We get this question very often: What is the best QR Code Scanner out there? As a matter of fact, most of the apps will do the job by decoding the content of a QR Code and follow the link. However, there are some key features we suggest reviewing before downloading an app.
If you are in a hurry and you don’t want to go through all our geeky explanations, we recommend using the native camera QR Code Reader. If your phone does not support reading QR Codes out of box download the Original Denso Wave QR Code Reader* or Kaspersky QR Code Reader if you are concerned about security.*Denso Wave are the inventors of QR Codes
Before downloading a QR Code reader you might go through our checklist first to make sure to find a suitable reader for you.
QR Code Scanner Checklist
- NATIVE – Does my smartphone camera read QR Codes out of the box?
- PRICE – Is the app for free? Why?
- SECURITY – Is the app safe/smart to download and use it?
- SPEED AND RELIABILITY – Does the app decode and process all QR Code types? Does the app read complex Designer QR Codes?
- EXTRA FEATURES – Does the app provide extra features beyond reading the code?
We do not have our own app since a Dynamic QR Code created on our website can be read by any QR Code Reader application.
1. NATIVE – Does my smartphone camera read QR Codes out of the box?
Many users are not aware that their smartphone does not need an app to read a QR Code. By pointing the native camera to a QR Code the smartphone will decode the code and act accordingly (for example open a link in the browser, add a contact to the address book, connect to Wi-Fi network, etc.)
As of September 2017, updating Apple devices to iOS 11 enables users to scan QR Codes without a third-party app. This was a real game-changer in the QR Code world since many agencies and advertisers were reluctant to use QR Codes arguing “QR Codes are for geeks only”, “No one scans QR Codes” or “You need to install an extra app to scan a QR Code”. Read more about how to use the native camera app decoding QR Codes.
How do I know if my smartphone camera scans QR Codes?
Just try to take a photo of this QR Code
Ever since Apple added a QR Code Reader to the camera app many other brands have followed their lead: Samsung added the functionality to the latest models, Xiaomi even uses them to access their private area. The list is growing day by day.
Since the native Camera app depends on the Android version each brand will follow their own strategy and some will let you integrate Google Lens like Xiaomi. Some, like Samsung for instance, will try to make you use Bixby Vision (their own IR solution) to recognize QR Codes.
2. PRICE – Is the app free? Why?
Currently, there are tons of free QR Code Scanner apps in stores like you can see in the short screencast below.
But free of charge may be full of pitfalls, which can ruin the pleasure of scanning quickly. We recommend you look for an ads free solution. App manufacturers want to make money and placing ads within the app is the easiest way. A QR Code reader for example displays an ad right after scanning the QR code or even tricks you into downloading another app.
Some QR code readers even try to access the location data from the smartphone or transmit the visited websites to their servers. The more a QR Code reader will ask for permissions before being installed the more frustrating the user experience will be when scanning QR Codes.
There are some free apps like Denso QR Code Reader or Kaspersky QR Code Reader (both available for iOS and Android) that will deliver an excellent user experience without sending the browsing history or location to their servers nor displaying annoying pop up ads while trying to scan a QR Code.
3 – SECURITY – Is the app safe and smart to use?
Some apps try to install or “recommend” other services and might fool you into buying or signing up for services you don’t want. This not only applies to QR Code Reader apps but to any app you download from an App Store.
The same way dubious websites, spammy emails or faked WhatsApp messages try to phish you in a scam, you can also end up in a non-desired website, if you scan an unknown QR Code. There have been some rumors about scams with QR Codes but again, scanning a QR Code carries the same risk as clicking on a link on a website.
If you are concerned about security issues, you may want to use Kaspersky QR Code Scanner (iOS and Android) or also Trend Micro that has a very nice app Trend Micro QR Code Reader (Android only) that has great UX too.
You will only see a small link to their services and apps, which is a very fair deal for analyzing your target URLs for free.
