Wednesday, January 13, 2010

QR codes and smartphone use (iPhone, Android, etc)

QR codes are an interesting thing I've come across this week. They are apparently becoming more popular with smartphone users as QR reader applications are being released. They can encode URLs, phone numbers, and other textual items into this barcode format, and then using a QR reader application an individual can retrieve that information and use it.

There are some free QR code generators out there, and I've been using On my iPhone, I downloaded a free app called i-nigma. i-nigma has versions available for other phones as well, so if you're interested go to from your mobile device to see if they have a version for your phone.

The way it works is that your phone must have a camera. The camera is used to capture the QR barcode, and you can then go to the URL encoded within the QR barcode. With the i-nigma version I have on my iPhone, I didn't even have to take a picture. The program would just tap into the camera feature and recognize the barcode in the viewfinder. It worked very well for what I tested.

This presents an opportunity to increase web traffic to particular pages, especially if you are running an e-commerce site. You could use QR codes in print ads to direct readers to a specific website related to the ad. Google is already using it to encode business locations on actual maps, to make it easy for people to jump to that location within Google Maps. There are a lot of possibilities for these QR codes, and as long as there are free code generators and applications to read them it might be something to think about using.

Of course there are limitations and cons to the idea. You have to make sure the code is large enough for a device to be able to read correctly. The smallest I was able to read was 150px X 150px, which can be kind of a large barcode. I'm using an iPhone 3G though, and I know some of the other phones on the market now have better resolution so they should be able to read smaller codes, and phone cameras continue to improve. You also have to rely on the target audience to have a smartphone, along with a QR code reader application. As long as the applications are freely available though, it should only be a matter of spreading the word about these applications and hoping more and more people turn to smartphones.

I'm no marketing expert, but I can see this as a quick way to promote products and pages to those people out there with smartphones. Since Google is already starting to use it, it's bound to gain momentum as more and more people find out about it. With the number of smartphone users out there (~34 million iPhones sold through Q4 2009, with 6.4 million in the US), it's definitely a target audience worth trying to gain a share of.

QR code for

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