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IPhone 4
Scouting Just Got Easier

by Craig Stark

#147 23 August 2010

Many of you who own smartphones have been using them in addition to or in place of dedicated bar code scanners for some time now. Both the hardware and software necessary to accomplish this have been developed to operate at a level of performance that can make a significant difference when scouting.

Presently there are dozens of bar code scanning applications available. I've tested a number of them and have settled (for the time being) on pic2shop. It can be configured to launch in the scan mode, and it's the work of a moment to position the red laser line over a bar code. If I'm sure of anything, however, it's that a better app, preferably one created for booksellers, isn't far away - or perhaps it's already out there and I haven't found it. Sometimes it's all I can do to keep up!

But I'm not here to discuss scanning software. I just fired up a new iPhone 4 yesterday and took it out this morning for a scouting test drive. Those of you who have tested one or, better yet, already own one know what I mean when I say that this device isn't just a technological step forward but a leap.

Most significantly, iPhone 4 processing speed is now such that it competes favorably on a 3G network with a dedicated PDA/socket-scanner unit accessing uploaded data. Bar codes are recognized instantly (no doubt in part because the iPhone 4 camera @ 5 megapixels and 5x zoom is much better than the iPhone 3G's), and perhaps two seconds pass before results are delivered. If deeper results are necessary, another two seconds and you have them.

Also, multitasking is now available; you can run one or more applications in the background - handy for times when an Abebooks or Terapeak searches are necessary between scans. (For those of you who aren't aware of it yet, the Terapeak iPhone app now allows full 90-day searches, and if you login on the Safari-accessed website, limited data searches can be performed up to a year.)

For the first time, the iPhone is capable of "FaceTime" video calling. You can see and be seen by the person you're talking to. If you have a scouting partner who helps you find books, think of the possibilities. A real-time video scan of books at another sale, for example, would enable you to decide in moments whether or not to make the stop. By the Way, Apple has only enabled this feature for Wi-Fi connections to date, but don't believe them. If you jailbreak your phone (officially legal now), there is an app that will allow you to do this on 3G connections as well.

There are many additional new features and upgrades, but perhaps the most stunning to me is the new display resolution. Apple claims that its "Retina Display" pixel density is so high that the human eye can't distinguish individual pixels. This is something you have to see to believe; the resolution is amazing. And you thought your HD TV was something!

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