If you are an advertiser or agency and you want to endorse a QR Reader to your customer go for Kaspersky QR Code Scanner to protect your clients from malicious software.
4. AVAILABILITY, SPEED AND RELIABILITY
Our suggestions focus on Apps that are available in all main App Stores (iOS and Android) so they are easy to recommend to your users.
How long it takes an app to identify and decode a QR Code when being shown to the camera depends on the app but mainly other external factors such as distance, contrast, lighting – this is why some apps allow you to switch on/off the phone torch – design and the size of the QR Code.
Rule of the thumb: A QR Code should be recognized instant (less than one second) by a QR Code Scanner.
Does the scanner decode and process all QR Code types?
A QR Code usually contains a URL that the smartphone browser will open. However, there are other types of QR Codes that will allow you to set up a Wi-Fi connection, create a new contact (vCard), access GPS coordinates or even set an event in your calendar. Some readers have problems processing certain file types. For example, it is not possible to add a vCard stored in a QR code to the contact list with some readers because of poor coding.
Does the scanner can decode Designer QR Codes?
Especially when creating Designer QR Codes, some readers fail to decode the QR Code because there are too many design elements like a logo placed in the QR Code or modified shapes. Designer QR Codes work with some readers and with some they don’t. There are also some QR Code scanners that DO NOT read inverted codes (= white QR Code on a black background).
5. Extra features and advanced QR Scanners
We have discussed main topics about QR Code reader apps and focused on the simplest yet more stable and popular apps. They all come with a simple UX, access to the camera and most of them provide access to the history of scanned codes just in case you need to go back to that content again.
There are, however, some other QR Code Reader applications that provide a much more powerful experience and come with tons of interesting features, that can overwhelm regular users.
If you are a QR Code enthusiast or you are working on a special use case that needs you to go the extra mile you may want to take a look at these:
If there is an app out there that we should know about, please share it in the comments section below and we will be happy to check it out.
Hall of Fame of our favorite QR Code Scanners
Even most of the smartphones nowadays can read QR Codes out of the box, we put a list of our favorite QR Code Scanners for you together. Feel free to decide which one is the best for you.
QRDroid Reader (Free – Ads)
- Create QR Codes (within the app)
- Create Designer QR Codes
- Decode a QR Code form an image of your photo library
- Batch scan mode
- Advanced custom UX
- Advanced processing of scan content (Ex.: use it as a URL variable)
- Barcode search against (Amazon, Google, eBay, etc.)
- Export scan history (Ex.: CSV)
It has so many features that it can overwhelm regular users, but it is by far the most complete and versatile app out there.
#1 Densowave QR Code Reader
“On a list, there is always a first, the rest follow behind.” Mercedes-Benz E-Class Spot 2005
Without a shadow of a doubt, it is the QR Code reader you should install if your smartphone does not have a built-in solution. Denso Wave not only invented QR Codes but they also released the patent in 1994 and they are one of the most important manufacturers of reading devices worldwide.
Denso Wave has published a smooth-as-hell app thanks to their knowledge and experience with decoding devices. It is by far the fastest and most rock-solid app we have tested.
The reason is that most of the free apps use the same reading libraries ZBarcode Reader or Zxing. Both are very stable and robust libraries but this is why there are no big differences between the rest of the QR Code reader apps.
#2 Kaspersky QR Code Reader
As mentioned above. If you are concerned about security when scanning a QR Code, Kaspersky is a great choice. The app will check if the destination of the QR is safe before it follows the link.
Quick note: when we get asked about QR Codes and security we usually enforce that scanning a QR is not different from following a URL. You can follow a URL either by typing it directly in the browser, having it launched as a popup, or by clicking on a link on an email or your social network.
If you are really concerned about security, you may want to check out global antivirus solutions (Ex.: Kaspersky Antivirus) for your smartphone. If you only check your QR Codes for safety instead the whole content on your smartphone will be like protecting a tiny window in your house while the main door and the rest of the windows are wide open.
