Earlier this week, Amazon brought its "Flow" image recognition technology to the retailer's main iOS app. The feature, which has long been available as a standalone utility, lets iPhone users add products to their Amazon shopping list simply by capturing them with the device's built-in camera. Flow appears beneath the regular search bar, just below the "Scan It" option that lets you look up products by barcode. Once you enable it, the iPhone's camera immediately turns on and Flow quickly gets to work. It analyzes the current frame for products sold by Amazon — you'll know it's working when blue dots start appearing throughout the scene.
From there, it automatically compiles a shopping list that includes any and all items it successfully identifies. But that success rate can vary wildly. We found that Flow worked perfectly when focused on cereal boxes, a bag of potato chips, laundry detergent, and other packaged goods that are clearly labeled. Point it at a soda can (or even Amazon's own Kindle e-reader), and things get bit unpredictable. Instead of identifying Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite, for example, it simply added a random Kindle case to our shopping list. Since you can rapidly scan multiple items, Flow is certainly faster than hunting for and scanning a barcode — at least when it works. Scan It definitely remains the more precise option. Then again, if you're happy just typing in the product you're looking for, neither offers a compelling enough reason to change your routine.