How To Use QR Codes

I talk a lot about mobile topics, in fact, it’s my favorite hobby, outside of cycling. However, being crazy technologists, we often forget the basics. In a recent meeting, I was asked very poignant question which I thought would be perfect blog post fodder: how does a phone owner actually use and interact with QR codes?

What a QR Code Looks Like

First of all, let’s start out with the most basic concept: what is a QR code, anyways? A QR code is an acronym for quick response code. The QR code is actually quite old, starting in Japan in 1994. However, the technology is now taking off in the United States because they are simple to use and can be used by just about any phone with an onboard camera. A QR code, once scanned, can take a phone user to a web page, a video, or even place a call.

What a QR Code Can Be Used For

QR codes can be used for a variety of different uses. Many companies nowadays including Macy’s, Target, Best Buy and Starbucks are utilizing the handy little barcodes to use then for ads or specials inside stores. Advertisers can embed QR codes on billboards to send mobile phone users to a link containing more information on a product or service.

Recently, while planting our garden, I noticed QR codes on the sides of the bags of seeds we planted, which sent me to a link showing proper planting patterns, growing information and other tidbits regarding the product I was putting in the ground.

Businesses can utilize QR codes in their shop window to send users to a web page containing hours of business, a menu and even reviews on the business. Google Places is utilizing QR codes to make reviews easily accessible to phone users in and around Portland, Oregon (and beyond).

How do I Scan a QR Code?

OK, so you own a smartphone, see a code somewhere in the wild, and you wish to scan it and see what’s next.  To utilize a QR code, you need two simple things: 1) a phone with a camera and 2) an application on your phone that can scan the code and interact with the code on your behalf.

Depending on your phone model, you have a few options:

Android Phones
Fire up your Market application and search for “Barcode Scanner”.  Barcode Scanner will will let you can regular bar codes (think on the side of a book or cereal box) or QR codes as well.

If you want an alternative, check out Google Googles.

iPhone and iPod Touch
If you’re an iPhone or iPod Touch owner, the recommended solution is QuickMark. This application is only $1.99 and is a fully featured scanner.
For a free alternative, again check out Google Goggles, part of the Google application available in the iTunes App Store.

The best application, according to sources I’ve asked is MobileTag. I cannot give first hand accounts of this application because I’ve not tried it myself. Another QR code scanner that got good mentions is I-Nigma, which is said to be better for complex codes that contain V-card (contact information) files.

Nokia phone owners will find a great solution in UpCode. This application, available in the Ovi Store, will quickly scan your QR code and send you to the destination with ease. It’s available for all Nokia smartphones with a camera.

(Photo Credit: Flickr User hirosan)