By Samantha Chu, Product Manager, Data Collection
We receive many inquiries where customers ask, "Why should I buy a barcode scanner for my phone if I can just use my phone's built-in camera to read barcodes?" This is a valid question, as more and more smartphone camera based barcode scanning applications like RedLaser, FoodScanner, and ScanLife become available on iTunes, Android Market, and other online app stores.
It's true that using a phone camera for barcode scanning can work well if you don't have many barcodes to scan (e.g., fewer than 20) and/or if you have the time and patience to scan barcodes slowly. For consumers who occasionally scan barcodes for product research or comparison shopping, this may not be an issue.
However, if you need to do serious barcode scanning within a work environment in time-critical business applications, and/or if you need to efficiently scan hundreds (or thousands) of barcodes a day, using a phone camera simply is not a viable option for a variety of reasons.
The most important reason is time efficiency. To illustrate this point, we made a video comparing the RedLaser app on an iPhone versus the Socket CHS 7X Bluetooth barcode scanner.
The video shows how the CHS enables you scan 3 times faster than with a camera phone, making the CHS a worthwhile investment for business deployments.
Besides time efficiency, there are many other factors to consider, such as the barcode type (known as symbology) or size — as some barcode applications support a very small range of barcode types and sizes — and ergonomics too. Also, if you need to scan barcodes outdoors in sunlight (e.g., automotive VIN codes), most phone cameras don't work well for barcode scanning — if at all — in strong lighting conditions.