QR codes are all around us: you can find them on flyers, posters, websites, applications, event ads, or restaurant menus. They are two-dimensional barcodes, usually consisting of black square dots on a white background which can be read by an imaging device. They are used for storing alphanumerical data, and they are a good way of sharing information concisely, like a website or product information. Your Android smartphone or tablet can easily be turned into a QR code reader with the appropriate application and using the built-in camera. We have identified the best five QR code-reading apps for Android. Read our article to find your favorite:
What are QR codes and barcodes? Security and privacy risks
Before QR codes, we had barcodes. Barcode scanning appeared as an information storage solution for the retail industry, based on a proposal from IBM. The first barcode scanned in a store was a pack of chewing gum, and it happened in 1974. Some of the apps in our QR scanners list can also scan barcodes.
The barcode is unidimensional, and it can store limited information. The usual product codes have 12 digits. In 1994, the Japanese automotive company Denso Wave invented the QR code as a two-dimensional code. The two dimensions allowed for the exponential increase in the amount of information stored in the code. For more details regarding QR codes, read What are QR codes and why are they useful?.
Google did not include in Android a native capability to scan QR codes. The result is that you need to install a third-party app to decode QR codes. The problems with third-party apps are security and privacy risks. Many of these apps send the codes scanned to a central server together with the GPS coordinates from your smartphone. It is a form of payment for apps that are offered for "free." The issue here is that the users rarely understand the potential threats of these data transfers. In this article, we list five apps that have more than one million downloads. In the overview of each app, we mention the permissions requested to run in Android, at the time of writing this article.
Kaspersky's QR Code Reader and Scanner
This app has access to Photos/Media/Files, Camera, Wi-Fi connection information, Device ID & call information. In our testing, QR Code Reader and Scanner from Kaspersky was the fastest app. The fact that it provides a security check before opening a website makes its speed even more remarkable. Once the website is deemed safe, it is opened automatically by the app. The app can retain the history of scanned codes, but you can disable this history in settings. Additionally, if you want, you can set a sound or vibration after a successful scan. The app is simple and straightforward, and it comes with the bonus of the security checks from Kaspersky Lab.
Download from Google Play: QR Code Reader and Scanner
QR Code Reader from Scan
This app has access to Location, Photos/Media/Files, Camera, Wi-Fi connection information.
QR Code Reader is fast, and we like that it gives you the option to review the address before opening it (this behavior can be changed in settings). The app has a history of your scans so you can retrace your activity and review a code later.
Download from Google Play: QR Code Reader from Scan
This app has access to In-app purchases, Device & app history, Contacts, Location, Photos/Media/Files, Camera, Wi-Fi connection information, receive data from the Internet.
The settings for this app provide a more refined control of behavior. Note that advertising appears on the top part of the screen after you scan a code.
It can distinguish between different types of QR codes (contact, web address, plain text, calendar event, WiFi network, phone number, SMS, geolocation, email, book, product), and set different actions for each one. The default action for web addresses is to open them right away, which is convenient, but it may send you to dangerous websites before you can stop it (we recommend that you change this in the app's settings). QR Droid has the most customizable behavior from the apps presented in this article.
Download from Google Play: QR Droid
QuickMark Barcode Scanner
This app has access to In-app purchases, Device & app history, Identity, Contacts, Phone, Photos/Media/Files, Camera, receive data from the Internet. QuickMark Barcode Scanner has settings to control the automated opening for six types of scanned codes (web, phone, SMS, email, geo-coordinates, WiFi).
The default behavior is to wait for your action before opening these items. There is an advertisement placed on the bottom of the page after you scan a code.
Download from Google Play: QuickMark Barcode Scanner
Norton Snap QR code reader from Symantec
This app has access to Camera, Wi-Fi connection information. Norton Snap QR code reader is even simpler than the app from Kaspersky. It has no settings. Only a button on the top-right corner to control the flashlight (for the other apps, you have to do this from the smartphone settings). Before it opens a web page, it pauses for a couple of seconds to display the result of the security verification, and you can intervene to cancel the automatic opening. The main benefit of using this app is the built-in security verification that it performs.
Download from Google Play: Norton Snap QR code reader
What QR code scanner app for Android do you prefer?
QR codes might not have become the groundbreaking thing some people hoped, but they are still found everywhere and can be useful. Of course, they are not worth much without a scanner, but that is where your Android device comes into play. There is an incredible number of barcode reading applications available on the Google Play store, and most of them have the same features. In this article, we tried to share applications that are a bit unique or offer extra features like built-in security checks. Before closing this article, tell us your favorite QR code scanner. Do you know other good QR code scanning apps for Android? Comment below and let's discuss.