SnapTell for IPhone

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These days, it isn't easy to find a new technology that feels magical. Think of the feeling you got the first time you explored Google Maps or the first time you paused live TV using a digital video recorder. But I got that magical feeling when I used SnapTell--the first iPhone app to give me the sense of having discovered a valuable new capability.

The idea for this app is simple. You have a camera and a Web connection. So if you use the iPhone's built-in camera to take a picture of any book, DVD, or video-game package, SnapTell will identify it. You don't need a barcode, and the picture can be a skewed and fuzzy--SnapTell will still return a positive ID.

Here's where the magic comes in: SnapTell produces a list of vendors that sell the product, including prices and links to the vendors' Web sites, plus links to other sites--such as IMDB, YouTube, and Wikipedia--that have related content. The app also takes advantage of the location feature in the iPhone to look for nearby stores that sell the product. And finally, the local results include links to Google Maps for directions to the store. So if you find a product in one store, but it's on sale at a lower price a few blocks away, you'll know.

Because you're uploading a photo each time, SnapTell works best over Wi-Fi. But performance is perfectly acceptable over cellular networks, too. Because the app relies on the iPhone's camera, however, iPod Touch users are out in the cold.

SnapTell is compatible with any iPhone running the iPhone 2.1 software update. You can find more information about the app's optical recognition component at

[Jeffrey Hatton is a freelance writer living in Virginia, and a proud fan of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.]

This story, "SnapTell for IPhone" was originally published by Macworld.

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