It is, by far, the most complete and versatile app we have seen so far. The number of extra features and settings (UX and functionality related) make this app a must for QR Code lovers and heavy users. It can overwhelm a user that just want to scan a QR Code, but it offers more functions than any other app.
We would like to highlight the “Custom search” option that allows you to embed the content of the scan into a URL (Ex.: https://www.google.com/search?q=[SCAN CONTENT]) that allows you to create internal processes and QR Code based custom solutions very easily.
Both the batch scan and export history are also very well crafted. You can customize the format of the CSV and download/share it very easily.
If you are a QR Code passionate and want to go the extra mile go for QRDroid
Why haven’t we ranked number #1? To be fair, Denso Wave invented QR Codes, so we wanted to give them the credit they deserve, and their app is simple and fast (main requirements for regular users).
On the other hand, Kaspersky provides an extra layer of security and credibility. It is available on iOS and Android, and when users ask for a recommended App it is always easier to give 1 option. QRDroid comes with Google Safe Browsing activated which is also a cool feature.
They recently started to insert ads on the app and this makes the experience a little less fluid, but of course, we understand someone has to pay for the App.
Some other cool QR Code Readers
Barcode Scanner (Free)
Why should I download it?
They are the team that put together Zxing, the most used barcode and 2D decoding library. It has most of the functions that other readers have, but the user experience is far from optimal. Scanning a QR Code in landscape mode is not very convenient for example.
QRBot (Free – Ads) + Pro 2,39€
Why should I download it?
I have an iPhone and QRDroid is not available
iOS users can use this app if they want to have extended functionalities. It is similar are similar to QRDroid, it is not 100% free (you have to pay for the pro version), but it will allow you to go beyond scanning and logging the scans.
i-Nigma (Free – No ads)
Why should I download it?
Nostalgia (or I have a Windows Phone)
They have been around even before QR Codes became popular. Actually, they played a very important role on bringing them closer to the end user. They had a version for each brand before the App Stores came around. Symbian, Bada, Blackberry, Windows… You geeks now what we mean 😉
We are not aware of the reason, but they have recently discontinued their Android version.
.. and the best QR Code Reader App is… Your camera!
Less is more and our advice is to use the native camera of your phone to scan the QR Codes. If your device has not a built-in scanner, you now have a wide range of QR Code reader apps to choose from depending on your needs.
For many years, not having a built-in solution to read QR Codes and not having large corporations backing them up added friction to the growth of QR Codes and in some cases was a deal-breaker for many projects. This is not the case anymore, and the smartphone as wellas the mobile marketing ecosystem are now ready.
External USB QR Code Scanner
Another question we get asked a lot from professionals in hospitality, retail, logistics or access control is: can my current barcode scanner read a QR Code?
The answer is (most of the times) YES.
This kind of readers works like a keyboard. When a QR code is scanned, the contents of the QR code are displayed on the screen, as if the keyboard is typed. It is up to the user how they process this input.
Webcam QR Code Reader
You may want to decode a QR Code from your PC or laptop directly. This is possible when you have a webcam and Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browser installed. Just click on the link below and grant permission to Chrome for your webcam to read the QR Code.
The same handheld devices logic will apply. The webcam will be returning a text string with the content of the QR Code and the business logic will have to process this info.
There are plenty of implementations of Webcam QR Code Readers out there. Please be aware those QR Code Scanners are not for production. They need way longer to decode a QR Code than a native app. Here is a list of the top 3 pure HTML5 implementations including the source code:
|Web QR Code Scanner||Demo||Source|
|HTML5 QR Code Reader by Dwa012||http://dwa012.github.io/html5-qrcode||https://github.com/dwa012/html5-qrcode|
|QR Scanner by Nimiq||https://nimiq.github.io/qr-scanner/demo||https://github.com/nimiq/qr-scanner|