The QR in QR Code Means Quick Response

October 24, 2011 at 2:00 am 1 comment

By Chad Upton | Editor

Although we typically use QR codes with our mobile phones, they were actually invented by a Japanese company (Denso) for tracking products during manufacturing. Even though they’ve been around since 1994, QR codes have only started to become popular in North America in the past few years. They’re also known as “matrix”, “2d” or “square” barcodes.

Traditional 1 dimensional barcodes are very limited in the amount of information they can store in a small space, generally an 8-24 digit number. The number in a traditional bar code is really only useful if you have a database or table where you can lookup that number to get more meaningful information, such as the price of the item at a grocery store. QR codes can contain a lot more data.

They’re called Quick Response codes because the data is in the code and it doesn’t have to be looked up in a table to be meaningful. For example, the QR code in this article contains a URL to another post on the blog related to bar codes. When you scan it with your phone’s QR app, your phone can decode the image into the URL, no remote lookup is required. QR codes can also be used to get text or send sms text messages and dial phone numbers.

These codes appear on everything from magazine and TV advertisements to product packaging and restaurant menus. But, one of my favorite places to see QR codes are alongside street addresses. Instead of typing the long address in your phone and risking a wild-goose chase inducing typo, scan the code and go.

So, how do you get your phone to interpret these codes? Here are the names of a couple QR reading apps on each of the major platforms.

Android: QR Droid, mobiScan QR

iOS: RedLaser, pic2shop

BlackBerry: QR Code Scanner Pro, mobiletag 2D barcodes scanner

Windows: QR Reader, Quickmark

Microsoft also has their own variant called “tag.” Tags look a bit different than QR codes and they require Microsoft’s own mobile app to read them. Tags do provide a bit of a branding enhancement since the user will see a picture of your choice in the MS app, making it easier to identify your link when they’re browsing through their tags later. The tag app is available for Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Symbian, J2ME and of course Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7. Unfortunately, this app does not read regular QR codes. If it did, maybe they’d see better traction on this app, especially since they’re one of the few QR readers that lives on every major platform.

There are hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets that can use QR codes; it’s surprising they’re not even more popular than they already are. Maybe some people like thumb typing.

Code generators: QRStuffKaywaMS Tag

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Sources:, wikipedia (qr code)

Entry filed under: Demystified, History and Origins. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. chriscp  |  September 24, 2013 at 9:33 am

    pic2shop is also on android and is the code reader I use most often. And I just tried Microsoft’s Tag app and it does read reagular QR codes. This version was last updated in October of 2012, a year after this article was posted. Maybe that feature was added later.


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