Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android Software" @ 08:00 AM
Grocery and other stores that offer deals to those who shelp around with reward cards in their wallets are evil, evil institutions. But just venture into them once without said magic little card and watch as your eyes bug out at all the money you could be saving if you'd just let them track your preferences a little bit by using their reward card. If you're a minimalist like myself, you probably hate having the scraps of plastic dangling from your keys or filling up your money clip (You mean you don't carry just a money clip?). To help us with this annoyance comes Key Ring, by Froogloid which promises to let you ditch the cards and go to an all electronic alternative. But does it work? While the price is right, let's see if it's worth an installation...
Key Ring has matured quite a bit in its short lifespan. Originally it was a pretty simple app. Use the Scan screen (Pictured above) to scan your existing cards, and when you're ready to retrieve them, simply tap the name of the retailer to bring up the scanned barcode, information, and even special offers or coupons:
Newer versions of the app have included the ability to backup to the SD card, and now even to back up to an online database, allowing you to sync your reward cards across the net to other devices running Key Ring. Not a bad way to keep things in order. Alas though, the saddest thing about Key Ring is nothing the app can fix - the screens on a smartphone are just not designed to reflect barcodes as well as old fashion paper. The folks at Froogloid have put together a video detailing the best way to scan your barcode (or have a clerk scan it), and it boils down to this: Never use a flatbed scanner, always use a "wedge" type scanner, have brightness turned way up, and scan at a slight angle. The problem this this? Well, at my grocery store, all of the scanners I could ever use in either self checkout or self-service are flatbeds. Clerks also tend to get a little testy with you when it takes more than 3 seconds to scan your card, and in the end, you're not really saving much effort when you factor in the small size of reward cards. Nevertheless I keep my reward cards scanned into Key Ring. Why? Well, it is nice to know the barcode numbers in an emergency (e.g., a trip to the store without time to grab the reward cards), and I like that it's backed up in case I ever lose or snap a card. Perhaps some day scanners will be more forgiving and will make Key Ring a killer app, but for today, it's main use for me is simply as a backup. A nice sync'ed, and FREE backup, but just a backup!
Jon Westfall is the Executive Editor of Android Thoughts and the News Editor of Windows Phone Thoughts, both members of the Thoughts Media network. He works in New York City as the Associate Director for Research & Technology at the Center for Decision Sciences, a part of Columbia Business School.
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