.99 | Link to App Store
The CR Shopper app is expensive. Expensive makes me apprehensive, but it did make Apple’s Top 300 iPad/iPod applications list and it has received a significant amount of positive press. According to the internet, it seemed a comprehensive directory of Barcode iPhone Apps would not be complete without CR Shopper. So I bit the bullet and clicked install.
When I first opened the app and tried to start scanning proudcts with the built-in barcode scanner I thought to myself, “Great, I'm going to have to write another negative review.” The barcode scanner (powered by Big in Japan) would not work for me. I could only manage to scan 2 of 8 items “in the field”. I also ran a control test, by looking up UPCs online and trying to scan them from my computer screen. This was slightly more successful, but it seems this is another one of those diva scanners that requires studio lighting and corpse-like stillness.
I also find the user interface to be a bit crowded and counter-intuitive. I couldn't help but wonder how folks like my Grandma (a big Consumer Reports fan) would ever be able to read the teeny-tiny text. CR Shopper does provide an alternative to reading through an extensive video library with titles like Will Fuel Doctor Save you gas? and Water Heaters Buying Guide. Interesting footage, actually.
This app is different from most of the others I've reviewed so far in that the value lies not in the functionality, but in the content. You're paying for the Consumer Reports brand and unique perspective. On its website CR addresses the issue of price:
$9.99 for a barcode scanning app? Really? Why shouldn't I just use one of the many free barcode scanner apps out there?
There are two reasons:
First, while our app is capable of scanning UPC barcodes, that's just one of many features the app offers. The real value lies in the content—the thousands of unbiased expert Ratings and buying advice from Consumer Reports. The app also allows you to instantly compare prices from both online vendors and local brick-and-mortar stores. If you're out shopping, the app allows you to get our Ratings on the TV you're looking at, then check to see if the price it's available for less either online or at a local store. When you break it down, it comes out to less than $1 per month—a bargain considering all the money you're likely to save when having such a powerful tool with you at the point of purchase!
Second, we are an expert, independent, nonprofit organization. To maintain our independence and impartiality, we accept no outside advertising and no free samples. We employ several hundred mystery shoppers and technical experts to buy and test the products we evaluate. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports® magazine, ConsumerReports.org®, and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Charging for our products enables us to continue our mission: Working for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.
Ok... I am willing to buy that. The app does provide great information. I found the compare models function particularly helpful while I screen-shopped (that's my new term for iPhone window shopping) for a new dishwasher.
But here's the thing: If making the perfect purchase decision is that important to you, why torture yourself with tiny text, slow load times and frequent crashes (the app crashed 8 times in one 55 minutes) when for $16 more you can just sit down at the computer, head to consumerreports.org and obtain the same information? In fact, a lot of the information on the app, the videos for example, is available for free on the site.
There are those among us who simply must have mobile access to everything. If you are one of these mobile-musthaves who frequently finds themselves pondering which appliance is a better value- then by all means, click install.
Visit our Mobile Barcode Apps Link page for a list of barcode apps you might like.
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