iPhone App: Scan Barcode, Get Consumer Reports Ratings

(iOS4 only) Yesterday fellow publishing family member Consumer Reports launched a new $9.99 iPhone app that lets you scan a barcode and get official Consumer Reports ratings, reviews and specs for that product. Fret not, an Android version is in the works. Video walkthrough, inside.

The app contains info on more than 3,000 Consumer Reports tested products, and over 17,000 non-tested products.

Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper (iTunes link) also enables you compare similar products, compare prices at local retailers, and shop online. Post stuff you’re interested in on Facebook or save them for later on your wishlist.

canonspec.jpgThe app is available now as a $9.99 per-year subscription introductory price. That will bump up to $14.99 after Jan 1, 2011.

slr.jpgI haven’t tried it yet but it sounds like a great companion for savvier spur-of-the-moment shopping.

rates.jpgConsumer Reports Mobile Shopper [iTunes]


Subscribe to Ben’s posts by RSS.
Follow Ben on Twitter.
Email ben at consumerist.com


Edit Your Comment

  1. mexifelio says:

    Consumer Reports = Useless.

    I would rather read through real people’s reviews of products when deciding on making a purchase.

    • Alvis says:

      CR employees are fake people?

    • cynical_reincarnation says:

      I find myself agreeing, multiple peoples takes on it are way more valuable to me.

    • Dover says:

      I heartily disagree, I value CR’s thorough testing of products. It’s well worth the $26 a year to know that the air purifier I bought really does a great job a filtering and moving air, that the tires on my cars have the best grip in the rain but are not as quiet than other models, and that my dishwasher was the best value for my needs but I should avoid some settings that don’t work so well.

      • theycallmeGinger says:

        Rather than:
        “i luvs it…lol…best evah! except it fell apart 3 days after using. 5 out of 5”
        “FedEx dropped it, so it doesn’t work. I’m getting a replacement soon. 1 out of 5”
        “I ordered the wrong size. 0 out of 5”

  2. missitnoonan says:

    $10? Come on, that’s insane (and I am an online subscriber to CR). I can get a free Amazon app that will scan barcodes, give me a price, let me see user reviews and order on the spot.

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      Agree. $10 is kind of highway robbery for an app. There aren’t too many apps out there worth $10, and those that are would be ones with serious productivity gains. This is a $1.99 app if anything. Sorry, CR…. That’s what the people who did the pricing research should have told you. Name one other app that costs this much and only does what yours does.

      • Chmeeee says:

        You’re not really paying $10 for the app though, you’re paying for the access to the CR data (at least, so it appears). I agree with the others that this should be free to subscribers.

        • theycallmeGinger says:

          I always hated that about CR. I get the magazine, yet I’d still have to pay for the site? And now also for this app? I do like the idea, though, as long as it was a cheaper rate for those who subscribe to one or the other (and free to those who get both). It would be nice to have the ratings when you’re there at the store. Rather than trying to scan through numerous websites with questionable user reviews.

        • kevinadamkelly says:

          Except I’m pretty sure iTunes doesn’t have the functionality to allow the application to be free… but maybe some type of rebate perhaps

      • P=mv says:

        For the access to the CR data I think it is well worth it. I also think, however, that it should be included in the CR subscription.

    • danmac says:

      This is what I was thinking…I pay a monthly fee to Consumer Reports to occasionally view product ratings online…it would have been nice if they had made the app part of the subscription.

  3. NeverLetMeDown says:

    $10 standalone doesn’t seem unreasonable, but this really should be free to people who already subscribe to CR.

  4. wags says:

    Why is every brand listed twice in the final screenshot?

    Is there going to be a “Customer spends $10 on poorly written app, can’t get refund” story next week?

  5. Skeptic says:

    Neat idea, Consumer Reports is awesome, but it reviews such a relatively small portion of the consumer products out there that this app is likely to disappoint. And while the price is not high compared to a yearly subscription to CR, it does seem high given common price points for mobile apps.

    In any case, I look forward to CR seeking out new ways to empower consumers. As somebody who’s tried to look up CR ratings while in a store only to find that Best Buy has black listed all review sites on the internet connections on their display computers, an easy to use, well laid out app would be a welcome tool. Now if only I had an iPhone :-p

  6. cayton says:

    The only thing worse than a $9.99 app that is terrible is an app that’s $14.99 and terrible…

    I give this app it’s own black dot.

    • JoJack82 says:

      You know whats even worse than a $14.99 app thats terrible? A $14.99 yearly subscription App thats terrible.

  7. liamarbetman says:

    No Android love?

