Amazon just announced the release of Flow an augmented reality shopping app for the iPhone. It uses both barcode and image recognition in a live camera view to help users shop. It recognizes books, DVDs, CDs, video games and all kinds of other packaged items "like a box of cereal," whether by scanning the image or the barcode.

Flow can show shoppers Amazon's reviews and ratings as they're holding a product in their hands. It also has Facebook and Twitter sharing options. Of course, users can also opt to buy the product from Amazon, even though they're holding it in their hands. The free app is available on the iTunes Store.

Flow was built by A9, a subsidiary of Amazon that builds search, advertising and mobile products. "This is our first step towards integrating product search technology with augmented reality," says Bill Stasior, president of A9.com.

The free app is right on time for the holiday season. But how likely are users to buy a product on Amazon when they're holding it in their hands? That probably depends on Amazon's price.

Earlier Rumors

Some sites speculated earlier that Amazon Flow was a media syncing service to compete with Apple's iCloud. This was based on a report from Fusible extrapolating from Amazon's trademark application for Amazon Flow.

That would make a great headline, but it's incorrect. Apple and Amazon have bumped heads often over delivery of media to devices, first with the Kindle app for iOS and recently with Amazon's Cloud Drive music locker. But Amazon Flow turns out to be an AR shopping app, well within Amazon's wheelhouse.

Do you use any augmented reality apps on your phone? What do you use them for?