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How to scan a QR code

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By Tyler Lacoma


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Here’s the curious thing about QR codes: They experienced a spike in popularity a number of years ago as smartphone cameras grew more advanced — it seemed as though every poster and package had a square QR code for a while there — but then they started losing popularity. The rise of NFC and better mobile websites simply made physical scanning feel a little obsolete. Now, the squares are coming back in all-new ways, as codes for everything from Spotify music to social WeChat shopping commands to monetary donations.

These new QR codes still work the same way: You find the square code, open up a scanning app, and let your phone scan the code to carry out the command. But since it may have been a long time since you tried using a QR code, you may not be sure how your current phone handles it. Let’s go over how to scan a QR code with an iPhone or an Android device.

How to scan a QR code on an iPhone

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Step 1: Open up the camera app. Apple’s iPhones have built-in QR code scanning capabilities, so there’s no need to download a separate scanning app unless you really want to. Ever since iOS 12, there’s even a direct QR code reader in the Control Panel.

Step 2: Position your phone so the QR code appears in the digital viewfinder. The camera app should automatically recognize the QR code. Of course, the right distance and angle can help. The QR code doesn’t need to fill the entire screen, but all four corners should be visible. If your camera is too angled, the app may have trouble recognizing the code, so a straight-on approach is best. Image stabilization technology helps a lot with the shakes, but try to avoid moving too much so the code square stays visible.

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Step 3: Launch the code. Your iPhone will not automatically initiate the QR code activity. Instead, a notification bar will pop up at the top of the screen, showing that the QR has been understood, usually with a handy brief description of what the QR code will do like opening a specific web page. If you believe that the QR code is safe, tap on the notification bar to launch the code activity.

How to scan a QR code on an Android phone

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Step 1: Check to see if your Android phone supports QR code scanning. Not all Android phones come with this ability yet, so you may have to take some extra steps before scanning. Google Assistant can detect QR codes. Simply long press on the Home icon or say “OK, Google,” then tap the Google Lens icon at the bottom right. If you have a Samsung phone with Bixby capabilities, Bixby can also automatically detect QR codes. Otherwise, you may need to add an app. We suggest downloading the QR Code Reader, which is a simple and highly effective option (albeit one that comes with ads), or the slightly more complex i-nigma Barcode Scanner.

Step 2: Open your scanning app. Open up the app, whether it’s Bixby, QR Code Reader, Samsung Optical Reader, or whatever option is installed on your Android phone. These apps should have a “scanning” function you can choose immediately, or will open directly onto a scanning window via the camera.

Step 3: Position the QR code. Remember, the code’s corners should be fully visible in the scanning window, and the camera should be more or less directly above the code for it to work. Hold the phone steady while it identifies the code.

Step 4: Choose the correct option. The app should then provide a pop-up option to take an action based on the QR code. It may ask you if you want to navigate to a website, download something, or open an app you currently use. If you trust the source, believe that the QR code is safe, and understand what it will do, select the most appropriate option for you.


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