    • howie_in_az says:

      It’d be a cinch to write for Android, especially since we have a ready-to-roll Barcode Scanner app that will do the nastiness of scanning barcodes for you. Plus Android has the normal network support (this is backed by a webservice of some sort)…..

    • P=mv says:

      Hopefully that is coming soon. I love my android phone.

  8. nbs2 says:

    Shouldn’t there be an Advertisement warning on this post? How is it any different from the news articles about Amish space heaters?

  9. duxup says:

    Should be free to CR subscribers, also put it on Android as well.

  10. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “The app is available now as a $9.99 per-year subscription. That will bump up to $14.99 after Jan 1, 2011.”

    It’s not $9.99 a year if starting the first full year it exists it costs $14.99 a year.

  11. seamer says:

    $2.99 is my limit, and anything I buy now at least has to have an iPad variant. iPad may not have a camera, but it surely has a keypad I can enter an item’s UPC/ISBN into.

  12. zyxwv88 says:

    I think this is a great app. When it’s available for Android I’ll buy it.

    For those who prefer consumer reviews, you obviously don’t know how much work that Consumer Reports puts into testing. User reviews are very subjective and sometimes just downright wrong or the vendor has beens stacking the reviews. Although they are better than nothing, I’d still take a consumer reports review over a standard review any day.

    A great example. Look at all the people who would strongly reccomend cars that Consumer reports says suck. They do more detailed testing than the average consumer who basically just says that they either like it or they don’t. When it comes to comparing options, features, and reliability, user reviews just don’t cut it and they don’t give accurate comparisons with other products.

    • missitnoonan says:

      In general I agree with this, and it is why I subscribe to CR. But the types of things that I am going to scan a barcode for to get info aren’t durable goods (good luck finding the barcode on that car or dishwasher to scan). I just don’t need CR’s take on a camera, a toy, or something similar. Most likely they will not have reviewed the exact model anyway whereas I can almost always get a few dozen reviews on Amazon (and if there aren’t any reviews that’s a good sign to stay away too).

  13. tehfunk says:

    Wow…$9.99 as the “discount” price before it jumps to $14.99 per year? Surely you can’t be serious? Too many other apps do the same thing for free, i.e. Amazon and RedLaser and even Google Goggles to an extent.

    You (Consumer Reports) are grossly overvaluing your content.

  14. thekevinmonster says:

    For people complaining about how much it costs to buy an app, do understand that software development is probably not as cheap as you think it is (unless you work for a software company and are paid to develop software).

    Also, this brings up a tangent I’ve been thinking about. Most magazines are supported heavily by advertising (otherwise they wouldn’t be so full of ads, I assume?). CR doesn’t have advertisements, but I can’t imagine they have any lower overhead – maybe even more since they need to buy everything they review and conduct reviews that take more time and money than “writing an article about some dude”. It’s not too surprising that they charge for the website and for the paper subscription in that case.

    Is there any sort of breakdown on how much CR costs to produce as a whole? That’d be really neat to see.

    Also, I think the idea of individual product ratings by CR is kind of past its prime, if only because so many things are really just the same parts assembled in different ways and are recombined and re-released constantly. My current vacuum cleaner (bissell), and my previous vacuum cleaner (dirt devil) have some of the same major parts despite not being manufactured by the same parent company (dirt devil is techtronic from hong kong, bissell is headquartered in grand rapids, mi). While researching refrigerators, I found that apparently many different brands of fridges use similar major wear parts (like compressors) all made by the same companies.

    How do you keep up? Well, you don’t.

    • johnva says:

      The cost of software development is obviously not the reason for the pricing, given that hundreds of thousands of other apps manage to get sold for a profit for far less money (including many that include much more sophisticated and costly-to-develop software than this). The reason for the pricing is that CR is obviously trying to price this similarly to a subscription to their magazine, and have it pay for the testing. That’s reasonable, except that it breaks badly from the “normal” pricing for an iPhone app. People simply aren’t willing to pay that much for an iPhone app, unless the app is absolutely EXTRAORDINARY.

      The top selling iPhone apps are the cheap ones. If it’s not possible for CR to break even on the app without charging this much, it would make more sense to just make it a free add-on for existing subscribers rather than a standalone thing. I doubt they will get many takers as is.

  15. Kia says:


    Annnnnd you lost me. For that kind of money, a year or no, I’ll just go look the product up on iphone’s web browser just fine. Handy, but not “rebuying the program every year” handy.

  16. twritersf says:

    $10/year? No. $15/year? No way.

    I suffer through Grocery IQ’s constant non-recognition of barcodes for products. I’m not about to actually pay for the same spotty coverage. Heck, I’m not about to pay for the very unlikely full coverage; I get more and better feedback from Amazon.

