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App Friday: Red Laser vs Barcode Scanner

Pokemon and the Game Boy are two examples of Japanese crazes which really caught on; pachinko and the Barcode Battler are two examples of ones which didn’t. However, nearly two decades after the release of the Battler it seems that barcode scanning is back again.

Earlier this week MobileCrunch revealed that the Red Laser app (download link) has been in the top five of the App Store’s paid app chart for the last three months — and has got there purely by word of mouth.

We decided to check Red Laser out for ourselves to see what the fuss was all about. We also checked out a free app from the Android Market, the imaginatively named Barcode Scanner to see if there were any major differences between the two.

Recombu runs almost exclusively on caffeine, chocolate, computer games and fancy cheese as well as powerful graphic cards, so we thought we’d test out the barcode battlers on a few of our favourite things.

iPhone 3GS with Red Laser

Red Laser on the iPhone 3GS doesn’t mess around. We tried to get a decent shot of this in action but we just couldn’t – it’s too quick! The interface is super smooth, looks nice and the scanning reticule shows you where to position the iPhone for optimal scanning. Here’s how we got on:

Pack of Pro Plus – Picked these up instantly and quickly grabbed some prices from Google. We found out that we could get our hands on 192 Pro Plus tablets for less than £20. Pretty scary.

Wario Ware Smooth Moves for Wii – As with the Pro Plus, Red Laser scanned the barcode in no time at all and listed all of the available search results.

Tube of Galaxy chocolates – Took a bit longer to scan this, maybe due to the curvature of the tube. The app didn’t actually give us any prices but it did tell us that it was made by Masterfoods which impressed us.

Radeon HD 4650 – Our first disappointment. Red Laser scanned it quickly as normal, but when it did all it came up with was ‘Product of Xfx’.

Tortoiseshell Bay Semillon Sauvignon Blanc – As with the chocolates, the barcode scanned but we didn’t get any results for this, which is a shame now that Threshers is closed. Boo.

Blue Stilton 150g – Again our survey said a big no when it came to searching for stilton. How are we going to have our wine and cheese evenings now?

HTC Magic with Barcode Scanner

Barcode Scanner from Android Market may be free but it’s nowhere near as pretty to look at as Red Laser. It features a helpful red guide line showing you where to position your Android phone, but it makes a really naff beeping noise as you do, sounding like the dull chorus of 100 supermarket tills. Thankfully you can turn this off in the settings.

Pack of Pro Plus – Almost instant search results for this. Not quite as fast as Red Laser but fast enough.

Wario Ware Smooth Moves for Wii – Barcode Scanner wasn’t quite as quick off the mark as Red Laser was, but all of the search results were the same.

Tube of Galaxy chocolates – As with Red Laser the first fumble came with the chocolates. Barcode Scanner couldn’t even pick this up, let alone tell us it was a product of Masterfoods. 1 – 0 to Red Laser at the moment.

Radeon HD 4650 – Barcode Scanner came up smelling of roses here. It took a while longer to scan the code but it got a single search result for the graphics card. It’s now 1-1 at half time.

Tortoiseshell Bay Semillon Sauvignon Blanc – The barcode got picked up but we couldn’t get any results for this bottle of wine. Just as well we’ve already got some sherry for Santa.

Blue Stilton 150g – Hard cheese again. Barcode Scanner didn’t even register the link. Fail.

iPhone 3GS vs HTC Magic: Match Analysis

In terms of scan results the apps are pretty evenly matched. Red Laser’s interface is nicer to look at, it doesn’t make a horrible noise and it scans things slightly faster. But the Android app succeeded in getting a result for the Radeon graphics card which Red Laser didn’t.

Red Laser allows you to email your entire barcode scanning history to your contacts. Useful if you have a large collection of DVDs and want to quickly compile a list for eBay. Barcode Scanner doesn’t offer this functionality but it allows you to turn search results into 2D barcodes. This means that other people with barcode scanners which can pick up 2D barcodes can scan your phone’s screen. You can manually pass on URLs and contacts this way as well which is pretty cool but it’s a shame that you can’t email your entire search history though.