CompareEverywhere Comes Out on Top in First Battle of Barcode Readers

New owners of the T-Mobile G1 are the lucky few who are able to get in on the ground level with Android.  Seeing the first apps available and checking out all of the free downloads available, they’ve likely gone through the Market and grabbed more than a handful of applications.

Among the most popular apps so far are the barcode scanners.  Currently, ShopSavvy sits higher than both CompareEverywhere and Barcode Scanner in total number of downloads.  All three do the same thing for the most part, but are they equal in features and ability?  No, of course not.  In my 3-day test of the tools, CompareEverywhere came out on top in my overall favorability.  Here are a few details that I gathered from playing with each of them that help tell how I arrived at this decision.

First off, none of them scan a product any faster than the other.  If you think one is doing it better, then it’s in your head.  Of the three, CompareEverywhere is the only one that is silent when the UPC is recognized.  The other two sound exactly like a barcode reader at the local grocery store.  In fact, CompareEverywhere gives a slight vibration when a barcode is scanned.  This subtle variance might make all the difference in the world if you are trying to scan things at a store on the sneak.  To be fair, Barcode Scanner does have the option to turn off the sound.

I picked five random items to test out specifically for this article, one of them a Wal-Mart exclusive.  The items were:

  • Lost in Translation DVD
  • Dove Ultimate Clear Cool Essentials Deodorant
  • NyQuil Cold & Flu Liquicaps (12 pk)
  • 33oz Maxwell House Columbian Supreme Coffee
  • Wal-Mart’s “Great Value” brand of Imitation Vanilla Flavoring

The coffee was not recognized by ShopSavvy, but neither of the other two were able to provide prices.  They both knew what the product was but couldn’t find me anywhere to go for it, locally or online.  The same could be said for the vanilla flavoring although I was not surprised.

Barcode Scanner was only giving me web options to purchase things, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  If I were looking for electronics or big ticket items that I might shop around for online, this would be a great place to start.

ShopSavvy was also providing me places to go online, yielding zero results locally for those items that were recognized. 

CompareEverywhere was able to find local places in addition to online.  Granted most of them were Wal-Mart and Circuit City, at least I had some in-town choices should I need to grab one of the items tonight.

Barcode Scanner will tell you if it recognizes the UPC, but then you have to take the extra step of doing a “product search” or a “web search” if you want to see anything else.  At least with ShopSavvy and CompareEverywhere you get results listed immediately if there are any.  On the flip side, if you do a web search, you could end up with some great information beyond the description and product reviews.  This is where you might get real time or recently updated information like recall notices or other alerts.

One of the features I do like quite a bit with ShopSavvy is the ability to create a wishlist and price alert.  Say you had your eye on a BluRay player for this Christmas but don’t want to spend any more than $250.00 on it.  You can have ShopSavvy alert you if it finds the price at or below your target.

I’ve learned that CompareEverywhere is built with the library of codes.  This must be what makes the difference in finding more items, at least for right now.  I do know that they guys behind ShopSavvy are constantly adding new items everyday, but until they get to certain things, I trust the database in CE more.

ShopSavvy does offer the feature for searching eBay items and/or listing something with the website, which the other two lack.  This might be extremely handy for some people, but I imagine that if someone were scanning a UPC, they are likely looking for a new item.  Nobody searches eBay for products based on UPC codes, so I’m picturing this feature as somewhat slow to take off.  That’s not to take away from its potential though.  There are going to be a lot of people who might scan a friend’s DVD and check to see if they can grab a used copy off eBay.  Music, games, and books are also likely to get traction this way.  For big ticket items however, people generally want to go with new products or established websites.

Although ShopSavvy did offer the cheapest price for Lost in Translation at 75¢ online, I didn’t have any local options.  CompareEverywhere has it at $3.58 in town and $6.99 online.  DVD’s are probably something that people will be comparison pricing and on Tuesdays it will be nice to know whether or not to leave Best Buy to head over to Wal-Mart.

CompareEverywhere has a great tool for cost conscious grocery shoppers with the list feature.  Got a handful of items that you are always buying?  Create a list of products by scanning them and then literally cross them off as you throw ’em in your cart.  The list can also be share via HTML or XML format.

Both SS and CE offer wish lists for people who want to keep a… well, wish list of products.  This is good for people like me who like to try to keep things in their head that they want to buy at some point, but always forget to follow up with.

A major feature that I like with CompareEverywhere is the local map that comes up and shows actual locations of places in my area, with their respective prices.  This simple visual representation is what I found to be most useful, as I imagine many would agree.

I’ve not gone totally online for all my shopping and each year I tell myself that I am going to go totally digital for Christmas.  It’s not going to happen no matter how hard I try.  What I will enjoy most about these apps is being able to make educated purchasing decisions in the aisle without wondering what the guy up the street has the same product selling for.  So far, CompareEverywhere comes out on top, not only because I find more products overall, but also because I can see just how far these places are.

All three products are in their infant stages and are no doubt going to continue to grow and add features.  I’d love to put together a combo between the three applications.  With CompareEverywhere using the UPCDatabase, it has an edge in potential growth as the database is crowd-sourced and uses Creative Commons to help build it.  Still, the guys at ShopSavvy are definitely handling their business over there.

