SnapTell iPhone App Review


The Good

  • Flawlessly matches products to pictures
  • Easy to use
  • Free

The Bad

  • Barcode scanner is finicky

SnapTell (Free) is a media lover's dream. By taking a picture of the cover of any book, CD,  or video game, the SnapTell app pulls up ratings, user reviews, and price comparisons. It works ridiculously well and has become my constant companion at the bookstore. 

Flawless Performance...

To use the SnapTell app, you can either take a picture of a book’s cover or scan its barcode. In either case, you’ll need an iPhone or iPod touch with a camera. While the app works for CDs, DVDs and video games, I particularly love using it when shopping for books.

To use the camera functionality, simply tap the photo icon on the bottom navigation bar and position the book cover within the onscreen display. Once it’s lined up, tap the photo icon again to save the picture. SnapTell will display a preview picture; if it looks good, tap Use. There is a slight delay of two or three seconds (with a Wi-Fi connection) before the book or DVD shows up under the My Snaps section. 

I still cannot believe how well this app works. For every book I snapped, the app found a match within seconds. I went through my entire bookcase trying to stump the SnapTell app and I just couldn’t—it found matches for bestsellers and obscure novels alike. I didn’t try out any video games, but DVDs and CDs worked just as well as books. I was able to finally stump the app with one of my husband’s motocross DVDs, but I was still impressed overall.

Once the app makes a match, you can read user reviews from, check online prices, or see if the book, CD, or DVD is for sale at a store in your area. SnapTell includes prices from online book clubs, which can skew the price comparison—it would be nice if you could choose to exclude those prices. For local stores, SnapTell includes store directions and phone numbers. 

...Except for the scanner

Unfortunately, not everything about the app is quite so good. The barcode scanner doesn’t work as well as the photo feature. The scanner is very sensitive, and it’s hard to hold the iPhone steady enough to give the app enough time to complete the scan. I had the best luck when I put the book down and held my iPhone with both hands, but sometimes it just couldn’t capture the scan. It also depends on which phone you have—an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 can capture the barcode more easily since they both have an auto-focusing camera.

If you can’t find a match with the camera or barcode (which is pretty unlikely), you can also enter the UPC number or product name. This functionality also works well, although it’s not as fun to use as the camera! 

The Bottom Line

SnapTell is one of my favorite iPhone shopping apps. I’m constantly amazed at how well the camera functionality works and how quickly it can make a match with the most obscure book. It is a shame that the barcode scanner doesn’t work as well, but honestly, the app would earn my high recommendation even if it didn’t have a barcode scanner at all. The fact that SnapTell is free just makes it even better.

Overall rating: 4.5 stars out of 5. 

What You’ll Need

SnapTell works with iPhone and iPod touch models with a camera. It requires iPhone OS 4.0 or later.