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A bar code scanner and a four-wheeler dirt racing game: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include an excellent product bar code scanner and a four-wheeling ATV game that's probably the best of its kind in the iTunes Store.


Do you have a "jailbroken" iPhone? Ever since the iPhone first came on the scene, there has been a large group of users who believe Apple tries too hard to control what works and what doesn't on the iPhone. The minute a new iPhone firmware update is released from Apple, a whole slew of people search for ways to unlock the device, letting them download apps that have never had to go through the App store acceptance process. This means that apps that would have otherwise never seen the light of day can be used on an unlocked (or "jailbroken") iPhone.

I personally have no opinion about those who jailbreak iPhones because I believe in the free-flowing open-source idea of software, while also believing a company ought to have some control over their products. In other words, I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. But I have never jailbroken my iPhone because part of my job is to review apps that everyone has access to (in the iTunes Store) and I need to have the same user experience with the iPhone that most people have. Also, I would say I'm happy with the iPhone as is.

According to AppleInsider, a recent release to Apple's iPhone firmware makes the device invulnerable to the usual jailbreaking tactics. I guess we'll have to wait and see how long it takes the community to jailbreak the latest version (if they can), but you can bet they're working on it right now. If you have a jailbroken iPhone, please tell us all about it in the comments.

This week's apps include an excellent product bar code scanner and a four-wheeling ATV game that's probably the best of its kind in the iTunes Store.

You'll need to hold still (better than I do) in order to get an accurate scan. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

RedLaser ($1.99) lets you "scan" products to give you a list of prices from online retailers. There are a few products that perform a similar function at the iTunes Store and several have been made for other devices, but RedLaser is surprisingly effective using only the built-in camera on your iPhone. Simply tap the lightning bolt icon and line up the bar code in between the guidelines on your screen. You have to remain still for about a second, but soon RedLaser beeps, indicating it has scanned the code. Once scanned, you are presented with a list of matches from various stores so you can find the best price.

I tried RedLaser on a number of products including old game guides, CDs, and books I had lying around, and in almost every case, RedLaser was able to identify the item. The app also saves all your previously scanned items in a list making it easy to check back once you're ready to buy it online or at the store. Overall, if you like to comparison shop or just want to make sure you're getting a good deal when out and about, RedLaser is a fun and useful app to have. Frankly, it's fun just to try to stump RedLaser with the most obscure object you can find.

2XL ATV Offroad
Even on the medium level, it's tough to stay out in front Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

ATV Offroad ($7.99) is made by 2XL games, the same company that made SuperCross, a motocross racing game I talked about in an earlier post. Not only does ATV Offroad add two more wheels (instead of dirt bikes, you're on four-wheelers), but it adds the feature I and many other reviewers complained Supercross lacked: a career mode. Now, in addition to amazing graphics and excellent physics, you'll be able to race through challenges and multirace competitions to unlock more tracks. There also are freestyle, quick race, and multiplayer modes, but you'll need to be on the same Wi-Fi network to race against your friends.

ATV Offroad sets itself apart from other racing games the second you hit the track with smooth-looking graphics and excellent accelerometer-based controls. You can even pull off huge tricks while in the air by hitting onscreen trick buttons. You can choose between three skill levels, though I found even the medium skill level to be very hard to beat. If you don't like the look of your racer, you can easily switch between multiple ATV designs and different-color leathers with a swipe of your finger before a race. Overall, ATV Offroad adds just the right amount of core features to be the great game SuperCross could have been. If you like off-road racing, I highly recommend this game.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Have you priced all the products in your house with RedLaser yet? Do you think the addition of the career mode makes ATV Offroad the dirt racing game to beat at the iTunes store? Is your iPhone jailbroken? Let me know in the comments!