QR codes: You've probably seen them in magazines and on advertisements, those Rorschach-looking squares (like the one pictured at left), but do you know what they are? Quick Response Codes are two-dimensional barcodes that were initially designed for the auto industry to track inventory. QR codes can be read faster and store more data than traditional UPC codes, which means they can be used in a multitude of ways beyond inventory control. Using your smartphone or tablet's camera and a compatible app, you can scan a QR code, which can automatically take you to a website or video, provide you with a discount on a particular product, allow you to save business contact information, and a whole lot more.
While Android devices come with the Google Goggles app, on an Apple device, you have to download a third-party app (including Google Goggles) to decode them. BlackBerry users, in turn, can use the App World application to scan QR codes natively, or use a third-party scanner. There are also apps that allow you to create your own QR code directly from your mobile device.
Google Goggles uses your device’s camera to take a photo and search for that particular object or place, including text, landmarks, books, contact information, artwork, wine and logos. You can also use the app to scan QR codes, simply by selecting the “Goggles” feature and holding the camera up to the code. The app will then display whatever information is coded in the dots; if it is a website, it will take you there directly. You can also scan images that have been saved to your smartphone.
i-nigma is a comprehensive bar code scanner that allows you to decode QR, DataMatrix and UPC/EAN ("Supermarket") codes. The app can also read color codes, which many other apps don't, though most QR codes are black and white.
More than just allowing you to scan a code, the QR Coder app also allows you to create your own QR code, which can contain either a vCard (contact info), text, phone number or URL. You can use the contact information in your iPhone’s contacts. In addition, you can specify the size you want the code to appear (S, M, L, XL). If you want to personalize your QR code even more, such as adding colors, you will have to purchase the Universal version ($2.99) of this app.
This app lets you scan QR codes for free, but if you want to create your own QR code, you will have to complete the $2.99 in-app purchase. It provides quite an extensive choice of what the QR code can contain, including: URL, location, contact card, events, phone calls, text messages, emails, tweets, Wi-Fi networks, iTunes App URLs, Foursquare Venue URLs, text, and clipboard contents.