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Wal-Mart tests iPhone app for scanning purchases

App allows users -- just employees at the moment -- to scan merchandise while they shop in the aisles instead of having them all scanned at one time at checkout

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
Wal-Mart supercenter

Wal-Mart is testing a new mobile payment system that will allow shoppers to use their iPhone to scan their purchases while shopping rather than having them scanned at a checkout register.

The retail giant last week invited employees with iPhones at its Rogers, Ark., supercenter to participate in a test of the system, which is called "Scan & Go," according to a survey posted at SurveyMonkey.com. Instead of scanning the items at checkout, customers could use the app to scan items as they add them to their shopping cart.

The system, which is currently unavailable to customers, would then allow users to pay at a self-checkout counter.

"We're continually testing new and innovative ways to serve customers and enhance the shopping experience in our stores," Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar told Reuters.

The system is the company's latest attempt to reduce long lines at checkout counters, which reportedly cost Wal-Mart $12 million a second in checker pay. While the new app would not allow customers to use mobile devices to complete purchases, Wal-Mart is part of a consortium of retail giants that is working on a new mobile-payment service.

Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and Lowe's are among the many companies that have signed on with the Merchant Customer Exchange, which is developing a mobile application that would allow customers to pay for purchases at participating retailers with their mobile devices.