Hiku review: This tiny scanner is the ultimate tool for creating grocery-store shopping lists

Michael Brown

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At a Glance
  • Hiku Labs Hiku

I suck at grocery shopping. If I remember to inventory my pantry and refrigerator, I inevitably forget to bring my shopping list to the store. That renders my lizard brain easy pickings for the in-store merchandising that triggers impulse buying. I go in needing milk, eggs, and barbecue sauce; I come out with beer, chips, and salsa. If I use the Hiku scanner consistently, it should eventually pay for itself by reducing those impulse buys.

Hold the puck-shaped Hiku between your thumb and forefinger, aim its lens at the bar code of the product you need to restock, and squeeze. The Hiku scans the UPC code and adds the item to the shopping list on your iPhone (an Android app should drop by November 28, according to the developer).

For products you need but don’t already have in the house, and for items that don’t have UPC codes, such as fruit and produce, you just push the button and speak the word. The Hiku’s mic and voice-recognition software will add them to your list. When I discovered a number of suspicious items on my grocery list—Popsicles, Snickers bars, and root beer—I knew my 7-year-old grandson had figured out the voice recognition.

The Hiku has a strong built-in magnet, so you can attach it to your refrigerator to keep it within easy reach. A rubber bumper protects against scratches and drops. The scanner is powered by a rechargeable Li-Ion battery that’s rated to last two months on a charge (via micro USB cable).


Supermarkets are designed to expose you to as many impulse-buy items as possible. Hiku's shopping list helps you avoid temptation by grouping like items together according to the section of the store you'll find them in. 

The list is presented two ways: in the order you created it, and by category (Baking/Spices, Breakfast/Cereal, Condiments/Dressings, and so on). The latter is more useful because it'll help you locate the items while you're in the store, reducing the amount of time spent there. Personally, I'd almost rather sit through a root canal than go shopping. 

As you consult the list and drop each item into your basket, simply swipe your finger across that item to move it to a “Crossed Off” section (you can move items from here back to your list, or permanently delete them with a “Clear” button).

The same list is synchronized across multiple devices in real time, which is great if two or more people share the shopping chores. As long as you have your phone with you, you’ll always have an up-to-date master grocery list at your fingertips.

How it works (and how well it works)

The Hiku needs to be connected to the same network as your smartphone to do its thing, but it’s limited to operating on the 2.4GHz frequency band. Scanned items are uploaded to your list in the cloud, and downloaded from the cloud to all your devices that have the app.

The Hiku produces audible cues after it scans a device to inform you whether each scan was successful, but I sometimes had difficulty hearing the high-pitched tones. A quick peek at your phone will provide confirmation. If you inadvertently scan an item more than once, the app will indicate that you need more than one, which might cause confusion if multiple people are doing the shopping. I don’t consider either of those issues to be deal-breakers.

Hiku Michael Brown

The Hiku has a button on one side, and a strong magnet on the other. 

In its current form, the Hiku software doesn’t have hooks into any online shopping services, so it can’t inform you of deals or allow you to order anything line from within the app. The company says those enhancements are on its development roadmap. My wife likes to participate in the shopper loyalty program that our supermarket chain operates, and she said she’d like to have the Hiku tie into it. That way, she could add current sale and promotional items to her Hiku shopping list (although that kinda sounds like impulse buying before you even step foot in the store).

The Hiku costs $79, so it might take a while to pay for itself by reducing my household’s impulse buying at the grocery store. And its efficacy is dependent on your behavior: You’ll need to develop the personal discipline to scan or speak the names of your grocery items as you use them up. There are no subscription fees associated with the product, but the company’s privacy policy discloses that the it might one day allow third-party advertisers to serve ads alongside its services.

I'll be surprised if the company ignores the potential of that recurring revenue stream, and in-app ads could be annoying if they’re not handled well. On the other hand, the privacy policy also states the company will not provide any personally identifiable information to advertisers without your consent.

We’ve been using the Hiku at home for several weeks, and it’s working for us so far. It’s simple, easy to use, and effective. I like it a lot.

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At a Glance
  • Hiku lets you make grocery lists by scanning the UPC codes on or speaking the names of the products you need. The list appears on an app that can be installed on and synchronized across multiple smartphones so that it's always up to date and always with you.


    • Handy as a pocket on a shirt
    • Shopping lists can be synched across multiple phones
    • Easy to use


    • Acknowledgment tones need to be louder
    • Potential advertising and privacy concerns
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