Monday, April 18, 2011

There’s an App For That – QR Reader for Your Smartphone

2nd in the on-going series “QR Codes”

Because of the tremendous response to my recent blog, What’s QR Code and is it Right For Your Business?, I thought it would be only appropriate for me to introduce you to QR code reader apps for your smartphone so you can get on this train before it leaves the station.

While QR codes have been around since the mid 1990’s, smartphones haven’t, so businesses in the United States are just now discovering new ways to apply this most interesting technology to mobile phones, and are still feeling their way around for how people want to use it. (Japan is way ahead in using this technology to the point that you'll even find QR codes on McDonald wrappers when you're there, so my comments about usage applies only to within the USA.)

Basically, what a QR reader does is translates those strange markings into a link the smartphone understands and opens up a dedicated web site (URL). 

My article for Technorati, Are People Using QR Codes; If so, How?”, discusses early research findings. It seems, and there’s no surprise here, that we want to “pull” information in rather than having it “pushed” at us.

From the research we also learned that right now people are using it mostly for discount coupons and POP (point of purchase) informational links, like signage in supermarkets for recipes using the products shown. Because so many travelers have smartphones, some airlines are starting to use it for efficient check-in at the gate, and Realtors are starting to use it to market homes for sale. 

Some people are using QR codes on their business cards so more information than just what can be printed on a little piece of cardboard is available to the recipient.

You’ll see that my interior design company’s Facebook page now has my company’s QR code, and when used with a QR reader app, it takes people to a page that I created specifically for it. I can also track where you saw my QR, great for market research. Just to whet your appetite, here’s a link to the page that you’d see if you were linking from a QR reader: Beryn Hammil Designs.

If you clicked on this link, you’d see that this page includes hot links to specific pages on my company’s web site, a video portfolio link, Twitter and FB links, as well as a long list of the interior design services my company provides. And my email address and phone number, which are linked, of course. Try putting all that on a little business card! Furthermore, once someone has this QR link on their smartphone, wherever they are they'll have this information with links to my web site. Excellent!

So, without further ado, here are just a few of the many QR apps available for your smartphone. From a basic standpoint, they all do the same thing; link to a URL. It's when the bells and whistles get added that it becomes interesting.

I’ve arranged them by device type, so scroll to the one that’s right for you, then click on the name of each app to go to a page about it.

iPHONE – compatible with iPhone 3Gs and 4, Touch 4, iPad2

This is a well-reviewed QR app in part because it’s the fastest and has different sharing options; Facebook, Twitter, Instapaper, etc., and you can email links out, dials a phone number shown on the page, and gives geo tags. The biggest differentiator is that you can create your own QR code while on the go. Because it’s free, there are small adds on the bottom of the screen, but you can lose them if you pay $ .99

This is a close second to the above app, grabs the QR image without closely focusing on it, and will “View on Map” if you press that option. The interface isn’t as elegant as QR Reader, but that’s a small issue for most people.

This app allows you to capture the QR image in either landscape or vertical mode, but its biggest difference from the others is that it lets you capture multiple codes quickly and without visiting the local archive in-between, useful if you’re at a trade show and moving around quickly.

This app not only scans QR codes, but generates them as well. You can save scans, which is great for sharing your own business card with others, and save QR codes from the web in your photo gallery and easily reference them here.

BLACKBERRY  - check the app store to find out which app works for which device.

This app launches your browser, dials a phone number, email, SMM, and imports a contact from a vCard. It also vibrates when the scan is complete, confirming the action is good.

With careful focus in your smartphone’s camera window, this reader will capture the code and link to URL’s, automatically launching web sites, videos and more.

Read UPC, Data Matrix barcode, and QR codes with this app so you can compare product prices, go to URL’s, view videos, and more.

ANDROID / DROID - check the app store to find out which app works for which device.

In addition to the usual functions, this app lets you create QR codes from contacts in your address book, images in your phone, from GEO-locations, SMS, and more. With lots of functionality in this app, it received excellent reviews from users.

Again, lots of functionality and ways to create and store information, and allows auto-scanning of multiple barcode formats: Quick Code, QR code, Data Matrix, EAN 8/13, Code 39 and Code 128.

Visits the web site, dials the phone, stores the information, sends SMS or email messages and more, just like you’d expect it to.

Armed with all this information, you should be ready to scan QR codes like a pro no matter what kind of smartphone you have. In a future blog, I'll discuss how to create QR codes for your business and some interesting ways to apply it, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the above mentioned article, "Using QR Code in Your Business."

UPDATE: May 16, 2011
I just learned about this newish QR code reader, checked it out, and like it. 
In addition to scanning QR codes quickly, it keeps a history of them as URL's so you can quickly go back to one you viewed earlier.

UPDATE: June 19, 2011
Here's a site that offers links to what they consider the top mobile bar code companies, and descriptions of the different types of services provided: Top 34 Bar Code Companies. It's a great chart and reference tool. Check it out.

This information is for guideline purposes only, is not an endorsement of any product or vendor, and is no guarantee of the results.

Images from iTunes, Blackberry, Android app stores and

Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011


  1. I was just wondering if you knew the history of these codes. Smart phones could be opening a whole new world of ID theft.

  2. QR Codes were developed in the mid 1990's by a Japanese auto parts manufacturer working with Toyota. It was designed to help track auto parts in the assembly process.

    I'm not sure how QR codes will open a new world of ID theft, unless you're careless with how your smartphone is set up and where you use it. But that would true whether or not you have and use QR technology.

  3. My concern is that the reader can be reprogrammed. I've seen QR type technologies used on military IDs and driver licenses. PDA were easy to setup to capture credit card data at check out. I'd hope the same doesn't happen with QR. Many states encode SS numbers on driver licenses. A phone reader could capture that data.

  4. A valid concern, Travis, but I'm not sure how reprogramming a reader applies in this context.


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