2D barcodes mobile readers

When Madame Oui and I were in Japan, we noticed the adverts with a 1-cm square matrix barcode. Though it was some form of legal compliance, and thought nothing more of it.

Fast forward 10 months later and an article in the Economist, “Snap it, click it, use it”, and I’m all the wiser.

Of course, these curious barcodes are two-dimensional matrix of tiny black squares. They’re the next generation of the more familiar (first generation) black striped bar codes.

There are several types of 2D barcodes. Most common are QR Code and Data Matrix:

Less common are Blotcode, Dandelion, and ShotCode:

Of course, Microsoft has unveiled its proprietary code, called Tag (with no compatability with any of the other established types of 2D barcodes):

The story is that increasing types of mobile phones now have the ability to scan and read these 2D barcodes.

Yes, 2D barcode readers have made their way to the iPhone. And yes, Mr Ulster has tested a list of them.

An immediate shortcoming of using an iPhone as a barcode reader is the lack of any macro function in its built-in camera. Unless you’ve got an add-on macro lens, such as the “Clarifi“, provided by Griffin. Assistance is also provided by those iPhone apps with built-in zoom function in their picture taking mode.

 Straight away I’ll rule out those iPhone apps that repeatedly failed, usually because the iPhone camera couldn’t take a sharp enough close-up image, and not helped by the lack of any iPhone app zoom feature: BeeTagg, ColorCam, QR app, ScanLife, and UpCode.

iDecode has options to scan QR Code and Data Matrix. iDecode worked (and with no zoom feature), but it was the slowest by far.

NeoReader also worked (and with no zoom feature).

The final two are 2D Sense and QuickMark Lite, and both have their own strengths/weaknesses. Both have a zoom feature whereby you can enlarge your photographed image (to improve decoding chances).

2D Sense has more 2D barcode scan options: QR Code, Blotcode, Dandelion, ShotCode, Data Matrix, and Visual Codes. It keeps a log of recent successful scans. I particularly like the ability to create your own 2D barcodes on its main website.

QuickMark Lite has 2D barcode scan options for QR Code and Data Matrix. I found QuickMark to be the fastest decoder. It also offers an option to tweet your successful scans.

For scanning some 2D barcodes, I found 2D Sense more reliable; for others, QuickMark Lite. I appreciate that QuickMark Lite appears to be the market leader for this type of app. But I’m impressed with 2D Sense’s website (and philosophy). So long as 2D Sense can keep up and improve its decoding success rate, I’ll use this app first (but keep QuickMark Lite installed as an alternative).

PS. If you’re wondering what the 2D barcode image is at the start of this posting (and don’t have a 2D barcode scanner handy), it’s a URL link to Mr Ulster, of course!

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