This article has nothing to do with genealogy, but it is one of the most useful programs I own, so I thought I would write about it.
Do you own an Apple iPhone? If so, get RedLaser. It costs $1.99, and it more than paid for itself the first time I used it. I have now saved perhaps $100 in the past few weeks because of this program.
RedLaser converts your iPhone into an indispensable shopping companion. Have you ever seen a store employee in a grocery store or major chain store scanning product bar codes? Now you can do the same thing: you use the iPhone's built-in camera to scan the bar code on almost any product available for sale.
Now, here is the best part: Unlike the store employee who is using a handheld scanner, your iPhone will immediately connect to RedLaser's servers on the Internet and look for a better price, either online, by mailorder, or in any local store that has its catalog online. To find local store prices, RedLaser uses the iPhone's internal GPS to determine your longitude and latitude and then looks for stores within a few miles of your present location.
The program uses the Internet to pull down a list of prices so you can see if you’re getting a good deal. You can scan a bar code, and RedLaser will then display a list of stores with better prices within two or three seconds.
Find a better price online? Then, with a few taps, RedLaser lets you jump to a merchant’s online site to close the deal, or else you can e-mail the details to yourself (or anyone else) if you prefer to do your online shopping later from a desktop. You can also store a list of products in the iPhone and refer to that list at any time.
RedLaser works best with the improved camera on the iPhone 3GS, but you can still get your money’s worth with older iPhones.
I installed RedLaser on my iPhone 3GS and then started testing it. I walked around the house scanning bar codes from grocery items, cereal boxes, software products, power tools, and most anything I could think of. I was amazed. I pointed the iPhone camera at a bar code, pressed an icon in the RedLaser program, and it always decoded the bar code and identified the product within a second or two. With another press of an on-screen icon, it then displayed a list of stores that sold the same item, sorted by increasing prices. That is, the store with the lowest price for that item was listed first, followed by the second-lowest price, and so forth.
One of the first items I scanned was a software program I purchased a few days ago for $69.95. I scanned the bar code on the box, and within a second or two RedLaser found a web site that sells the same thing for $49.95. Another press of an icon and I was looking at the order page for that product on the store's web site. I could have ordered it online directly from my iPhone within seconds. Another option was to email myself a link to that web site so that I could order it later from my desktop computer.
I later walked into a nearby Home Depot store and did the same thing. When I found an item I was thinking of buying, I pulled out the iPhone, scanned the bar code on the item, and found that Lowe's was selling the same thing for ten dollars less. I left the store and drove up the street to Lowe's.
Looking for a new living room set or a new television or a new computer or a DVD player or any other “big box” item? This thing could save you hundreds of dollars! In this tight economy, that's not a bad "investment" for a $1.99 program!
RedLaser isn't perfect. It isn't so good at scanning fresh fruits and vegetables, simply because those items often don't have bar codes attached. You do have another option: manually enter a UPC (bar code number) if you see that code listed on the shelf or on a nearby sign or even on some web sites, which is often the case. However, RedLaser can directly scan most everything else sold in grocery stores, hardware stores, computer stores, department stores, clothing stores, or most any other retail establishment.
Next, RedLaser's coverage of local stores near you is limited to those stores that have their catalogs online in a format readable by RedLaser's servers. Large department stores and some grocery stores often have this but smaller, "mom-and-pop" stores typically do not. Even with these minor limitations, I found RedLaser to be faster and more accurate than any other price comparison tool I can think of.
Here's a hint: when thinking of purchasing a product, go to Google and enter that product name followed by “UPC.” This doesn't always find the UPC (bar code) numbers but it often will. Then manually enter those numbers into RedLaser. You will next see a list of online and offline stores that sell the product, listed by prices in ascending order. Yes, you can check prices without using bar code labels.
Today, virtually all of our mobile search queries are textual. With RedLaser, searches are visual: point your camera and query into a sea of information. RedLaser costs $1.99 and you can find it in the iPhone App Store. You can also find more information at http://www.redlaser.com or click on the video below.
My suggestion? Get it.