Amazon released its mobile app for Android devices, allowing users to search for products with a conventional query in a search box or to use the camera take a photo or do a barcode scan to find products:
The application includes the experimental Amazon Remembers feature that gives Android users two different ways to use their device camera to find and remember items available for sale on Amazon.com: they can either snap a photo of an item or scan a barcode, and then receive a product match. For barcode scans and many photos, matches are instant. Other items take just a few minutes.
The same functionality is available for the iPhone and BlackBerry devices (Amazon remembers).
In my limited testing the photo function was more effective than barcode scanning to identify products. For example, I took a picture of one of the Harry Potter books in my house and almost instantaneously Amazon had identified it. Other items I snapped and scanned took longer (a high end kitchen knife, an iPod stereo dock, a magazine) but the photo functionality was generally faster and better of the two methods. In one case Amazon used my overexposed picture of the iPod dock and did find the identical product (though it took about 7 minutes).
Regardless of method, these tools allow you to access reviews and product specs and potentially buy the item online (from Amazon or related sellers).
ShopSavvy, another Android app with barcode scanning capability offers the ability to buy the product or item online or locally, with maps to local stores that carry and have it in stock (though data partners such as Krillion). Google Product Search also allows barcode scanning but relies on third party barcode scanning apps such as ShopSavvy, which must be downloaded first.
It's important to point out that these apps use the camera as a search tool and it's quite a bit faster and easier than typing in a query such as "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" for example. The camera and voice will emerge as key parts of the mobile search (and content discovery) experience over time. Barcode scanning and comparable camera search capabilities will become requirements for mobile shopping apps over time.
Consumers will use these tools in stores to: Check reviews and prices and less frequently to buy products online to be shipped to their homes or elsewhere. To some degree they will boost the "look in store buy online" phenomenon, which is a minority use case today.
Amazon has also launched a new online store for mobile handsets, similar to its online shoe store Endless: