QR codes, short for Quick Response codes, are everywhere these days. You’ve probably noticed the black and white square patterns popping up on products, advertisements, business cards, and more. These are QR codes, which are becoming increasingly popular in today’s digital world. QR codes can be scanned with your phone’s camera and can contain a variety of information, including website links, contact information, and even payment details. If you want to create your own QR code, there are plenty of QR code generator tools available online.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about scanning QR codes using your smartphone.
What is a QR Code?
A QR code is a type of barcode that a smartphone camera can scan. Unlike a traditional barcode that stores data horizontally, a QR code stores data both horizontally and vertically. This allows it to hold a lot more information in a small space.
The QR stands for “quick response” because they were designed to be scanned quickly and easily by devices. QR codes were invented in 1994 by a Japanese company called Denso Wave. They were originally used in the automotive industry for tracking vehicle parts.
Today, QR codes are used for all types of applications. When you scan a QR code with your phone’s camera, it will typically perform one of these actions:
- Open a website URL in your phone’s browser
- Initiate a phone call
- Send an SMS text message
- Connect to a WiFi network
- Open an app or add an app contact
- Display an image
- View text or documents
- Play a video
- Provide location coordinates
Essentially, QR codes are a quick way to access digital content by simply scanning an image. Next time you see one, give it a scan and see what happens!
Types of QR Codes
There are a few different types of QR codes to be aware of:
Static QR Codes
These are fixed QR codes that don’t change. They store the same data forever. For example, a QR code on a business card that goes to someone’s website will always open that URL.
Dynamic QR Codes
Dynamic QR codes can change over time. The data linked to the code can be updated without changing the image. This means unlimited scans with only one code generated.
For instance, a restaurant could have a dynamic QR code that links to its daily menu. They can update the online menu daily while customers scan the same code every time they visit.
Branded QR Codes
Branded or personalized QR codes have customized colors, logos, or designs. While the scannability remains the same, it allows brands to make their QR codes more visually appealing and on-brand.
For example, a branded QR could have a company’s logo and brand colors instead of the basic black and white pattern.
How to Scan a QR Code on an iPhone
Scanning a QR code on an iPhone is quick and easy. No third-party app is required. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Open your Camera app. Point your camera at the QR code so that it’s clearly in focus. Your phone will automatically recognize it’s a QR code.
- A notification will appear at the top of the screen saying, “Tap to Scan QR Code.” Go ahead and tap it.
- The notification will become a small bubble at the top with the website URL or other content encoded in the QR. Tap the bubble to open the content.
For example, it may open a website in Safari or initiate adding a contact. The scan only takes a few seconds!
- If your camera doesn’t recognize the QR code immediately, you can also go to your Camera settings and ensure “Scan QR Codes” is turned on.
On newer iPhone models, QR scanning is built into the default camera and enabled by default. But on older models, you may need to enable it manually.
And that’s it! Scanning a QR code with an iPhone is super quick and painless. Now, you can finally see what all those QR codes are about as you come across them.
How to Scan a QR Code on Android
Scanning QR codes on Android devices is nearly as easy as on iPhones. The process may vary a bit depending on your specific phone and OS, but here are the general steps:
- Open your Camera app. Point your camera at the QR code to bring it into focus.
- Your camera app will automatically scan the QR code. You’ll see a notification appear on your screen with the URL, app, contact info, or other content encoded in the code.
- Tap the notification to open the link or content. Done!
As with the iPhone, QR scanning is built into the native camera apps of newer Android phones. But for older models, you may need to download a third-party QR scanner app from the Google Play Store. Some popular free options include:
- QR Code Reader by Scan
- QR Code Scanner by Kaspersky
- QR Code Reader by Mobile Vision
The process is pretty much the same with third-party apps. Simply open the QR scanner, point your camera at the code until scanned, and tap to open the content.
Scanning QR codes on Android takes just a few quick taps. Now you can scan to your heart’s content!
Tips for Scanning QR Codes
Scanning QR codes is usually quick and easy. But occasionally, you may run into issues that prevent scanning a code properly. Here are some troubleshooting tips:
- Make sure your camera is in focus. Bring the QR code close to the camera and hold it steady until it scans.
- Try cleaning your camera lens in case of smudges interfering with the scan.
- Increase the brightness on your phone if scanning in low light conditions.
- Scan the code directly rather than off a second screen. Screens can distort the code.
- Try scanning at multiple angles or distances in case the positioning is off.
- If a code links to an app, make sure you have the app installed.
- Double-check that your QR scanning capability is enabled in your camera settings.
- Try a third-party QR scanner app if your native camera app is struggling.
- Sometimes, codes get damaged. Try scanning a fresh, high-resolution code.
With a steady hand and proper lighting, your phone should be able to scan any valid QR code quickly and seamlessly. Follow the tips above if you run into any issues.
Creative Uses of QR Codes
QR codes have come a long way since just linking to URLs. Businesses today are finding creative ways to use QR codes to engage customers and streamline operations. Here are some innovative uses of QR codes:
- Menus: Restaurants place QR codes on tables that link to online menus. Customers can view menus on their phones instead of sharing physical menus. This became especially popular during the pandemic.
- Ordering: Building on digital menus, some restaurants let customers order food directly from the QR code, which sends the order to the kitchen.
- Payments: Payment apps like Venmo and PayPal have QR codes that let you scan to send money to someone. No more sharing handles or phone numbers.
- WiFi access: Hotels and businesses display QR codes that automatically connect devices to their WiFi when scanned. There is no need for guests to enter passwords.
- Product Information: Retail product packaging can contain a QR code with additional details about ingredients, sourcing, recycling, etc, that don’t fit on the label.
- Website login: Rather than typing in a URL, QR codes can instantly log visitors into a website or portal when scanned.
- Event check-in: At conferences or events, attendees can self check-in by scanning QR codes instead of waiting in line.
- Feedback: Asking for customer feedback? Add a QR code to receipts or signs that link to a survey or feedback form.
As you can see, QR codes open up endless creative applications for businesses and organizations. Their versatility, ease of use, and ability to bridge the digital and physical make them a staple of the modern world. So go on, embrace the scan life!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a barcode and a QR code?
The main difference is that a traditional barcode stores data horizontally, while a QR code stores data horizontally and vertically. This allows QR codes to hold exponentially more data. Barcodes are also machine-readable, while standard smartphone cameras can scan QR codes.
Can you generate your own QR codes?
Yes, many free QR code generator sites and apps allow you to create custom QR codes easily. You enter the URL, text, contact info, etc, that you want people to access when they scan your code.
Do QR codes expire?
Static QR codes do not expire. Dynamic QR codes can be set to expire after a certain period or number of scans, but this is optional. By default, most QR codes do not have an expiration date.
Can QR codes contain viruses or malware?
It’s possible but extremely rare. QR codes store data like URLs, so if that URL contains malicious content, it could spread virus/malware if opened on your device after scanning. Only scan codes from trusted sources.
How are companies using QR codes?
Companies are creatively using QR codes for marketing, contactless operations, feedback, menus, payments, WiFi logins, events, product information, etc. The possibilities are endless.