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Amazon's iPhone bar code scanner takes impulse buying to a new level

Amazon Mobile for iPhone now has a bar code scanner that lets you see, scan, and buy products on the spot.

Amazon for iPhone
Scan this, baby. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

As if it weren't already a breeze to spend money on Amazon, the retail giant's updated Amazon for iPhone app just made it even easier to instantly shell out for wares.

Amazon for iPhone
Amazon's new bar code scanner lets you instantly compare prices and buy. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The latest version of Amazon Mobile, 1.2.8, contains a bar code scanner in its search screen. As with bar code scanners in other mobile apps, Amazon Mobile uses your iPhone's camera to take in a product's zebra-striped bar code. Amazon's servers then find a match, and after you select the item, you can sign in to your account to purchase the product on the spot.

As on the regular Amazon Web site, you've got gift options and a choice of multiple shipping addresses. Just like before, you can also add the product to your wish list or cart for later purchasing.

Although the app won't clear your latest search until you enter a new one, we would like the option of reviewing previously scanned items for later reference, especially if we find ourselves without the product later on.

Amazon's iPhone app isn't the first to match bar codes to items in a database, of course, and shopping comparison apps have existed for a couple of years. However, Amazon's addition will be an effective way to convert bar code scanning into concrete sales with the touch of a finger. As one colleague commented, "Amazon just made the world its showroom."

It's a sure bet that the online superstore hopes this iPhone app will help prop up its flagging second-quarter earnings, which failed to meet Wall Street's expectations.

Amazon Mobile is free. Bar code scanning will work on iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS devices running iOS 4.