Read QR Codes With Your iPhone

A QR Code is a two dimensional bar code designed to link paper or signs to the Internet. QR stands for Quick Response. If you have a QR reader for your iPhone, you can aim the camera at the QR Code and obtain information, link to a website, trigger a phone call and so on. Here’s how to do it.


Technically a QR Code two-dimensional bar code that can contain over 7,000 characters. It can suffer some degradation (loss) because there’s built-in redundancy, and it can and still deliver the message intact. Here’s a typical QR Code I saw on a postcard.

QR Code

QR Codes were developed by a Toyota subsidiary in 1994 originally to track car parts. However, since then they’ve been found to be useful in many ways. For example, magazines may want to point you to the corresponding website article or some other item. A magazine ad can direct you to the company’s website for the product. A QR Code can deliver a long message, provide vCard information, link to a map, and more. Occasionally, you’ll see them in public on billboards, busses or buildings.

These codes have been around for a long time, and even some older feature phones may have had a reader built-in and you didn’t notice it.

How to Read a QR Code

To read and interpret a QR Code, you’ll need an app for your iPhone. The app connects to the camera, scans the bar code, then takes the prescribed action.

There are many QR Code readers for the iPhone and iPad 2,3, but the one that’s generally considered the best by customers is “QRReader.” It has a pleasing business model: the app is free, but it has ads. If you want to remove the ads, there’s a preference to activate an in-app purchase for US$0.99.

If you happen to have Red Laser or RL Classic already on your iPhone, they too will scan and interpret QR Codes.

Basically, you just launch the app and point the camera at the QR Code. Some scanners are better than others, but to make sure you get a good scan, it’s a good idea to make sure you have good light, are square to the bar code and hold the camera steady. Here’s what QRReader showed me after it scanned the QR Code image from above.

QR Reader

That’s all there is to it. QR Codes are usually designed to be printed and posted somewhere where someone can scan the code with a phone. But you could even scan the image from above right now, for practice, and it would take you to the embedded URL.

Finally, there are OS X apps that allow you to build your own QR Code for, say, a business card. One is QR Encode at the Mac App Store for just $1.99.