What Are QR Codes - How Do They Work - What phones can scan a QR Code?
QR Codes, or Quick Response Codes, are amazing 2D graphics that have the appearance of a square barcode, which enables realtime connection and communication between you, your business and your customers.
They were created by Denso Wave, a Japanese company which is a subsidiary of Toyota (yes, the car manufacturer) in 1994 to identify car engines and more than a decade later this clever invention has started to appear throughout Europe, the UK, USA and more recently into Australia.
Think of them as a bridge between the real world and the digital universe.
If you are equipped with an iPhone, or other smartphone device (including tablets and iPads), with a free to download QR reader app, you can read, or scan, any QR Code, just like a photo, and it will transport you, then and there, to the destination pre-programmed. Depending on how the QR code was generated, will depend on the particular information that is displayed to you. For example, it could be a website, a promotion code, a phone number, a video or a series of product images.
Liken it to a barcode on a product at the supermarket. When it is scanned, the price and product details appear on the cash register. If you scan a QR code, its details appear on your phone.
With the capacity to hold about 4,300 alphanumeric characters or 7,100 characters of numeric code, these cleverly designed devices can be freely generated and introduced into your world today.
Amazingly they never expire. You do not need a license to generate or use them, they are ad-free and you can generate them for free.
Create as many codes as your heart desires, or business needs, as often as you want.
Let's take a look at the way a QR code can work.
What is a QR Code?
What phones can scan a QR Code?
Almost all smart phones will allow you to scan a QR Code - this includes iPhones (and iPads), Blackberrys, Nokia Smart Phones, Samsung Galaxy and many more.
Some phones come with a reader already installed however if not, they are generally free and very easy to download, whether it be an application or software to your computer which you then transfer to your phone via USB or bluetooth.
For those without an iPhone or Andriod, some of the following options may still be viable.
Here are some popular options available to get you started.
- KAYWA Reader - Two options available here. You can download this to your PC or MAC and then transfer the file to your cell phone OR, download directly to your phone (http://reader.kaywa.com). This smart software will also verify that you phone is compatible to use. Typically suits Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson phones are supported, as well as having a Windows Mobile version.
- Nokia Reader - Most Nokia's come with their own scanning software, but for those that do not, you can visit the Nokia website, select 'phone software' and then 'smartphone' and you will see a Barcode Reader option. This will direct you to download software to your computer, which you then need to transfer back to your phone. Alternatively, if you have the application on your phone, you can access the reader directly. Check the website to see which phones are currently supported.
- i-nigma Reader - This allows for a download of the reader to your phone directly or request a link to download via SMS. Currently known to support LG, Motorola, Nokia, Orange SPV, Palm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile, Vodafone and a few more. (http://www.i-nigma.mobi/)
- UpCode - This is similar to the previous option. (http://www.upcode.mobi/) and supportsMotorola, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Nokia, Samsung, Panasonic, Blackberry, LG and Vodafone.
- QRafter - This is a great scanning app for the iPhone and iPad. (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/qrafter-qr-code-reader/id416098700)
The options for apps available is almost endless. Just remember though that as there are no standards for creating apps for this purpose, some may work better than others so you just need to try a few out.
Desktop QR Code Software and Applications
If you do not have a cell phone that can assist you with the scanning of a QR Code, you can always use a variety of desktop software and applications. They will allow you to scan brochures, flyers, codes in magazines and newspapers and anything that is portable enough that can be put in front of your webcam. There are also other options where you can enter in a URL or upload an image to decode it.
These options are all free to use. There are so many available however here is a good place to start.
- QRreader is a commonly used piece of software that you can download. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux but needs Adobe AIR installed. (http://dansl.net/qrreader/)
- Bar Capture is another option available. This is a piece of software that you download to your computer. If you see a QR Code on a website and you want to scan it, just launch BarCapture, press the crop button to frame the barcode and it will unlock the hidden message. (http://www.jaxo-systems.com/solutions/barcapture)
- ZXing Decoder Online allows you to enter the URL of a code, or upload an image and it will show you the result. (http://zxing.org/w/decode.jspx)
- MiniQR also allows for a URL to be entered or you can take a photo of a code with your webcam. (http://miniqr.com/reader.php)
- Online Barcode Reader allows for the upload of an image in a variety of formats (png, jpeg, bmp) and it will decode it and display the result. (http://www.onlinebarcodereader.com/)
There are also wordpress plug ins and Joomla extensions available to use on your specific website.
Use them to direct your existing and potential customers to almost an endless number of avenues including:
- A website URL
- Social Media platforms including Facebook and Twitter
- Promotional Videos or YouTube Videos
- Google Maps to provide directions
- Unique Vouchers
- Online Stores
- An iTunes Link
- Plain text message
- Telephone Number
- SMS Message
- Email Address
- Paypal Buy Now Link
- Competitions and much more.
The possibilities are virtually endless.
The benefit of using QR codes is in how many ways they can be implemented. They can be placed almost anywhere; on printed materials such as flyers, posters, and product packaging or apparel, food, billboards, window displays and even tattoos.
Given the almost endless variety of information that can be programmed into them, they are definitely useful, if not fun, to have around.
- Use on a business card to provide an electronic version of your contact information. Scan the code and the application will add the contact to your address list.
- Use on a poster to contain event information. Scan the code for concert details.
- It can contain an e-mail message with a subject and message text. That message might be a request for further product information so that in return you might get a reply email with additional information and attached files.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Here are 20 more creative ways to use them.
Can you scan the middle image below?
QR Codes can be generated for free online. Typically the generators available create codes with standard colors and allow for some minor manipulation. Here are a couple of sites to get you started.
- qrickit.com, myqr.co and qrstuff.com
If you are looking for a designer QR Code, which has your logo embedded or some other more ingenious design, it is best to use the services of an experienced technician. The reason is because the code box itself is quite sensitive. You also need to ensure that the correct colors are used and the correct size is generated as this can impact its scan-ability.
Here are a few QR code tips
- Put only valuable, useful information on the QR code. Any more is a turnoff to customers.
- Since people scan QR codes on a mobile device, any websites you send them too must be mobile friendly.
- Be cautious about colours used as this can affect the scanning.
- Want to add a logo? Be sure you do not cover up the barcode itself as this will make the scan fail.
QR Codes have even been used as a way to allow people to do shopping, in the subway. Take a look at this next video to see how clever they can be and how useful.
Ways QR Codes are being Introduced into the World
You may have noticed quick response codes in magazines, on billboards and product packaging or in some random places lately. If not, keep a close eye out as you will be amazed at the places they are popping up on. Will they take the world by storm? Who knows!
Regardless, they are free to generate and can be added to any promotional material just like a normal jpeg image can so why not give it a go. Looking for inspiration?
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