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QR Code Reader for iPhone – Barcodes / ZXing

A friend of mine asked me, what application do you recommend when traveling to Japan? Earlier, I wrote about Kotoba!, which is a great application that provides translation between Japanese and English/Chinese. As I spent a week’s vacation in Japan, I found another must-have application on iPhone is a QR code reader. Probably, you’re not familiar with QR code. But it’s ubiquitous in Japan. You can easily find one on street, rail, newspaper, magazine, advertisement, etc.

So, what is QR Code?

So, what’s QR code? Look at the square image on the right. That’s QR code. QR (short for Quick Response) code is a kind of 2-dimensional barcode developed by Denso. Originally designed for tracking parts in manufacturing, QR code has gained popularity in consumer space these years as a way to encode URL. Unlike the basic barcode which you are familiar with, QR code contains information in both horizontal and vertical direction. And this contributes to its capability of storing larger amount of information in both numeric and letter form. Here, I don’t want to dig deep into the technical details about QR code. If you’re interested, you can check out the official website of QR code for further details.

QR Code is Everywhere in Japan

Sushi and Ramen (i.e. Japanese noodle) can be found everywhere in Japan. From my recent visit to Japan, the same for QR code. Well-known for its wireless infrastructure and high usage of 3G mobile internet, telecoms in Japan have successfully brought QR code reader to nearly all mobile phones. QR code started to take off in marketing/consumer space to bridge the gap of online world and old world since 2000. Today, it’s so prevalent in Japan that you can find QR code in magazines, newspaper, maps, bus stop, posters, billboards, advertisements and even graves.

Take a snapshot… No more typing for lengthy URL

So, how Japanese makes use of QR code?

You may have seen newspaper advertisement with a promotional website URL on it. Sometimes, the advertisement does attract you. You then fire up your iPhone’s Safari and type in the somewhat lengthy URL.

However, Japanese doesn’t need to do that. Internet URLs are presented in the form of QR code and placed in the print ads for easy access. No more URL typing. Just point the camera of mobile phone and take a shot on QR code. The built-in QR reader will decode the image and it’ll automatically bring you to the promotional website. Pretty cool, right?

Advertisement is just one of the many applications for QR code in Japan. Imagine you’re waiting at the bus stop and want to know when the next bus will arrive. You can take a snapshot of the QR code which usaually appears on the lower-left corner of bus stop sign. This will then take you to the website of bus schedule.

Not just URL… But SMS, Phone number, etc

QR code is not limited to encode URL. Technically, you can encode any form of international letters. On top of URL, QR code also lets you store other types of information:

  • SMS message
  • phone number
  • any kind of text
  • an email address
  • map location

Increasingly today in Japan, you can find people attaching QR code in business card.

Reading QR Code on iPhone

Back to iPhone, it doesn’t come with a built-in QR code reader. But thanks to Apple’s iPhone App Store. You can already find quite a number of QR code applications. I’d like to share one of them with you first: Barcodes.

Barcodes allows you to scan barcodes (via iPhone camera) and automatically decodes them. Currently, Barcodes only support QR codes and is part of the ZXing project, which is a project initiated by Google. From what I have experienced, nearly all QR code applications on iPhone share similiar user interface. When Barcodes is launched, it’ll put you in camera mode. You can then take a snapshot on the square image of QR code and Barcodes will decode it for you.

Barcodes provides special handling for specific information. Say, the QR code is decoded as an URL. Barcodes will prompt you to open the URL in Safari. And, for email address, Barcodes will ask you if you’d like to compose a new email for that address. How about phone number? Yes, Barcodes would let you dial the phone number directly.

For all the QR codes that you have scanned, Barcodes helps you keep a scan archive for the decoded information. Barcodes also allows you to pick any photos with QR code in your camera roll for decoding. What’s next? Download Barcodes via this iTunes download link and try out QR code below!

Take a snapshot and test out your iPhone QR reader!

Left image: Install QR Code Reader on your iPhone. A must-have application when travel to Japan!
Right image: http://www.simonblog.com

You may want to try out more QR code. Why not create your own? Kaywa offers a free QR code generator and you’re freely to create your own QR code.

Stay tuned. I’ll pick two other QR code readers in my upcoming post.

