October 22, 2010, 12:09 PM

Consumer Reports gives iPhone users ratings and reviews—for a price

For $9.99, iPhone owners can download an app with features that include bar code scanning.

Lead Photo

The iPhone app offers prices from local retailers and web merchants

Consumer Reports, the popular publication that provides extensive reviews on a wide range of products, has launched an iPhone app that gives shoppers access to its reviews, ratings, recommendations and more. The app has an introductory sticker price of $9.99 a year, which will go up to $14.99 beginning next year.

The app uses bar code scanning, a technology that is gaining popularity in the app world—especially with apps that help consumers comparison shop while in stores. To use the Consumer Reports app, a shopper aims her iPhone camera at a product’s bar code and the app scans the code, identifies the item and delivers her Consumer Reports content about that product. The app uses bar code scanning technology from ShopSavvy, a bar code scanning app from m-commerce vendor Big in Japan.

In addition to ratings, reviews and recommendations, the app offers pricing information from a range of web merchants through PriceGrabber, a comparison shopping engine, and also shows prices for goods at local retailers. Local comparison shopping is powered by Milo, a service that helps consumers find in-stock items at nearby stores. Consumer Reports is developing and will soon release a similar app for phones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

The Consumer Reports app may face competition from the increasing number of free bar code comparison shopping apps. Free apps such as myShopanion  and RedLaser , which was acquired by eBay this year, offer access to ratings and reviews and show shoppers prices from merchants and marketplaces across the web.

RedLaser used to cost $1.99 but eBay made it free when it bought the app from Boulder, CO-based technology startup company Occipital in June. EBay gathers much of its comparison content from its own web sites such as Half.com and eBay Marketplaces, thus making the app a sales tool for eBay—likely a large part of the reason it is free. MyShopanion collects a per-click fee when a shopper views a merchant’s prices using the app and then visits the retailer's site. It also generates revenue through ad impressions (when a shopper sees an ad) and when shoppers take advantage of offers, such as using a coupon offered through the app.

In addition to the new app, Consumer Reports also has a mobile site which subscribers to its web site can access for free.

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