  17. mcs328 says:

    I hope these comments get read by Consumer Reports and change their minds on the pricing for subscribers. Isn’t that the point of Comsumerist anyways? Or one of the points? It would be ironic if they didn’t respond or said “we’re taking your comments seriously”.

  18. ORPat says:

    One: I have been led astray by CR ratings in the past, even though I still subscribe to the online version. Two: I have an Android. Three: No way am I going to pay that much for an app. If I am going to buy something big I have already researched it online.

  19. guroth says:

    This is a great idea, but I won’t be paying for it. The upside of CR is the testing and quality of the review they give a product, but the downside is that they don’t have a great quantity of reviewed products.

    If I am in a situation to use this app, it is most likely on a product that they won’t have a review for, and most certainly they wont have a review for the product I am comparing it to.

  20. Jenn98765 says:

    Ouch, I didn’t realize the paper and online access to CR don’t come together.

    I don’t really like subscription apps in general, but I can’t ever see 14.99/year for product reviews/CR info. I’m not buying enough goods that I need to compare like that, and either way if I’m paying that much for it I’d expect almost every product to be available and I’m betting that it’s not even close.

    Why wouldn’t a consumer just open the phone’s browser and look on the CR site for the info? I’m not being snarky so much as I’m really curious why.

  21. fantomesq says:

    Ben, should we be touting an app that is getting only one and two star ratings simply because it is developed by the parent company? You would think that they get you a review copy to make an informed recommendation… The $10 initial price is outrageously high for an app that requires an annual fee, and requiring scanning a barcode off of products that stores rarely display the boxes from? I don’t remember the last store that had boxes of digital SLRs on the floor… A good first attempt but the app needs to do more, cost less up front and reduce or eliminate the annual fee. This won’t be a top seller.

  22. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    71 point rating on the T2i for real? I have a feeling I’d disagree with most of the ratings this app would return if that’s a true review. At the very least the price/value ratio of the T2i get it at least an 80, I’d say even higher.

    • danmac says:

      The scoring rubric that Consumer Reports uses isn’t really a standard grading scale (60 = D, 70 = C, 80 = B, etc.). You’ll often see the highest recommended product score a 79 or an 80.

  23. d0x360 says:

    make an android version and then ill be happy and make it free because there are already apps that do almost the same thing and they are all free

  24. houstonspace says:

    Android please. Normally I laugh when app developers want more than a few bucks for an app, but I would actually pay for this. Any information if there is a discount for those with CR subscriptions already?

  25. satoru says:

    For those who think the app is too expensive I present this as the logic that is going through your brain


    Stop being such Scrooges.

  26. george69 says:

    How about a webos version for the Palm pre?

  27. benjitek says:

    Extremely high price, unreasonable so. Especially for users like myself who already pay an annual subscription to Consumer Reports Online.

    It’s a bit of a shocker that CR expects current subscribers to cough up another $10 to access information that they’re already paying for.

    Who checks up on Consumer Reports? I guess subscribers do, don’t pay twice and maybe they’ll get the message… unbelievable…

  28. benjitek says:

    Extremely high price, unreasonably so. Especially for users like myself who already pay an annual subscription to Consumer Reports Online.

    It’s a bit of a shocker that CR expects current subscribers to cough up another $10 to access information that they’re already paying for.

    Who checks up on Consumer Reports? I guess subscribers do, don’t pay twice and maybe they’ll get the message… unbelievable…

  29. Destron says:

    If it was a one time fee, and maybe half the price I would buy it. But considering my Android phone already has a full function web browser it’s kind of pointless to pay for an app that gives you access to the same content again, your really just paying for the convenience of scanning the bar code instead of having to search the product, but then as has already been said, most items reviews by CR are not items that have a readily available bar code to scan anyway,

    The most expensive app I have ever bought was Documents to Go, I think it regularly goes for $30, but I got it on sale for $15, but having full access to Office documents on my phone is a life saver.

    Although, it seems I have seen a trend of rising prices on the android market.

  30. Lee Jones says:

    I like CR, and $9.99 would work for a lifetime cost, but a $15/yr subscription is a deal breaker just for a phone app. As it is, I just buy the occasional CR printed edition. If it was included with the online subscription, that would be an incentive to buy.

  31. dennis says:

    Consumer reports is too damn high!

  32. PsiCop says:

    Wake me when the Android app gets released. If it does. Yeah, I know they’re promising one, but until it arrives, it’s non-existent. I’ve been in the IT business way too long to be fooled by “promiseware.”