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Tesco's iPhone app gets barcode reader

Bip. Bip. Neeep. Bip.

Tesco has added the ability to read barcodes to its mobile shopping app - just as it did in 1999, only without bankrupting shoppers.

Back in 1999, shoppers were asked to pay more than £200 for a Palm Pilot touting a cumbersome barcode wand, so that super-early adopters could use it to populate their shopping list when the device was synchronised with Tesco's then-Windows-only desktop shopping client. These days all you need is an iPhone and Tesco's free app to collect the code for that particularly good bottle of wine at a mate's house, or the last tin of tomatoes.

The app, which was developed by Ribot, doesn't just add barcode items to the shopping list. It can manage the whole shopping process right down to selecting delivery slots, and synchronises (via the cloud) with the web shop, so you can start your order on the move and complete it from the desktop.

Ribot tells us the majority of users decide the iPhone app is good enough, with most of them doing the entire weekly grocery shop from bed. That's a very different usage model from the price-comparison applications that are popping up on mobile platforms - reading a barcode and searching for the cheapest price.

Tesco will be hoping you'll be using its app for CDs and books as well as potatoes, trusting the Tesco brand to be price-competitive, but the important thing is to ensure you don't end up doing the weekly shop at Morrisons or Asda.

Using the phone's camera to read barcodes starts your shopping list in the Tesco application, making it very likely you'll be buying from Tesco, and a world of difference from a wand wired to a Palm Pilot. The motivation remains the same: it's unlikely to make people shop more, but it might make them more likely to place the order with Tesco, which is good enough. ®

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