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Speed? It can vary depending on where you are, but if you're in a Wi-Fi hot spot, you'll experience a browsing speed comparable to what you experience at home. No kidding. And video quality is astonishingly good. If Wi-Fi is unavailable, the next network to kick in is the 3G (and video quality degrades some). This is widely accessible and, though not as brisk as Wi-Fi, still much faster than anything I've experienced on Windows Mobile. A search that might have taken most of a minute on the Pocket PC, for example, will consume perhaps 15 seconds on the iPhone.

If 3G is unavailable, the Edge Network is the next possibility. This, sorry to say, is slow, perhaps on the order of dialup, but in outlying areas it at least offers better-than-nothing connectivity.

Investigate 3G and Edge coverage in your area here.

I'm going to make a bold prediction: In relatively short order, I see the iPhone becoming a very popular, perhaps the most popular field tool of choice for booksellers, not only because it nearly replicates the desktop/laptop experience but also because of its massive potential for third-party developers to create software (and perhaps hardware) that will enhance its use for many things, including scanning ISBNs. Third-party applications (or apps) for this phone are already abundant, and new ones pop up daily. Many are free or can be had for a buck or two. The download/installation process is entirely automated and can often be accomplished in seconds.

Though developers create apps for other phones as well, more and more of them are directing their efforts at the iPhone because Apple is so far out in front with sales, at least for now.

I've already stumbled upon three intriguing apps that have promise for booksellers:


Take a snapshot of the cover of a book, and an Amazon search is performed. Time consumed from start to finish is about 15 or 20 seconds, and it's pretty accurate. This also works for DVDs, CDs and video games. Cost: free. The limitation, of course, is that it will only deliver results based on photos available on Amazon.


You may be aware that Google recently launched voice-recognition capability for iPhones - that is, you just hold your phone up to your ear and speak in words or numbers. As soon as you stop speaking a Google search is performed automatically. As you might expect, this is fraught with the same limitations as, for example, the desktop application Dragon NaturallySpeaking: Unusual words aren't always recognized, and if you have a heavy accent, forget it. Also, this doesn't have the training capability that DNS does. But one thing that both do remarkably well is recognize spoken numbers. Yes, like ISBNs! Unfortunately - this really bummed me at first - Google doesn't recognize a 10-digit string as a 10-digit string but two 5-digit strings separated by a space. I'm guessing it's interpreting the number as two zip codes? Who knows, but no matter what I tried, I couldn't make it work. And it's no good with 13-digit strings either. Something even goofier comes up.

Fortunately, there's a solution - vlingo. This app will indeed recognize 10-digit strings as 10-digit strings, and it additionally offers the option of using either Google or Yahoo Search. Unlike Google's voice recognition, you have to press and hold an area of your display while you're speaking - it isn't activated automatically - but this is no biggie. Cost: free. Accuracy for speaking numbers is exceptional, and results are delivered quickly.

Also, you can target a particular venue by speaking, say, the word "eBay" after your ISBN, and most of the delivered results will feature links directly to eBay listings. This works for Alibris as well, but I couldn't get it to work for Abebooks unless I said, "Advanced Book Exchange." I'm still working on BookFinder and a few others.


Finally - and this (or more likely something like it) is potentially the most valuable one of the three - Snappr.net allows users to focus the iPhone camera on bar codes, snap a picture, and view results. Warning: This app will not work at all without a Griffin Clarifi Case (or an appropriate magnifying glass held against the camera lens) for your phone.

The Griffin case allows you to do a close-up focus on bar codes, which the installed iPhone camera will not do. I just ordered one of these cases for my phone, so I haven't tested it yet, but I'll post an update when I have.

Snappr.net is also free, but frankly, it's clear that the existing app is considerably slower than the two above apps for retrieving product information. However, this is an area of great potential. Look for a developer to come up with something that will use the iPhone camera perhaps with a virtual laser beam to read bar codes and deliver information quickly. And it's just a matter of time before socket scanner hardware will become available for the iPhone too, though this still won't eliminate monthly charges for database access. What I'm looking for is something that will be lightning fast at live lookups and save us all a bunch of money.

Find out more about these apps and others here.

Presently, iPhone service is available only from AT&T.

There are four plans available. I signed up for the cheapest one. For $69.99 a month, I get 450 anytime minutes, 5000 night and weekend minutes - note that calls to other AT&T users do not count against your minutes - and, most importantly, unlimited web access. You can add 200 text messages to this for an additional $5

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