Ever seen those black and white checkered boxes on Android web sites? They’re QR or “Quick Response” codes, and they can be read from your phone using the Barcode scanner application from the Android Market. You can scan the codes that are published on web sites and use the results for all kinds of things. QR codes can be encoded with any short piece of text. This application will allow you to browse to a URL, save a contact, or copy the text to use in another application.
First, you use the app by opening it and holding the phone as if you’re taking a picture of the QR code. Here’s one that goes to the front page of Make Tech Easier:
There’s a box with a red line that gives you an idea of how to center the code.
Hold steady and… BEEP! The code has been interpreted. The app will give you options according to its best guess as to what the code is. If it’s a URL, it will give you the option of opening it in the browser. If it’s ordinary text, it will let you use it as a Google search or send it as an SMS message.
URLs are by far the most common use for QR codes on Android. If a web site wants to publish a link that should be viewed on the phone, or the link is to the Android Market, the QR code is an easy way to transfer this data to viewers’ phones. There’s no laborious typing it in on a tiny keyboard. Just scan and click.
If you’d like to create your own for a web site, business card, poster, flier, or tattoo, you can create one very easily by going to one of the many online QR code generators. is one of these and it couldn’t be easier. Just type in the text that you’d like to appear in the code, choose small, medium, large, or extra large and hit enter. Then save the image to your hard drive by right clicking and going to “Save Link as…” (Firefox). There’s also a permalink to the image that will appear the box right below it.
The Barcode Scanner app will also let you transfer data from one phone to another similar to the old infrared contact swap on Palm Pilots. Go to menu, then “Share” and choose a contact, bookmark, or the the contents of your clipboard. A QR code representing the data will appear on your screen. The person you’re transferring to then scans the screen of your phone.