eBay iPhone App Adds Barcode Support, Doesn’t Work Very Well

eBay iPhone App Adds Barcode Support, Doesn’t Work Very Well

The updated 2.1 version of eBay’s iPhone app adds support for reading barcodes, making it easier to comparison shop for similar items on the site or to list your own items for sale. That’s a great idea in theory, but in our tests it totally failed to be of any use.

Recognising Australian barcodes isn’t a barrier that many apps aspire to; the only recent example we’ve seen is Scan2List. To see how well eBay could cope, I tried scanning half-a-dozen locally sold items with barcodes on them: a book, a game, a DVD, a CD, a magazine and a photo frame from IKEA.

The app does a good job of identifying the barcode via the iPhone camera (you don’t need to click to actually take a picture, which is useful). However, not one of the six items I tried was actually recognised by the eBay app.

In five out of six cases, the response was what you can see in the picture: “no product information found”. For the IKEA item, I got told that the barcode type was unsupported. While that’s not entirely surprising given IKEA’s global manufacturing approach, it also seems like a pretty big omission.

No bar code system is likely to have a 100% recognition rate, but 0% is leaning way too far in the other direction. The app is free, so if you give it a try and get better results, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

eBay [iTunes App Store]


  • I’d hazard a guess saying this is not eBay’s or the App’s fault, but the fault of the sellers on eBay. If they don’t list the barcode number with their item, there’s no way that eBay could find it.

    And, as you say, the barcodes are different in Australia, so it’s doubtful any smaller sellers (ie; the majority) would take the time to list the barcode for every country.

    Good idea in theory, not so strong in practice me thinks 🙂

    • It’s got nothing to do with the sellers though — it’s for scanning actual barcodes that you encounter in the world (either in shops or on items you own and are thinking of selling).

      • Angus, I may have misunderstood the purpose of the feature, then.

        Is it not designed so that you scan a barcode, then the eBay app uses that barcode to search the database of seller’s items on eBay to see if it matches any? If that is the case, then it’d be up to the sellers of the items to correctly list the barcodes for each country.

        If that’s not the case, then what exactly is the point of the app? Is it just so you have a local database of all the scanned items on your phone? Or possibly to retrieve information such as name, etc, from an external database, then use that name / description to search eBay?

        • It doesn’t directly use the barcode to search; it uses that to match to a barcode listing of its own for each product, then uses that product description to match up with sellers or help you list your own item. So there’s potentially a problem with eBay’s internal description not matching a seller, but I never got to find that out because it couldn’t match the database in the first place.

          • Angus, Thanks for the further explanation. My original point is void then 🙂

            It’d be good if all barcodes were internationalized, but I doubt that will ever happen 🙁

          • “It’d be good if all barcodes were internationalized”

            That wouldn’t make much of a difference here I suspect. A barcode should be assigned to each unique product, so unless you have a product that is sold across all markets worldwide you’ll need to have different barcodes for each local product. With DVDs especially this is an issue because of the region encodings, playback formats, ratings, ect, all require different things on each product. If it was only the rating that changed you’d probably still end up with a different barcode just so you could identify what products had what countries rating on the package.

  • I had a similar problem not long ago now. I was looking to catalogue my books/dvd’s but I found that there was pretty much no central repository for Australian UPCs for these products. In most cases the only way I could find info for my DVDs was to search the JB HiFi website. I’d really like to see some kind of central database made available, perhaps the film industry can look at doing this instead of trying to sue everyone who looks at them the wrong way?

  • Well guys I have just put 72 books on EBay using the scanner. It was amazing and made my life so much easier. So annoyed as I can’t get it work on CDs, DVDs, or games.

    • Yes, I found the same. Was excited to try it on some apparel items and none scanned. Tried it on very popular consumer products and got the same message as above. Tried same on my installed scanning app and found it right away. Until eBay hooks up to the right database of UPC codes it’s rather useless!

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