iPhone QR Code Scanner Roundup

24 March 2011

So, I’ve been trying out different QR Scanners on my iPhones for a while. I’ve always found some level of disappointment with each one, some more than others. I decided to do a mildly formal test of each one to at least have some idea which one I should have as my standard scanner.

I grabbed what appeared to be the top scanners on Apple’s App store and run each one through a series of scans. I tested the following types of QR Code content:

  • URL
  • Phone Number
  • SMS
  • email
  • vCard 3.0
  • MeCard
  • vCalendar
  • Google Maps
  • GPS coordinates
  • Free Formatted Text

I created each QR Code with Kerem Erkan’s generator. It appears to be the best one out there.

I tested the following scanners, they are listed from worst to best. The scores are solely based on their ability to scan the different types of QR Codes. Not surprisingly, the apps that scored better also offered the best user experiences.

BeeTagg

Score: 0/10
Cost: FREE
This is another one that didn’t update automatically via the App Store. I had initially done the review on what seems to have been an old version (3.1.1.0.10.10) That version got an 8/10 score. The latest version (2.3.10.0-10) gets a big fat ZERO! It doesn’t scan anything via the camera. It only scans from existing photos in your library. Why the newer version is lower numerically, I can’t explain. Perhaps they have some time travel function in their scanner that I haven’t found yet?

ScanLife

Score: 4/10
Cost: FREE
The only thing ScanLife gets right is the fact that it scans URLs. This is the most common use of QR Codes. That said, the biggest annoyance here is that many of the data types, when scanned, take you to a ScanLife web page that shows you the decoded information. This is bothersome for content like Calendar events. It offers no way to actually add it to your phone’s calendar. One positive note, this scanned does have a history function. This allows you to load your recent scans.

QR Scanner

Score: 4.5/10
Cost: FREE
Although this one scored poorly, it offers some useful customization in the app settings. You can set whether or not you want it to automatically handle each content type. For instance, you can have it auto-launch the phone’s browser when it scans a URL or automatically dial the phone when it scans a phone number. Once this one figures out how to handle things like events and vCards, it will offer a lot of flexibility.

quiQR

Score: 5/10
Cost: $1.99
This one, for a long time was my favorite. It always felt as if it scanned faster than the rest. That said, it really does a poor job of handling most data types. Many of the scans incorrectly decoded as free-formatted text.

Notable additional functionality: You can create QR Codes from within this app.

ScanMee

Score: 5.5/10
This one is very basic like most others, no settings to configure. Handles URLs in an internal browser that can pass to the phone’s browser. Most of the other content types are hit and miss.

i-nigma

Score: 6/10
Cost: FREE
This one has one strange issue. It never seemed to update via Apple App Store updates. I had to update it through the app itself. Beyond that, it has some configurable settings that allow you to tailor the app to your expectations. It also has a history and favorites function to revisit previously scanned content.

QR app

Score: 6.5/10
Cost: $0.99
This one also offers a history but no settings. This one scans and decodes phone numbers like most, but the gripe here is that it immediately dials the number for you. You cannot look at a QR Code and tell it is a phone number. I would prefer being able to decide when to call a phone number that I scanned. Perhaps even add it to my contacts instead of calling.

QuickMark

Score: 7/10
Cost: $0.99
Finally one that gets a passing grade! While this one doesn’t handle email, MeCard or vCal, it does offer some nice functions. With SMS, it allows you to call the encoded phone number and with GPS coords, it has a “Route to destination” feature. And while it is cute at first, the cutesy “quickmark” sound effect that plays every time it scans a QR Code gets pretty annoying.

Optiscan

Score: 9.5/10
Cost: $1.99
The only thing this one doesn’t do well is  email. It loads the email, but ignores the subject and body. These often won’t be used, but they are options when encoding. It also offers many options to customize the functionality of the app. Like many others, it too allows you to visit your scan history. It is also VERY quick at scanning. This adds to the overall user experience.

Qrafter

Score 10+/10
Cost: FREE
This is the app to get. Not only does it offer full functionality with every content type, it offers many just about every other way you might want to handle each content type. Qrafter, like Optiscan is a very quick scanner.  The only thing it doesn’t do that a few others allow is to be able to zoom into a QR Code on a picture. This is useful if you can’t get close to the code when taking the picture or, if for some reason, you end up with more than one QR Code in a stored pic.

Note: Qrafter was created by Kerem Erkan. If you remember from earlier in this post, he also created the best QR Code generator on the web. He is obviously very talented and had great attention to detail.

Extra stuff

I have saved my research in a Google Apps Spreadsheet. You can access and download it here.

When I find the time, I’ll also go into more detail with scan speed and overall user experience.

If you are the developer of one of these scanners and you disagree with my review or want me to re-review your app, drop us a line in the comments and I’ll do my best to get to it. If you have an app that you’d like to see here, again, feel free to let us know in the comments.

[UPDATE]

I just read a post written by Adriel Michaud, one of the awesome peeps over at Top Draw. He covers some of the best QR apps for Android devices. Check it out!

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