Not all QR Code Reader Apps Are Created Equal

14 04 2011

Now that QR codes are starting to go a little more mainstream, those of us who were early on board the QR code train don’t have to jump around as much waving and screaming so people will listen. You might even say that QR codes have arrived. When you start seeing them in Time Square, on the giant Jumbotron at the House that Jerry built, and in your favorite magazine I think its safe to say that print has a new tool in the marketing arsenal. So what’s next? Qr codes can be printed, they can be tracked for metrics, they can be variable…but they have all the personality of a Borg Cube. They need a little creative to spice them up. So we’ve been messing around, and testing to see how spicing them up can affect their functionality, and what we’ve discovered may surprise you. It sure surprised me.

As a test, whip out your Smartphone and fire up your favorite Reader App, go here:  http://on.fb.me/hpbz5a (this is public link to a Photo Album on the Sorrento Mesa Facebook Page containing some test codes) and scan them and see what happens. What we found is that depending on your reader application, some will work, some won’t, some work all the time, and some don’t.

QR codes have a basic built in error correction function in their format so that if part of the pixels are blocked, the code will still render the destination URL. But if you exceed that error correction threshold, the code will not resolve to the destination site and the user will experience a failed scan. What’s interesting about all of this is that not all reader apps perform with the same success rate. Before I share what we’ve seen I want to state that this was a purely unscientific test and I make no claims about the viability or lack thereof of those apps mentioned, but clearly there were some trends that we discovered.

I asked some friends in my industry, all owners of other printing companies around the country to help me with the testing. Blackberry, Droids (various manufacturers) and iPhones were the three phones used and the apps listed were I-Nigma, NeoReader, ScanLife, QuickMark, Barcode Scanner, Optiscan, Beetag and Blackberry Messenger. Some worked, some didn’t. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but one thing that we discovered was that I-Nigma worked almost every time for all three of these test QR codes. Again, all of these reader apps will work for a Plain-Jane Black & White QR Code, its when we dress them up and put stress on the reader app to perform is where we see a major difference in the results.

The big takeaway for us with all of this is that if you decide to get creative with your QR codes, test, test and re-test. Use various apps and phones in combination to see what happens when scanned. The most important thing about QR Codes is that they work. Going forward we’ll be suggesting that people use I-Nigma as their reader app because of the success we witnessed in this informal test. You can download it here: http://www.i-nigma.com/Downloadi-nigmaReader.html .

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