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One of the better mobile shopping comparison services I have seen so far is Sccope, which launched a mobile site  in February 2009. 

Now a new Sccope iPhone app has been released, including a barcode scanning function. I've been testing the app out...


The new app, which is £1.19 to download, has been doing well in the App Store since its release last week. It is currently top of the paid app charts, and third in the highest grossing list, thanks in part to a mention in The Sun over the weekend.

The app is simple to use; you can either browse by category and sub-category from the homepage, type in a search term, or use the barcode scanner. This is the third barcode scanner I've tried out on the iPhone (I have a plain old 3G with inferior camera) and it is the easiest to use.

I found ShopSavvy almost impossible to use, and while iBarcode works well enough, it is a fiddly job to line up the barcode and the arrows. On Sccope, all that's needed is a steady hand, you don't have to be too precise:

Sccope barcode scanner

Once you have scanned an item, shopping results are returned quickly, with prices from a good range of well known pure play and multichannel retailers, so you could use the app to find prices at a local store as well as online: 

If you rotate the phone, you can see a price history graph for the selected product, showing pricing trends to help you decide whether or not you are getting a good price:

If you have found the product you want, you have the option of going to the retailer's online store to purchase the item, and this is an area that, should mobile comparison apps and sites like this one become more popular (and there is every indication that they will) where retailers that have developed mobile websites have a distinct advantage.

This is because mobile optimised sites make it far easier for the user to see more details, review, and actually complete the purchase.

For example, if I click through to purchase a game from Game, this is the page I am taken to: 

Thanks to the various elements on the page, it takes longer to load up, and it's clear from the screenshot that there is plenty of zooming and scrolling needed to read the text and navigate from the product page to the checkout.

By contrast, select to buy the same item from Amazon, and this page loads up in a fraction of the time:

Text is easy to read, further product details are there, and the call to action is unmissable. Furthermore, the whole shopping basket and checkout process has been designed for the iPhone, so a purchase can be made with far less hassle required than through a non-mobile site.

Since consumers can see details and complete their purchases much more easily on a mobile optimised website, then the retailers that have catered for mobile users are best positioned to get more sales from consumers using price comparison services like Sccope.

The main problem I had with the app is that the browsing options weren't so easy to use. For example, if I want to see prices for laptops, there are no filters to select things like brand and price range to narrow the selection:

Conclusion

The new Sccope app is the best mobile comparison site I have seen so far. For each of the books, DVDs and games I scanned I found plenty of useful results from a good selection of retailers.

Crucially, the barcode scanner works very well, which takes a lot of the pain out of the process, meaning you don't have to spend time typing in search terms or browsing through the various categories.

It seems to be popular with users so far too, with an average of four stars on the App Store from 197 reviews, the main gripes being the lack of products in some areas, and the fact that iPod Touch users cannot use the barcode scanner.

Graham Charlton

Published 12 January, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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