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New app to help fix your broken electronics is ready to scan over 450,000 devices

© Provided by CNET   With the Zolve app, take a picture of a product barcode to bring up the manufacturer's guide and troubleshooting information. Zolve/Centriq

By Alison DeNisco Rayome, CNET

You know the feeling: You get a new phone, appliance or other device, take a quick peek at the owner's manual and then throw it in a drawer -- until something breaks, and those instructions seem to have disappeared. A new app wants to help you with your product maintenance woes by calling up product guides as easily as Shazam calls up song titles. 

Zolve, from startup Centriq, is a free app that allows you to take a photo of the product label of more than 450,000 devices, appliances , electronics, power tools and outdoor equipment. It'll let you immediately see manuals, quick-start guides, how-to videos, warranty and manufacturer contact information, and information on replacement parts and accessories. 

"If you ever had a product stop doing what it's supposed to do, you know you're doomed to hours of Googling and Youtubing in the hope that someone already solved the problem you're having," Centriq CEO James Sheppard told CNET. "Zolve delivers important product information at the moment customers need it. ... And unlike a Google or Youtube search, it's relevant to the exact product model in question." 

© Provided by CNET   Zolve/Centriq

Nearly 70% of homeowners try to fix or troubleshoot home products themselves when they break, according to a Centriq survey of 1,000 homeowners. More than half said they wanted information directly from manufacturers when they need to solve a problem, so they don't have to seek it out online themselves.

Zolve's database includes information from retailers and manufacturers including Samsung on how to operate, fix and maintain products. The app will also alert you if the product you scan has an outstanding safety recall with the Consumer Products Safety Commission, or if one comes up in the future for any of the products you've added.

Centriq began building the product database three years ago, through a combination of working with product manufacturers, using tech and human searching to locate product information online, Sheppard said. The products in it cover a larger timeframe -- some manufacturers shared 25 years' worth of their product catalog, and new items are continually added, he added.

"We have another 600,000 model numbers we're sourcing support content for currently, and that list keeps growing," Sheppard said. "If ever you find yourself snapping a product in Zolve that isn't matched instantly, know that you just bumped it to the front of the line and it will be added within hours."

A number of apps have taken to the formula of scanning a product barcode or taking a picture to get more information about something. Smartify lets you scan a photo of a work of art to see the title, artist and other information. PlantSnap and iNaturalist can identify plants with just a photo. Google Translate can use your phone's microphone and camera to translate sentences in real time. The Amazon app also allows you to scan products on a store shelf to compare the pricing to Amazon's.

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Unplugged Magazine: New app to help fix your broken electronics is ready to scan over 450,000 devices
New app to help fix your broken electronics is ready to scan over 450,000 devices
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