For some people, it is hard to imagine life without their smartphone. With a 50 million strong user base in the United States alone, smartphones have become the essential go-to gadget for everything. People use them not just as phones but as personal organizers, mini-computers, shopping lists and more. The popularity of smartphones has ushered the rise of QR codes in media and the increased use of bar codes. For these QR and bar codes, as with everything else, “there is an app for that”.
Bar codes, or one dimensional codes, are linear and are used for automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) of products. They can frequently be seen in books, CDs, DVDs and most consumer products. They represent data through the width and spacing between the lines. They have become indispensable in check out counters for their ease of use and accuracy. Scanning items at groceries and department stores by cashiers reduces errors compared to manually typing codes in. They used to be read solely by using an optical scanner, but with the wide availability of smartphones, it is being used for more consumer applications. Bar codes are increasingly being used by consumers for price comparison, product reviews, sharing, personal finance software and inventory management.
QR codes (QR stands for Quick Response) are fast becoming a ubiquitous marketing tool. It is hard to go through a day without seeing QR codes on an advertisement somewhere, whether it's a movie poster, a post card, a website or a magazine ad. QR codes are the easiest way to get information like text, websites, contact details, coupons and much more into smartphones. QR codes are a type of 2D matrix bar code that contain binary or alphanumeric information. QR codes are typically square black patterns on a white background. Because of their design, they can contain more data than the linear one dimensional bar code, up to 4000 alphanumeric characters or 7000 numbers. This information can be decoded by a smartphone using a simple smartphone app. With a scan of your smartphone, you can pass data from one medium to another.
To read QR codes with your smartphone, you need a QR barcode scanner and barcode reader app. Here are some of the top QR barcode scanner apps for smartphones.
Pic2shop Bar Code Scanner App
Pic2shop is a QR barcode scanner that allows you to scan products while shopping in a store. It reads most EAN-13 and UPC-A bar codes, commonly found in books, DVDs and product labels.
To use this QR barcode scanner app, simply open it and place your smartphone 3 inches from the item. Point your smartphone's built-in camera at the bar code, using the red horizontal line as the guide. The red line blinks as you position the bar code, giving you visual clues on where exactly to position the bar code. When the line turns green, the scan is successful.
Upon scanning, it takes you to a screen with the search results for your item. The screen has 3 tabs at the top, one for the Scanner so you can scan more products, the second for the keypad so you can enter products manually and the third, which is the active tab, is for the search results. The scanner app connects to a catalog of products and shows you prices from different stores so you can compare prices. You can also do a search with Google, Bing and Yahoo.
For extra saving, the Pic2Shop QR barcode scanner app also lets you access your local public library databases so you can see if the book or movie you like is available for borrowing. It will also tell you if the book or DVD you like is checked out and when it is due back.
The scan becomes a web page that you can easily share with your friends by email, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. You can also bookmark the scan for future reference.
Pic2shop is one of the first QR barcode scanner apps to successfully utilize the fixed focus lens of the built-in camera on the iPhone. The scanner app does not need the autofocus mechanism of the camera to work on Androids, Windows Phones, iPod Touch 4 and on iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4. Of the three apps, this QR barcode scanner app is the most responsive when scanning bar codes.
The best part about Pic2shop is that it is free. They also have a Pro version for $10.15 that lets users configure the smartphone app. Pic2shop Pro is web-based, open and there are no license costs or app development costs, so if you are a developer, you can use their libraries in your software.
Pic2shop is a smartphone app created by Vision Smarts, a company that produces video and image analysis software.
Pros: This smartphone app is free and fast. It is very intuitive and has a user-friendly interface.
Cons: This smartphone app doesn't scan every type of code.
RedLaser Barcode and QR Scanner
RedLaser is a free QR barcode scanner app used for comparison shopping for iPhones and Androids. It is extremely fast and accurate. This smartphone scanner app scans 1D and 2D codes, including QR codes, EAN-13, the new EAN-8, UPC-A and UPC-E bar codes. In case you are not able to scan the QR code or bar code, you can also type it in manually.
Opening the QR barcode scanner app takes you to a screen with 4 tabs (History, Favorites, QR Codes and Search) and a Scan button. To use, click the scan button, then position the QR or bar code inside the square box. The text above the square box gives you additional instructions. Make sure you avoid shadows and glare.
RedLaser allows you to compare prices online and locally. RedLaser uses searches from Google Product Search, TheFind, eBay and Half.com to make sure that you can find the best price. You can also see reviews from other consumers. RedLaser can also recommend related items.
Like Pic2shop, you can also check your local library using RedLaser with the help of WorldCat, the largest library catalog in the world.
You can also check nutritional information on any brand name food using information from FoodEssentials and DailyBurn. RedLaser also checks the product's ingredients for food allergens.
You can email the item information to yourself so you can save the data for later. You use the saved information in case you want to purchase it later or to keep track of your inventory.
RedLaser also has an available SDK (software development kit) so developers can use it in their applications.
RedLaser is created by eBay, Inc, the leading online auction and shopping site.
Pros: This QR barcode reader scans most types of bar codes.
Cons: This smartphone app sometimes has difficulty focusing on the QR or bar code.
Other articles by this author:
Scan Bar Codes with your Tablet: A Review of Popular Apps