Do you use QR code in your country? Please leave me comment and share with all readers. In Hong Kong, the usage is very limited and we can only find QR code in a few magazines.

About Simon Ng

Founder, developer and chief blogger of simonblog.com

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33 Responses to QR Code Reader for iPhone – Barcodes / ZXing

  1. Danny November 15, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    Create, manage, redirect and track QR Codes easily using http://insqribe.com

    Check it out and let me know what you think :)

    Danny

  2. Dean November 16, 2008 at 8:56 am #

    They have just started marketing QR codes in Australia (Telstra) so will be interesting to see if it takes off.

    http://www.qr-attack.com allows you to create QR codes for personal use for free and download the image file.

    Most phones have free readers available for download – Blackberries are the exception, there is only one or two readers out there which are quite slow and cumbersome.

  3. andy March 29, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    maybe you can try this one
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2toWt7Wze5s

  4. Trina August 5, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    I am behind with the times I guess, but this is amazing!
    -The Googler

  5. ken October 21, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    When QR codes first came out in Japan companies like DoCoMo had to teach the public how to use them
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/docomo-tv-commercial-promoting-qr-codes/

  6. Tennis Gifts February 11, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    They will start to take a foothold in USA and UK this year and really take off by 2012 and by 2015 they will be everywhere.

    Christian
    The Tennisi Emporium

  7. Sam P July 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    The fastest and most reliable QRCode reader I come across is QRCode Reader HD which is working smoothly on my iPad2. Get it from here.. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/qrcode-reader-hd/id448292686?mt=8

  8. Google QR Code Generator October 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your site, how could i subscribe for a blog web site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I have been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered vibrant clear concept

  9. qr codes October 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Hi, have you tryied http://uqr.me? Is one of the best qr code generator world wide… Permit to link to urls, files, a full customizable mobile ready page, a paypal payment, a vCard and they permit to beautify your QR with rounded corners, gradients, centered image etc..

  10. Gerry February 29, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    Hi Simon,

    I live in Ireland (Dublin) and all newspapers and magazines use the barcode for advertisements. I didn’t know how to read them until I read your blog, thanks for all your help, great site!!
    Gerry

    • Simon Ng February 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

      Thanks, Gerry. Glad to hear the tip helps.

  11. Stuart March 24, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Someone needs to tell Google about this. I recently got sent an email from Capital One about their new app, hosted on Google Code\Play or somesuch. Unfindable via Market and no QR codes on the full fat web page. I couldn’t be bothered typing in the 150 character URL into a mobile screen.

    TBH, this coupled with Capital One’s recent security “upgrades” and the fact I complained and they ignored me mean I’ll probably close my accounts with them (I’m like that), not even going to bother bringing this up with Google.

  12. apple iphone 4s case August 8, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    My contract is up and also the iphone 4 is fully capable, I would be quite tempted to get an apple iphone
    4S if it was cheap and offered on a pre pay out basis just so I can avoid the
    shackles of such corporate monopolies with subpar
    services. Let’s get real, you have two choices which will be the identical crap pie with slightly various flavors: AT&T and Verizon. Both price repair so you isn’t going to have
    a bargain on either carrier, and you overpay for all the
    things from highly constrained data usage to outrageous SMS fees.
    The lack of competition in the US cellular market has created these two bloated monstrosities,
    I thought USA was land from the free of charge market?
    Shouldn’t additional competition exist? Shouldn’t this competition be driving costs down and
    not up? Instead our cell bills have ticked up each year as our plans degrade, it is
    a total sham. Bring me an apple iphone world telephone that may be not tied to a contract, and it’s possible that Virgin or another carrier will offer reasonable ideas to go with it, the others can shove it.

  13. Susan Miller January 6, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    I´m part of a group of volunteers that is starting up a new scheme in our neighbourhood in Tucson. One of the community projects that we are about to start relatates to your blog, and therefor some of the information here is of value for us and I just wanted so say thank you for that.

  14. Matt June 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Powerful qr code generator for iPhone
    http://www.keepautomation.com/products/iphone_barcode/barcodes/qrcode.html

  15. lucas1 September 11, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Powerful iPhone barcode tool:
    http://www.onbarcode.com/products/iphone_barcode/

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