I’d love to revisit these apps in a few months to see how much growth each of them does.  For now, I see no problem with having all three on my G1 as each is free and offers a little something for each of us.

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  1. You are right that they all scan at the same speed / accuracy, because they all use the ZXing library for decoding (I’m a developer) — at least according to the latest I have heard.

    Barcode Scanner is the simple plain-vanilla client that comes with the ZXing project.

    CompareEverywhere and ShopSavvy are far better for comparison shopping, IMHO. Both are excellent, polished applications, focused on the primary use case for barcodes today: UPC-A / EAN-13 barcodes and comparison shopping.

    Barcode Scanner’s benefit is that it enables all of the barcode formats that ZXing supports: UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN-8, EAN-13, Code 128, Code 39, QR Code, Data Matrix (er, coming soon…) But its UI is quite minimal. It does however enable some clever use cases — for example, QR Codes can encode contact information. Barcode Scanner will prompt you to add the contact to your address book upon scanning.

    One open question is, shoot, do I really have to choose between 3 barcode scanners? in addition to a photo capture application? One thing we did was to enable Barcode Scanner with Android Intents — so apps can request barcode scanning functionality without embedding the library, or register to receive notification when a barcode is scanned. In that sense Barcode Scanner is primarily a sort of system service that happens to have an app on top of it too.

  2. One thing to look for in the future is the inclusion of ‘proprietary APIs’ in ShopSavvy. Both Compare Everywhere and ShopSavvy use most of the same open APIs today including UPCDatabase, but only a concerted business development effort can open up access to proprietary pricing databases owned by major retailers around the world. ShopSavvy’s business development team (i.e. guys who don’t know how to code) are negotiating more than 50 contracts with retailers for direct access to their local and online UPC pricing data. These deals are complex and require significant effort. Our hope is that ShopSavvy will be the leader in access and delivery of the best data on Android.

    ShopSavvy has a backlog of proprietary APIs to enter into the system (i.e. more online and local prices), but we have been 100% focused on being ready for the UK launch on the 30th. We had planned to launch in the UK sometime in November, but our partner (T-Mobile) asked that we push up the launch to coincide with their advertising and promotional activities. Once we have the development team’s focus on API integration, you will see a significant increase in a) the number of items included and b) the number of results per item. This data will ONLY be available on ShopSavvy.

    We also have an updated version of the application that includes several new features (including map-based local pricing), but we are waiting for the Market to be updated (removing the comment and rating bugs) before we upload our newest version.

    Early next year there are a number of new features that should help keep ShopSavvy on top, including instant payments from the device (with Visa & Mastercard), on-screen coupons and vertical tabs like groceries and wine.

  3. I’ll give CompareEverywhere another look based on this, but I had already decided on ShopSavvy. I was getting no local results for anything with CE when I tried it, plus SS has price alerts and the option to email a link to the product rather than visit the site right then– I suspect that’ll be handy. (Please correct me if CE also has that option– I didn’t see it.)


  4. Thanks for the comparison. You’ve saved me a lot of time and pointed out some things I’ve missed.

    I’m enjoying using both CE and SS, but I’m more excited about Barcode Reader. To me, QR Codes offer the most innovative potential. There’s more to life than shopping (particularly in a down economy), and QR codes and other similar codes will, I believe, totally change how we access and use information in the real world.

  5. Regarding ShopSavvy & CompareEverywhere:

    NeoMedia has patents that cover this technology

    Patent #6,651,053 — Interactive system for investigating products on a network

    An interactive search system for use with a global computer network, e.g., the Internet, using a search identifying barcode to rapidly and effectively obtain a supply of related information for presentation to a user. A computer, either landline based or mobile, may be used to input a UPC code, taken from a package or advertisement or prestored in the computer, to an implementing server on the network. The server contains a database of product and manufacturer identifying UPC codes and uses the input UPC code and the database to identify the manufacturer and is programmed to then perform a search of the network to locate sites relating to or operated by the manufacturer. Also, the server may search the network on a product basis to locate other sites containing the UPC under search. Using “parsing” technology, the server “pulls out” the product description, transmits it to and places it in a random access memory (RAM) or storage of the computer, and proceeds to perform further searching relying on the product description to uncover relevant information. Accordingly, using a single input, a collection of product-related and manufacturer information is quickly assembled in the computer available for a user’s consideration all at once at any time.

  6. Barcode Scanner has one other trick up its sleeve, besides QR codes: you can scan a book, then search for a word or phrase, and it will show you all the page numbers with snippets where you query appears.

  7. Landmark settlement & licensing agreement !!

    NeoMedia & Scanbuy Reach Settlement and Licensing Agreement

    "NeoMedia has granted Scanbuy a 10 year royalty bearing, non-exclusive license to a portion of its patent portfolio in the U.S. In turn, Scanbuy has granted NeoMedia a fully paid, irrevocable, non-exclusive license of Scanbuy patents and a fully paid, non-exclusive sublicense to all of the patents licensed by MFR to Scanbuy within the U.S."

    Game, Set, Match


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